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Travelling With Your Pets

Val Cairney September 4, 2021 90

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Hi everyone, and welcome to this episode of Val Talk’s Pets.  

As we all know, things are a bit different right now, and our time off and vacation plans are also quite different.  Many people are travelling within their own area or their own country and this actually opens up a type of travel that many people have not done before and that is travelling with your pet.  We still have quite a bit of very nice weather to get out and about in, so the idea of going on a road trip or camping or visiting friends or family a few hours away, can definitely be on the agenda.  In this case we get the added bonus of being able to take our pets with us!  

But, with all things to do with pets, there are some safety tips and rules that we need to play by so everyone has a good time.  

So, let’s talk about dogs first and travelling with them on a road trip where you will be staying in hotels or Air B&B’s or Inns, what have you.  First things first, is the accommodation pet friendly?  On the website for the accommodation there should be a pet friendly symbol, but I have found that not every hotel puts this on their website despite the fact that they do welcome animals.  So, this means, call and ask.   On the flipside, call and ask anyway even if they do have the symbol, to double check that they are indeed pet friendly.  Now, here is the thing to really look into.  Many hotels say they are pet friendly but they are only friendly to dogs under 30 lbs.  Well that lets me out!  So, pet friendly is not a generic term for all dogs.  If you do meet the criteria, most places will ask that you bring a crate and when you are not in the room, the dog is crated.  I get that, because the housekeeping staff does not want to come into a room to tidy up and find a dog loose that, A) may not like them, or B) runs out of the room and ends up a fugitive.  The other thing that is usually standard, is that you have to pay an extra fee for housekeeping if you have a pet with you.  Check out this fee so you do not have any surprises.

Now some hotels have really embraced the idea of pets coming into their establishments.  Many provide a bed, water and food bowl that you get to keep and some even have a doggy day care and play room, so your dog can play and be supervised while you go sightseeing or go to dinner.  I found one hotel in one of my favourite places in Ontario that was focused to being pet friendly, with toys and beds and bowls upon arrival, doggy day care and they took them out for a walk and daycare was specifically open until 8 pm so you could go out for dinner.  The price was actually quite reasonable compared to what you got.  The daycare was all part of your stay fee so that was really a bonus.  So, if you are lucky enough to fit the specs to bring your dog to a hotel, make sure you have thought ahead to bring everything your dog will need to feel comfortable and safe.  Be very considerate of others staying at the hotel.  Have a very good supply of poop bags and if someone is hesitant to enter the elevator with your dog, offer to get out and take the next car.  Remember, they are not at home, so jumping on the lobby couch is not acceptable.  I would also really recommend you bring some spray stain and odour remover and paper towels just in case there is an accident or your dog throws up in the room or elsewhere in the hotel.  

If you are travelling with your cat, the same rules apply except the weight restriction.  Make sure you have the crate in the room for when you go out.  Some hotels have again embraced this little guest by providing a bed, bowls and a scratching post!  

Okay, so let’s talk about the travel part.  Some dogs are just meant for the car and have no problem enjoying the scenery or having a snooze.  Some cats, are great travellers enjoying the view outside as well or curling up to nap away the hours.  However, we all know that isn’t every dog or cat.  Some dogs get terrible car sickness and some cats do as well.  My ginger cat, routinely throws up every time she goes to the vet usually just as we are pulling into the parking lot.  After that she’s fine but the motion just gets to her and that’s that.  

Let’s talk about dealing with dogs and cats that are not the best travellers.  There are the dogs that shake and shiver and pant and you could drive for 10 hours and they wouldn’t stop, shaking, shivering and panting.  I had a border collie that would do nothing but run in circles in the back, basically chasing the other cars and their headlights.  We had to put him in a crate and put a blanket over the crate to stop him from doing this.  So, what can you do with the shaking panting dog?  This is tough and it usually stems from an anxious, fear response.  There are many calming products on the market that you can try but if nothing works there really is only two options, ask the vet for a light sedative or travelling with your dog isn’t going to work.  Cats too can be upset and anxious in the car.  Luckily with a few cats that I have transported they were only going to the vet, so the time was short, because they would meow at the top of their lungs the entire way.  Again, on a longer road trip, that would drive you mad.  So, it does come down to the same thing, trying to find the right calming product so your cat can settle down and make it to the destination.  Overall, there are some other techniques you can try with massage, or tapping therapy or going on short trip that gets longer and longer to try and desensitize your pet.  There is no doubt, this is a tough one.

