Preparations are needed to travel with a dog or cat

STILLWATER – If your holiday travel plans will take you over the river and through the woods, it is time to start making plans – especially if you plan to take along the furry, four-legged family members.

Dr. Elisabeth Giedt, director of Continuing Education, Extension and Community Engagement at the Center for Veterinary Health Sciences at Oklahoma State University, said planning ahead is the key to ensuring a safe and fun trip for everyone.

“When transporting a pet in a vehicle, it’s best to use a pet carrier. An unsecured pet can distract the driver, or possibly interfere with the operation of the vehicle,” Giedt said. “Be sure to select a carrier that allows the animal to comfortably stand up and turn around, but not too much room for extra movement.”

If you pet has a favorite toy or two, or a favorite blanket, put those things in the carrier while traveling. Having something familiar can be comforting for your pets.

When traveling a long distance, it is important to stop frequently to stretch and give your pet a chance to use the bathroom.

“Most rest stops provide a designated area for pets. Just be sure to always keep your pet on a leash and bring a bag to dispose of your pet’s waste,” she said.

“Be sure to have an identification tag on your pet’s collar. Consider putting a name and cell phone contact on the tag. Pet owners may want to consider microchipping their pet before traveling to help with identification in the event of a lost collar. In addition, never leave your pet unattended in the car.”

For those pet owners planning out-of-state travel, you are legally required to obtain a health certificate for your pet no matter your mode of travel.

This certificate is required by the United States Department of Agriculture and can be obtained from your veterinarian.

If traveling by air, check the airline’s policy on pet travel and what size carriers it allows. Getting all of this information before arriving at the airport can save pet owners time and possibly avoid any delays.

Giedt said if you are traveling by air with your pet, board the plane last. This will allow your pet to spend minimal time in the crate. She also advises against giving your pet tranquilizers.

“According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, when traveling by air, tranquilizers can increase the risk of heart and respiratory problems while flying,” she said. “Short-nosed dogs and cats are more prone to respiratory problems when traveling.”

Something else pet owners may want to consider is traveling with copies of your pet’s medical history in the event the animal becomes sick while on the road.

Giedt has a couple more suggestions to help ease traveling with your pets. She suggests limiting meals before a long trip. Traveling on a nearly empty stomach helps avoid accidents and may prevent upset stomachs.

“You also should consider bringing water from home,” she said. “Dogs and cats can detect small changes in the taste of water, so it’s a good idea to stick with something they’re familiar with. Keeping these tips in mind will help ensure you and your pets have a safe trip.”