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How to prepare your pet for vacation

Pets are seen as family members, so when we prepare for our vacation, it is important that we develop a plan for them too.

First, pet parents must decide if their pets will be better staying at home or better accompanying them on the journey. Many pets become stressed when traveling or in new surroundings, while others are content as long as they are with their human companions. This decision should be made based the pet’s mental and physical health. Are they healthy enough to make the trip? Will they require medications, and can those be given by someone else if they are left home? Will the pet get enough exercise? Other factors to consider are the requirements of the airlines and hotels, if applicable. Will the pets be allowed to stay in the same accommodations where their owners are staying? Will they be safe there?

If we decide to take our pets with us, we make sure they have their required vaccinations, flea/tick/heartworm preventatives, and any medications and food they will need. Some destinations require a veterinary health certificate within a specific window of time before traveling. It is also important to make sure pets are easily identifiable. This means a collar with the owner’s phone number and, ideally, a microchip. Pets can get disoriented and scared when they are not in a familiar area and may run away. If appropriate, bring a carrier or crate because this is often the safest and easiest way to transport them. It is also a good idea to bring bedding and toys from home so there is some sense of familiarity. It is important to speak with a veterinarian about options when pets have a history of motion-sickness or anxiety while traveling.  There are supplements, medications and even pheromones sprays that can help to calm pets as they travel.

In some instances, it is in our pet’s best interest to skip the trip and stay home. This is the better option if traveling may not be safe, could be too stressful, or just isn’t feasible. When this happens, it is important to leave enough food and medication to last the entire time the pet will be home.  There are options when leaving our pet behind and we should consider our pet’s behavior and personality when choosing the best one:

  • Someone can stay with them all the time at the pet’s home
  • Someone can stop by just to feed and check on them
  • They can stay at someone else’s house or a boarding facility

Ideally, it is best to leave written instructions in case of an emergency including how to reach the owner, where the pet should be taken in case of an emergency, and any known medical conditions. This is especially helpful if the caretaker is not thoroughly familiar with the pet.

Planning for our pet’s care while we prepare for vacation is an important consideration. The duration of the trip, location, mode of transportation, and overall health of the pet will factor into whether they come along or stay home. The most important point is to be prepared so our pets have what they need while we are away.  This will help to prevent our furry family member from becoming sick or stressed. Talk with your veterinarian for help developing a plan if needed.


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