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Traveling: Should Your Pet Stay or Go?

  • Traveling this summer? If you're bringing your pet, make sure he stays safe. Photo by iStockphoto

So you're going to the beach. Or the mountains. Or Paris. Congratulations. We're jealous!

Your pet, on the other hand, may not be. While you may find it hard to be away from your animal for a while, your pets may be more stressed by coming along. Consider their health and emotional needs before deciding to bring them along.

What are your options?

It's tempting to want to bring your pet with you, but some animals aren't suited for travel due to temperament, illness or physical impairment.

Put their interests first: Think about where your pet would be happiest. You may think that your dog won’t be able to tolerate separation from you, but if you are vacationing, will you have to leave him in a hotel room or strange kennel? That will make him more anxious than ever, so finding a pet-sitter and leaving him in his own home would probably be a better choice. 

Check out our guidelines for traveling beyond the greater 48 states with your pet »

Cats do not enjoy change and taking them on trips is usually not a good idea. Unless you are moving or going away for an extended period, get a pet-sitter so that your cat will not have to experience the stress of riding for hours or days in a crate and adjust to a new, temporary living arrangement. Change can cause cats major stress, which can lead to behavior problems.

Talk to your veterinarian

If you have any doubts about whether it’s appropriate for your pet to travel, talk to your veterinarian and make sure your animal is up to date on all vaccinations and in good health before you leave. Some forms of travel and destinations will require your pet to have a veterinary exam in advance. 

If your veterinarian thinks your pet is suited for travel, they may also prescribe a sedative or tranquilizer and recommend a trial run so you can observe the effects of the prescribed dosage. Do not give your pet any drug not prescribed or given to you by your veterinarian.

If your pet's along for the ride

If you decide it's best for your pet to come along, make sure you've got the supplies to keep her comfortable and familiarize yourself with any pet-related restrictions or requirements set by airlines, destination countries or states, hotels, etc.

When traveling with your pet, keep a health certificate and medical records close at hand. A record of your pet's rabies vaccination is especially important. 

We strongly discourage having your pet travel by air in the cargo hold of a plane. It can be dangerous and stressful.

Read about the dangers to pets traveling in cargo holds »

If they stay behind

If you decide your pet should not travel, you can arrange for a responsible friend or relative to look after your pet, board your animal at a kennel or hire a pet sitter. 

If you've decided to board your pet, get references and personally inspect the kennel. Your veterinarian or local shelter can help you find a good facility. If you're hiring a pet sitter, interview the candidates and check their references. Be sure your pet is microchipped before you leave your dog or cat anywhere unfamiliar to the animal. A pet sitter may be preferable if your pet is timid, elderly, afraid of strangers or needs the comfort of familiar surroundings while you're gone.

What to leave for the sitter

If you arrange for someone to care for your pet while you're away, give the caretaker your contact information, the name and telephone number of your veterinarian and your pet's medical or dietary needs. You should also make sure that your pet's comfortable with the person you've chosen by having him or her come to your home to visit a couple of times before you leave.

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