With Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa taking place within a five-day span in December, a lot of people will be covering a lot of ground (literally and figuratively) at the same time in order to celebrate these holidays with family, friends and co-workers.
During such peak travel periods, extra attention should be devoted to the transport of precious cargo — and by that we mean pets. Veterinarians at BluePearl Specialty and Emergency Pet Hospital have some helpful advice should you choose to bring your furry friend along to partake in away-from-home holiday festivities.
“If you plan to bring your pet with you, driving is usually the best option,” said Dr. Garret Pachtinger, emergency and critical care clinician at BluePearl/VSEC in Levittown, Pennsylvania.
If traveling by car, BluePearl recommends the following:
Don’t allow pets to roam in the car. Not only can pets injure themselves while loose in the car, but they can be a distraction to the driver, and even become a projectile that hits human occupants in an accident. Keep pets in a crate or carrier and anchor it to the vehicle using a seat belt or other secure means. The carrier or crate must have enough room for your pet to stand and turn around.
Keep your pet in the back seat. Whether your pet is harnessed or kept in a carrier or crate, it is best to keep them in backseat because, like small children, they can be injured by front-seat airbags.
Don’t allow pets to stick their heads out of the window. Dogs and cats should be kept inside the car. Pets who stick their heads out the window are exposed to dangerous debris that can cause injury, and in colder climates, air can be forced into their lungs, causing illness. Also, never transport a pet in the back of an open pickup truck.
Plan rest stops ahead of time. Plan rest stops ahead of traveling to allow your pet to stretch, eliminate and hydrate. Pets can easily become dehydrated on long road trips, so bring along a portable bowl and frequently stop to let your pet drink.
Equip your pet with identification. Make sure your pet has a collar, ID tag and leash, and never let them leave the car without it. Consider microchipping your pet ahead of travel. That way, a simple scan can identify you as their owner if they become lost.
Never leave your pet alone in a car. Excessively cold or hot temperatures can pose serious health hazards for pets, including hypothermia or heat stroke. Be sure to keep your pet supervised at all times while traveling (even if that means taking turns with a friend or family member at a rest stop).
Stick to their normal diet. Changes in diet can cause GI distress in pets. Bring bottled water and your pet’s food from home to avoid digestive upset.
Dr. Pachtinger notes that airline travel “can be particularly hazardous for animals with pushed-in faces,” such as bulldogs and Persian cats, noting that their short nasal passages increase the risk for breathing difficulty and heat stroke.
So if traveling by plane, BluePearl advises:
Opt for cabin over cargo, if possible. Most airlines allow cats or small dogs in the cabin for an additional fee. There are limits to the number of animals permitted in the cabin, so make reservations well in advance.
Use direct flights. Transferring flights can be stressful for both you and your pet. This is especially true if your pet must travel in the cargo hold. If cargo is the case, choose flights that will accommodate temperature extremes: In the winter, choose mid-afternoon flights.
Acclimate your pet to the carrier. Give your pet several weeks to become familiar with the travel carrier. Hard carriers usually come in two pieces, so try placing your pet’s bedding in the bottom piece — with the top detached—to make your pet feel comfortable.
Attach a travel label to your carrier. Mixups can happen. Equip the carrier with an identification label that has your name, permanent address, telephone number, final destination and where you or a contact person can be reached as soon as the flight arrives.
Refrain from feeding before the flight. A full stomach might cause pets to be uncomfortable during travel, so refrain from feeding them two to four hours before a flight. However, you should give your pet water right up to your travel time.
“However you travel, when you arrive at your destination, open the carrier as soon as you are in a safe place and examine your pet,” said Dr. Pachtinger. “If anything seems wrong, take your pet to be examined by a veterinarian immediately.”