August Family Travel Imposes Concerns for Pet Care!

By Dr. Doug Pernikoff, DVM

School semesters start just around the corner. Early August is often a final chance opportunity for families to travel one last time this summer. Obviously, there will be decisions made regarding the care of their pets. Do they stay or do they go along?? What are pet owners’ options and considerations?

If your pet is traveling with you, there are special considerations. Whether cat or dog, you need to have a way to contain or secure your pet during highway travel. Dog seatbelts are available in several styles, but a dog crate is useful as well. I always make sure my pet’s immunizations are up to date; be sure they are microchipped; take along plenty of food items familiar to his diet; and prepare your pet for car travel by familiarizing them to car movement. Take short rides first, and gradually increase times of travel. Never feed a full meal immediately prior travel, and in fact, I suggest minimizing feedings while en route, to avoid nausea, vomiting or diarrhea. Be sure to carry a summary record of all current medical care. Your veterinarian will certainly provide a printed summary at your request. Further, remember that a pet or child can suffer heat stroke if left in a car, even for 10 minutes with windows cracked when ambient/outside temperatures are only 70 degrees farenheit, so be very alert to this concern. It is best to stop for potty breaks each 2-3 hours and again, be sure you have secure leashes to prevent sudden escapes. I encourage all pet owners to search out hotels/housing that is pet friendly, all along your journey. Don’t wait for an impulse option to find a place, as Murphy’s Law will foul up your plans. Finally, your veterinarian may suggest prescribing either Dramamine, Benadryl or another pharmacologic to quiet nervous pets during travel. Sedatives like Acepromazine may prove useful, but cannot be applied to pets with a history of seizures.

In the event that your pet will fly with you, much of the same concerns described herein, are relevant here. Pets can be housed in a soft case and kept under the seat if size permits. Otherwise, expect the airlines to dictate housing your pet in cargo. In these cases, I do not feed solids prior travel, but do provide a water dish in the crate. Always contact your airlines well in advance to know what you need to do prior departure. You will require a current health certificate from your vet, of course.

For pets that have to stay in town, the options would be to have someone either stay at your home, or visit daily at scheduled intervals. This is always best for cats who typically, do not accept change, like formal kenneling, as an alternative. In other cases, pet sitters may offer to keep your animals at their homes. This can be useful, as long as you take the time to visit the site and fully understand their care protocols. If it doesn’t feel right, it probably is a problem. In other cases, your veterinarian may offer to board.

Selecting a proper kennel is an important choice that requires responsible considerations by you, as the pet owner. Visit the site. Talk to management about care protocols. Meet the kids actually doing the work. Remember that the kennel management may have the best intentions for your pet, but it still comes down to the actual care provided by the minimum wage kennel helper.

I always suggest bringing your own pet food, rather than substituting with the kennel’s generic brand. This helps to eliminate unwanted intestinal upsets. Be sure the kennel cleaning protocol removes all floor cleansers that may irritate the skin of pets in direct contact, or worse yet, may cause real concerns should the animals lick the residual chemicals off the floor. Again, most kennels require up to date vaccinations, and again, I encourage a kennel cough booster be updated within 6 months of kenneling. Leave all contact information for either you or your pet representative, as well as your veterinarian’s contact access numbers.

Your due diligence and planning are key to successful, uneventful care of pets either traveling along with the family, or being managed at home or in a commercial kennel. Travel, be safe and enjoy these special family adventures.

Dr. Doug Pernikoff & Staff
Clarkson-Wilson Veterinary Clinic
Vet Pet Rescue
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