Whether you’re hitting the road or hopping on a jet, you need to be prepared before you take off on vacation with your dog. It’s not enough to buy a crate, carrier, or harness and call it a day.
According to the Center for Pet Safety, 86 percent of so-called dog travel “safety” products failed to pass a single crash test. In other words, you need to go the extra mile to ensure the safety and well-being of your pup while you’re on vacation.
Fortunately, we’ve got you covered when it comes to responsible canine traveling. If you want to make sure you cover all your bases, you’re going to want to abide by one central principle: the earlier the better.
It will help neither you nor your dog to wait until a few days out from your vacation to get started. Instead, you should act as soon as you can (ideally several weeks ahead of your departure date) to ensure that you’ve taken all the precautions for a safe and worry-free vacation.
Tragically, over 100,000 dogs die each year due to carelessness during travel. While this shouldn’t dissuade you from traveling with your canine companion, it should certainly come as a wake-up call that disaster can strike if you aren’t prepared.
Below, we’ve provided some basic precautionary tips that every responsible dog owner should take in advance of traveling. This way, you can be sure that your vacation experience will be as relaxed and carefree as possible.
Visit Your Vet
Every dog, before he or she goes on vacation with you, needs to pay their veterinarian a visit. This is rule number one. The main purpose of this visit is a general check-up to ensure they’re all caught up on their vaccination history.
Inform your veterinarian about where you will be traveling to. Especially if the destination is abroad, it is likely that your dog will need to receive an immunization shot so they won’t contract a virus while on vacation. A few of the core canine vaccines for travel include:
- Parvo virus
However, even domestic travel requires a rabies vaccine—according to the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA), over 55,000 people globally die every year due to rabies. In the US alone, rabies claims the lives of up to three people annually.
Ultimately, your dog’s genetics plays a major role in the diseases it’s predisposed to. For this reason, we recommend having your dog take a DNA test so you can stay informed about what vaccines and risk-prevention measures you should prioritize.
Protect Against Parasites
Whenever you take your dog to a warm and sunny destination, you need to guard your pup against the threat of potentially harmful parasites. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of them, including the following:
If your pup happens to contract a worm-type parasite while on vacation, you should have the right medication on hand to treat it. Thankfully, most parasitic infections are fully treatable, which means you can supply yourself with the best dewormer medications ahead of time to be ready if your dog needs it.
Update Their ID
It’s crucial that you ensure your pet’s identification is up-to-date before you depart. Even careful dog owners can lose their pet, especially if they tend to run off when given the opportunity. That’s why every dog owner should make sure their furry friend is sporting a collar with the most recent contact information included on it.
If your dog does happen to run away while you’re away on vacation, you can make a potential nightmare scenario much easier to deal with if you have tracking tools. We suggest investing in a quality GPS tracker for your dog so you can find it easily before it has a chance to run even further away.
Invest in a Quality Carrier
When you’re out of the house, your carrier becomes your dog’s second home. For this reason, every dog owner needs to purchase a comfortable and welcoming carrier or crate that your canine companion enjoys cozying up inside of. Otherwise, it’s going to be a serious hassle enticing your dog to get in its carrier when you’re trying to hurry out the door.
Fortunately, the Center for Pet Safety, in collaboration with Subaru of America, has conducted several studies over the years to help you find the safest and most reliable dog carrier. The results of the 2015 Crate and Carrier Crashworthiness Study can be found publicly online, with the top safety picks including:
- Gunner Kennels G1 Intermediate
- PetEgo Forma Frame Jet Set Carrier
- Sleepypod Mobile Pet Bed
Road Tripping with Your Pup
Taking a road trip with your dog requires you to take a few extra steps before you start your journey. Your dog needs to be trained for road travel, and you need to equip yourself with the right gear to make sure the process will be filled with joy and companionship—not headaches or tantrums.
Are you ready to hit the road with your four-legged friend? Find out by checking out the list of must-know requirements that you’ve got to check off before you head out the door.
Learn Car Safety 101
For a successful car adventure with your dog, you’re going to have to know the ins and outs of vehicle safety. This is especially true if your dog isn’t already accustomed to long car rides with limited mobility.
