Knowing how to prepare your pet for holiday travel makes the difference between stressful holidays and slightly less stressful holidays. Whether or not your pet ends up coming with you on holiday travel, you should prepare them. You might be preparing them for airplane travel, or trying to prevent separation anxiety.
Here are some tips to make sure your feline friend and canine pal have happy holidays too.
Holiday Travel = Stress. Make Sure They’re Healthy
Dr. Stobaeus, member of the PetMio Veterinary Advisory Panel, stresses the need for a full comprehensive examination by your veterinarian. “This will allow them to decide if your pet can handle the stress of travel or not,” he says.
Doing this check-up early enough can mean the difference between your pet staying or joining you. If they are sick a vet catches the illness enough in advance, a vet may be able to treat it and then approve travel. If they are not healthy enough or don’t have the temperament for travel, this will allow you to make other arrangements for them.
Also make sure your pet is up-to-date on their vaccines. Holiday times are very stressful which allows for more infections. Being up-to-date on vaccines will allow your pet to be more protected against some of these diseases.
Vet offices can fill up this time of year for this exact reason, so be sure to make that appointment soon!
Should They Stay or Should They Go? Consider:
1. How Far Away You Are Going and Your Mode of
Planes: If you have smaller dogs or are traveling with cats, flying may be a viable option. Larger animals, however, are much more difficult to fly to other places safely. Most airlines will not allow larger dogs to go in the cabin with you unless they are a service animal or an emotional support animal (ESA).
Not being with you in the cabin, and being in a strange chaotic environment will stress out your pet. In this situation, Dr. Stobaeus recommends a sedative to help calm your pet (we’ll get to that in this article, too). Check on airlines’ policies first and inquire about food, water and temperature control during travel before you decide to use them.
Trains: Amtrak and a few other smaller train companies are now pet friendly. These train companies will allow you to take your furry friend onboard for trips that are 7 hours or less. If your commute is longer than that, you might be able to find connecting train rides to where you need to go and travel with your cat or dog. Again, service dogs and ESA’s are treated with different requirements, so be sure to read the pet policies of companies you choose to use.
Cars: If you aren’t going very far, driving may be the best option for your pack. You can use your car, rent a pet-friendly option, or even rent an RV for longer hauls. It is our recommendation if you are going very far to make the drive a sort of road-trip vacation, not just a means to get you where you want to go. Make time for stops so both you and your furry friends can stretch your legs and relax.
2. Your Lodging While in Another Town
If your pet makes the trip successfully with you, they’ll also have to live with you while you’re there. There are many considerations to think of when choosing where to stay. Will they have space to exercise? Will you be around enough to give them bathroom breaks, exercise, and attention?
You can either choose to stay with family, find a hotel, stay in an RV you used to get there, or find a home-sharing option like AirBnB or Home Away.
If you stay with family, make sure you properly introduce them to the pets and people they will be staying with.
Choosing to stay in a hotel can be tricky. Most hotels will not allow pets, but a few will. Red Roof Inn, for example, will allow one pet per room in most locations. Some may not accept cats. Check with the website or call the front desk before booking to make sure your pet and their size is accepted.
An RV can be pet friendly, but will likely always inhibit their movement. Make sure you carve out time to exercise your cat or dog every day of your vacation. Also, never leave them alone in an RV, they are prone to overheating or freezing while the car is off. Try to take them with you to any family function or event to which you go.
It is the PetMio team’s recommendation that you use a service like AirBnB for your furry friend’s lodging needs. When searching for locations near your destination, you can filter to see only homes for rent that accept pets. In many cases you can find an entire home with a yard to rent that costs the same per day as a hotel room.
Leaving them Behind? Here Are Your Options:
If your pet is too anxious or not healthy enough to travel, or you cannot find a travel option suitable for your pet, you have some options in leaving them behind:
Leaving them with family or friends. In doing so, make sure that the people you leave your pet with knows your pet, is comfortable with animals, and has a list of their needs available. Try to take your pet to this person’s house with you a few times before you leave them there.
Leaving them at home and hiring a pet sitter/walker. There are services popping up in different areas for pet sitting and dog walking. Sites like Care.com and Rover.com have a database of sitters and dog walkers. They even have reviews so you can shop for the best caretaker. The biggest advantage here is that your pet will be in a familiar environment, even if you’re gone.
Leave them with a clean, healthy boarding facility. Dr. Stobaeus recommends touring the facility prior to boarding so you can make sure that it is kept clean and the pets are treated well. “I also recommend,” he states, “that the facility either have a veterinary hospital attached to it or that it is associated with one in the event that something happens to your pet, they can be seen and treated as soon as possible.” If you do board your pets, have an emergency number that the boarding facility can call to reach either you or someone you trust so that your pet can be taken care of if something does happen.
Dealing with Anxiety
Whether or not your pet goes traveling with you, there is going to be anxiety. There are a few ways to handle anxiety.
One method is using medication. This may be especially important during travel. Ask yourself:
How does my pet do during lightning storms? If not well, then light or sound could be a trigger and he may need a sedative.
How does he do around different people when he is with you? Some pets will get really protective when they are with their pet parents and may need sedation to prevent hurting themselves or someone else.
How does he do away from you? Some pets will stress out more, such as with separation anxiety, when they’re away from owners and if that’s the case, then they may need a sedative.
There are sedatives such as Acepromazine or Valium. There are also anti-anxiety medications such as Xanax or Prozac that can help. Dr. Stobaeus recommends talking with your vet to determine the best medication for your pet. Do NOT guess which one is best or how much to give them. Many of these medications are filtered through the liver so having a blood panel performed and insuring your pet can handle the medication is essential.
Wherever they end up during the holidays, make sure your pet has a “safe” place to go that they can get away to if they get stressed. This will prevent accidental bitings, or stress related symptoms such as diarrhea or vomiting. Familiarity will help keep them relaxed.
Know How Prepare Your Pet for Holiday Travel
The holidays are stressful, granted. Proper planning is our defense to make the most of the time together with loved ones.