Okay, so you have done your homework and you know exactly what the rules and regulations are for bringing your pet to a hotel or Air B&B.  It’s time to hit the road and take in the scenery with your furry companion or companions and have a wonderful time.  If you pet is a bit iffy when it comes to car rides it is best you have given him or her there calming products before heading out by at least 20 minutes to half an hour.  This way the calming product will have taken effect before getting in the car and that’s what you want.  You want the cat or dog to be calm before getting in the car.  The excitement and adrenaline could easily impede the effectiveness of the product and you have then started out on the wrong foot.  But, before all this, make sure you have “packed” for your pet.  Let’s start with the dog.  You would be surprised the stuff you need to make your dog comfortable on a road trip.  Make a list.  You will need, your dog’s bed or blanket or a smaller bed to fit in the car.  Your crate, very important.  Toys and chews.  Leashes and I mean leashes, not just one.  Always have an extra leash in case you misplace one or forget it in the hotel or in the car.  An extra collar is also a good plan.  Bring a tie out and a stake.  Yes, it is possible that you may want to stop along the road for a picnic or to look at some scenery for a while.  It would be very handy to be able to stake a tie out and safely put your dog on the line to sniff and walk around while you are hands free.  Make sure your tie out is not too long.  You don’t need a 30ft tie for this endeavour.  You will also need any medications your dog is taking, which includes your calming product.  You should also have a large jug of water in the car, for you and your dog.  This means a good travel bowl is helpful.  There is a travel bowl that is no spill that you can get which means the dog can have some water while driving.  Treats, don’t forget them!  A couple of rolls of paper towel is a must for any incidents and as I mentioned, a spray stain and odour remover.  I also like to have a doggy first aid kit.  Some self-adhesive bandage, a low dose antihistamine just in case, a first aid ointment or gel, scissors, saline wash and grooming wipes.  Don’t forget the dog’s towel, brushes and combs and even their toothbrush.  Now, this is actually a pretty important thing to know as well.  The Highway Traffic Act of Ontario does state that your dog must be secure in the backseat in a crate or travel harness. So, this is going to be another thing to investigate depending on where you are going.  Overall, this is a safety precaution for your dog so think about this seriously.   And last but now least, your dog’s food!  I cannot tell you how many people come rushing in saying they ran out of their dog’s food.  And in a few more cases than you’d realise the pet parent will mention a product we do not carry and then they are looking for something comparable.  Fine, but what if you dog is one that doesn’t do a food change very easily?  You’ll be glad you brought those paper towels. You will need to check where are any stores near to your travel plan that you can stop at that has your brand or you will have to make sure you have enough food for your trip. And if you are planning to cross any borders, you better know the rules on pet food.  In Canada if you plan to cross into the United States with a Canadian made pet food, they will not let you bring it in.  So, again you will need to do your homework on this.   

Bringing kitty on a road trip is not quite as complicated, but nevertheless kitty has to get its things packed as well.  For a road trip I would either make sure your cat is in its carry crate, or if it’s good at just admiring the scenery and not crawling down around the gas pedal, I would have a harness on the cat.  This way if there is any move for escape you can grab the harness and not  have the cat slip out as it would easily do if it was just wearing a collar.  You could also keep the leash attached to the harness as well for safety.  Also, a good habit is to put the cat back into the carrier before opening any car doors.  So, this means kitty will need a good fitting harness and leash and a carrier.  Your cat will also welcome their favourite bed or blanket and toys as well.  Water along the way is also very necessary for your cat so remember that travel bowl.  Medications and calming product goes on the list as does the first aid kit as listed earlier.  Paper towels and stain remover is a must and again remember the food!  The same rules apply for your cat about food.  So bring enough along or know exactly where you can pick up the kind of food your cat has been eating.  

Both cats and dogs will have to have their medical vaccination certificates handy, just in case the accommodation asks for it or there is an incident and you need to prove to the authorities that your pets have been vaccinated.  It is also very, very important, that your pets are wearing collars that have an I.D. tag.  The I.D tag needs their name and the phone number that you can be reached at while travelling, so your cell/mobile phone and it’s not being too cautious to put an alternative cell/mobile number as well, i.e. the other person’s number who is travelling with you. Don’t bother with addresses, you are not there!  And just an FYI, many people say to me that their dog or cat is microchipped. And that is great but if you are travelling or even at home for that matter, unless someone physically takes your pet to a vet or animal shelter to be scanned for the chip, the only I.D. your pet will have is their collar and tag.  In some places, animal control will have a mobile chip scanner, but not everywhere and I would say more don’t have one than do.  So, make sure those I.D. tags are current with your phone numbers.  

Okay, so let’s move on to going camping with our pets.  Some dogs, are great campers and I’ve gone camping and canoeing with several of my dogs.  Most campgrounds require that your pet be leashed at all time, so a tie out for the campsite is a must.  All the other tips from the road trip apply here as well and I would also add some pet friendly bug repellant.  If you plan to let your dog go swimming, check to make sure you are on the pet friendly beach.  Also, bring more towels!  And remember your doggy lifejacket especially if you are going in a boat or canoe.  And just because you are out in the woods hiking or walking, that doesn’t mean that you do not pick up after your dog.  Bring your poop bags no matter what and be respectable to the other hikers and walkers.  And that means not letting your dog off leash and making sure your dog is a polite walker and doesn’t jump on strangers or instigate with other dogs.  I’ll tell you, the one thing that really bugged me when taking hiking trails with my dogs is encountering another dog coming towards us hauling its owner at the end of an extend a leash, and causing great upset to me and my dogs for their lack of manners and I mean both the dog and the owner.  Flexi leads on trails should be left at the campsite. 

