Vacations aren't always good times for pets

Posted: Sunday, November 16, 2003

ARDMORE, Okla. If you're planning on taking your pet on vacation, there's a few things to remember.

Dr. Barbara Dunn of Prairie Valley Family Pet Clinic said there are several things pet owners can do to make trips with their furry friends more enjoyable and safer.

"Traveling by air with a pet can be a big deal," Dunn said. "The first thing a pet owner needs to do is to find out what requirements the airline they plan to travel on has for pets."

Dunn said most airlines will allow very small dogs or cats to travel on board with their owners, provided they are in a carrier that will stow under the owner's feet. Bigger animals must travel as a cargo passenger.

"Those animals, mostly dogs, must be crated. The crate should be big enough that the dog can stand and turn around. Crates that are larger than that aren't a good idea. The dog doesn't need it for comfort and it could be a safety factor. In addition, large crates are definitely a weight factor," Dunn said.

Other considerations include:

Air travel means the animal must have a health certificate not less than 10 days old. The health certificate, filled out by a veterinarian, certifies the animal is healthy and has current vaccinations. Those whose trips will last more than 30 days will need to obtain another certificate before returning home;

Make sure both your animal and the crate have identification tags;

Owners should remind airline personnel if their dog is traveling in the cargo section of the plane in cases on unanticipated on-board delays. While air conditioning or heat may remain on in the passenger cabins, they may be turned off in cargo unless the plane's captain is notified an animal is on board;

Unless absolutely necessary do not tranquilize animals which must travel by air;

Upon arrival check your watch. You dog should be brought to you from the cargo area within 30 minutes after landing. If you do not have your pet in that time notify airline personnel;

Make sure you have your pet's medical records with you and you have the name of a veterinarian you can use in case of an emergency at your destination; and don't leave home without any regular medications you pet takes.

Dunn says those planning road trips with their pets should also do some pre-trip planning. The first consideration? Is your dog or cat a seasoned road trip warrior?

"Some dogs and cats get car sick just like some people do," Dunn said. "If a pet owner has never taken their pet on a trip that lasts more than a few minutes around town, then they need to take their pet on a few short practice trips before leaving on a long road trip."

Practice trips will also alert you to a few other potential problems that could turn your and your pet's vacation into something less than relaxing.

"Practice trips will let you know how vocal a pet is going to be and if rides in a vehicle are going to be stressful for the animal," Dunn said.

Unless your pet is a road trip veteran, Dunn says the safest and best way for a pet to ride is in a carrier or crate.

"It's also best to leave a pet in their crate if they are going to be left alone in a hotel or motel room," Dunn said. "And of course you need to know if your motel or hotel will allow animals before you get there."

Other pet road trip tips include:

Make sure your pet and their crates have ID tags;

Make sure you have packed any medications your pet takes on a regular basis, along with pet medical records and the name of a veterinarian working in the area of your destination;

Plan for road trip time outs. Just like people, pets need to get out of a vehicle every few hours, relieve themselves, be allowed to walk around and have water and food. Be sure to travel with pet food, water and bowls for feedings.

Dunn said there are two nevers when it comes to vacationing with pets.

"Never plan to travel with a very old animal or a very young animal (under six months of age). It is just too stressful for very old or very young animals. And never plan to take an animal who has numerous or severe medical conditions or needs. Those animals with major medical issues need to have supervised boarding at a vet," she said.

Maybe you prefer you and your pet have separate vacations. What do you need to consider before boarding your animal or leaving them with a pet sitter, family member or friend? Dunn said again the magic word is practice.

"If your pet has never been boarded before take a few practices trips. Leave them for the day or just for one night where you plan to board them. This allows them to get used to the surroundings and the people who will care for them," Dunn said.

Other tips include:

If your pet sleeps on a favorite blanket or bed, take it to the boarding facility;

If your pet needs special food, be sure it accompanies them.

Dunn recommends selecting a bonded, professional pet sitter for in-home care for pets who need extra tender loving care.

"If you have an animal who is prone to stress due to separation, a geriatric pet with medical considerations, or you want to make sure your pet gets lots of exercise and attention then you need a pet sitter. Interview pet sitters and find out what their service provides. Ask how long each visit with your pet will be. For an extra charge most pet sitters will extend their normal play time and even walk your pet. See how the pet sitter interacts with your pet and then choose the one that's right for your pet," Dunn said. "And don't leave home without giving your pet sitter the name and number of your vet."

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