The Scoop

How to Make Travel Safer for Your Pets

For National Pet Travel Safety Day, we're highlighting some of the things you can do to keep your pets safe when you travel. Whether it's a quick run to a local pet-friendly store or a long vacation away from home, these tips from the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) will help you be a little more prepared for your next trip:

  1. Ask yourself why you are taking your pet with you. Is it the right thing to do, for both your pets and your family? If not, then it’s probably best interest to make arrangements for them to stay with a sitter or boarding service. Travelling in extreme weather conditions can even be dangerous for some animals, and may not be worth the risk unless absolutely necessary.
  2. Make sure your pet is welcome at your destination, including stops along the way. Don’t assume—call ahead and confirm that they are pet-friendly and ask what rules they might have for pets, like if they need to be leashed or harnessed, so you can be prepared.
  3. If you’re travelling across state or international lines, you may need a Certificate of Veterinary Inspection (health certificate). These certificates confirm that your pet does not show signs of an infectious disease and is up to date on all required shots. CVIs must be obtained within 10 days of travel and can’t be issued without an exam, so plan ahead!
  4. Locate a veterinarian near your destination and know how to quickly find one along the way if something happens. The American Animal Hospital Association’s search tool and the Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care Society’s emergency clinic directory are two great resources to start with.
  5. Keep your pets properly identified with a collar and ID tag or a microchip in case they get lost, and that all contact information is fully up to date. All animals can be microchipped, including small animals, horses, and even birds.
  6. Have an appropriately-sized harness or carrier. For a carrier, this means that they can lay down, stand up, and turn around. If the carrier is too big, they could get thrown around inside the carrier in case of a sudden stop or collision. Just as you wouldn’t allow a child to move freely in a moving car or sit in the front seat, you shouldn’t allow your pets either. It’s for their own safety.
  7. Let your pet become accustomed to the restraint or carrier your will use before your trip. Keep in mind, travel is likely very stressful on your pet. An unfamiliar harness will only add to the stress.
  8. If traveling with dogs, make frequent stops to them to go to the bathroom and stretch their legs a bit.
  9. Bring plenty of food, water, and dishes for the trip. Offer water at each stop, and try to keep their feeding schedule as normal as possible. Nobody likes to be hungry, especially on a road trip!
  10. Keep a current photo of your pets with you so you can make “lost” posters or identify your pets in case they become lost.
  11. Take all of your pets medications with you, including any preventatives like for fleas and ticks. If your pet takes prescription medicine and you will be away from home for a while, talk to your vet to make sure you will have enough to last the entire trip.

For more specific information on travelling with pets by plane, boat, car, train, or bus, check out the AVMA's FAQ on forms of travel.