Dogs can be the best campers and it all comes down to introducing them to the experience and making sure you bring the necessary equipment to be safe and have fun.  Now, I personally have never seen a cat at another campsite while camping but I’ve definitely seen the posts where people have taken their cats on a camping trip.  That’s fantastic if you have such a cat and again, the most important thing here is safety, the cat being secured and bringing everything you need.  And it would not go remise to research the closest emergency vet clinics along your route or near your campground. 

All right, now this type of travel is reserved for special reasons and that is when you travel with your pet on an airplane. Make sure your dog is not a breed that is prohibited from flying with that airline.  Some airlines are not allowing brachycephalic dogs to fly so check this. If your pet doesn’t really use a crate or carrier, you will need to acclimate them to this.  It is also highly recommended that you do not give your pet a sedative before flying as these can interfere with a dog’s ability to control body heat at high altitude. While you are in the airport ask if there is a doggy relief station.  Many airports have had these put in so find one before boarding. It is recommended that you allow your dog to have water while waiting but I would discontinue the water at least a half hour before boarding and then visit the doggy relief station.  Food is a different story and I personally would not give food after 3 or 4 hours before flight, but you can check with your veterinarian for the best choice for you.  You will also need to determine in advance if the pet is going in cabin with you or cargo. This will determine the type of crate or carrier you will need.  Only pets small enough to be in a soft carrier that can go under the seat in front of you are allowed in cabin.  Now, this excludes Service Dogs with the accompanying paperwork.  So, if you have a small cat, you may be able to bring it in the cabin with you or a small dog.  As with any of the rules for travelling with a pet on an airplane, you will need to contact the airline specifically, because the rules and sizes change with each one.  If you are taking your pet in cabin, I would again, have given it a calming product.  I think you can probably unzip a part of the carrier and pet your dog or cat, but I seriously doubt they would let you take the pet out of the carrier.  I’m sure there are stories where a traveller was allowed this, but it was probably at the discretion of the flight attendants. 

If your pet is going cargo, again do a lot of homework to know the procedure for your pet.  I have travelled on a plane with a cat and a dog and I can tell you, it was very stressful.  The whole flight I was anxious and worried that everything was all right with them and I stood nervously at the special door I was to go to, to collect them, just crossing fingers they were okay.  I did find that the ground attendants for the particular airline I was on, were very helpful and let me board last so that my pets could stay with me as long as possible.  Once I was on the aircraft I looked out the window and saw them being loaded in the plane.  I could see the ground crew talking to them and smiling at each other.  But, you must have all your paperwork in order when flying, vaccinations, and certificate of health and make extra copies of these because the customs people can easily take the certificates and not give them back to you. This means you will need to see your vet about no less than 10 days before flying.  Travel insurance for your pet may also be a good investment and label everything with images.  Talk to the ground attendants and let them know about your pet and also the flight attendants so they can help ease your fears.  You should have up to date photos of your pet and they should be wearing I.D.  and make sure your crate is well signed with your contact information. The more people in charge of the aircraft that know you have pets travelling with you, the better. 

The best thing is to research which airlines are the best with pets and see if they are the fit for you and your pet.  Never assume they are all the same, because they are not. 

So travelling with our pets, can be a really fun and rewarding experience.  They love being with us and doing new things so why not plan a trip that they can enjoy with you and you can enjoy with them?  But, as with everything pet related, doing our homework is the first step.  So, that leads me to my pet peeves section.

You know it’s great that so many people travel with their pets and many are very experienced with pet travel.  But, there are those that head out and let the dog jump in the car and they really haven’t thought the whole thing through.  Sometimes you just have to take a hard look at things and ask yourself if your dog or cat is meant for travel.  Is it going to be just too stressful for the pet to come out of its environment and basically be miserable?  Well in some instances yes!  In this case, find a pet sitter and be realistic.  If you are taking your dog for example, have you done the training and socializing needed to make a friendly dog traveller?  As I said running into a dog dragging its owner down a trail that jumps on me or my dog is just showing that this dog has not be taught manners and the owner is showing their lack of attention to training here.  Control your dog!  And nothing is worse than going anywhere, be it a campground, trail, hotel parking lot, and finding someone has let their dog poo and the owner has just left it!  Come on, that is just not acceptable.  The goal is to become a seasoned, experienced well-mannered team of dog and human and not be the person who gets the dirty looks from the other travelling dog and human teams.  And leave your extenda leads in the car!!  So, let’s all think about a great trip with our pets, you know they are not with us as long as we would like so it would great to create some wonderful memories for down the road, and the way to do that is to be prepared and do your homework, because as I say, knowing is caring!   

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Val Cairney

Hi everyone, and welcome to Val Talk’s Pets, the forum for pet parents and enthusiasts alike. So, I have been working in the pet industry now for almost 10 years and, on a daily basis, I handle a lot of issues and questions arising from pet parents. I am not a veterinarian but I do have certifications in Canine, Feline, Small Animal, Fish and Herptile and Avian Health and Nutrition from the University of California, Davis Extension, the Vet College.

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