Learning vehicle safety isn’t just for you, it’s also about your dog learning about the car and how it can be safe and comfortable inside one. To build up their confidence in the car, consider taking them for short, breezy rides around your town or the surrounding countryside to get them warmed up to the idea of long-distance car travel.
Next, look into the best well-ventilated car crates and carriers. You’re going to want one that uses a strap tie-down attachment that will make it stationary inside the vehicle—this way, your pup won’t shift inside it during sharp turns or sudden stops
Never Leave Them in The Car Unattended
Of course, you must never leave your dog unattended in a hot vehicle. Even if you’re just popping into a gas station or convenience store, you need to take your dog with you or leave someone in the car to supervise your dog’s well-being.
On a typical 80-degree day, the temperature inside your car can reach 100 degrees in a matter of minutes. This presents a serious risk to your dog’s life. In only 15 minutes, your dog can suffer irreversible brain damage if left in a heated car.
Even in a running car attended by a human, your dog can overheat. Know the signs of heat stroke to ensure your dog doesn’t get dangerously hot when on the road with you. Symptoms of heat stroke include:
- Excessive thirst
- Thick saliva
- Dark tongue
- Rapid heart rate
- Panting and lethargy
We suggest stopping every couple of hours to ensure the most comfortable and pleasurable ride for your pup. If this sounds like an annoyance, we suggest you also take the time to refresh. Use these break periods to stretch, use the restroom, and generally get some air while taking your dog out of their crate.
If you take the time to hydrate and load up on food (for both you and your dog), then you can help minimize the risk of motion sickness, which will save you time in the long run.
Bring Their Favorite Toys
It’s always a good idea to pack your dog’s favorite chew toys so they have some sense of familiarity in their new surroundings during the road trip. It can be frightening to go on long-distance trips, so it’s on you as the owner to provide your furry friend with everything it needs to put its mind at ease, including its most beloved toys.
This rule also extends to hotel beds. You may find that your dog will reject the hotel bed or cot, and instead stays up half the night crying. To prevent uncomfortable hotel stays for both you and your dog, we recommend packing your dog’s regular blanket and dog bed. This way, they will soundly fall asleep without any disturbances or bouts of insomnia.
Book at Dog-Friendly Hotels
Plan your nightly stops ahead of time by looking for pet-friendly hotels that explicitly welcome dogs onto their property. Call ahead and ask the hotel receptionist whether they offer rooms that accommodate dogs and whether there are any size, weight, or breed restrictions that might interfere with your ability to stay there.
Flying with Your Furry Friend
When it comes time for you to take flight with your pup, you need to know what your options are regarding travel accommodations and what precautions you should take to minimize the risk of having a bad flight.
Know Your Options
Pet policies vary by airline. For instance, many popular US airlines have restrictions on breeds and weight that they allow on their planes, and others refuse to fly dogs in cargo, including:
- US Airways
- Jet Blue
Whenever possible, make sure your dog can join you in the cabin. This will provide a much more enjoyable flight experience for your canine companion and will reduce the risk of panic brought on by alienation and loud noises in the cargo compartment.
Invest in Calming Aids
Like humans, dogs can get a little freaked out by air travel. To help quell their nerves, we recommend purchasing calming aids for dogs so they can enjoy the flight without any panic attacks or disruptive tantrums. These anxiety-blasting pills are 100 percent natural and contain essential vitamins and minerals like magnesium to help put your dog at ease pre-flight.
Alternatively, you could invest in CBD oil supplements for your dog. These are also perfectly natural remedies that do not get your dog “high” or intoxicated. Instead, they can provide rapid relief for your dog’s travel anxiety and encourage it to get some sleep during the flight—plus, your aisle-mates will thank you for preventing your dog from acting out.
Crate Training is Key
Depending on your destination, your dog may be in four twelve hours or more of continual crate time. Unless your dog is comfortable being confined to such a small space for such a long stretch of time, they may end up crying and causing a disturbance to other travelers.
To prevent awkward behavioral outbursts and crying from your dog, make sure its had plenty of time to get used to their crate. Placing one or two of your dog’s favorite toys in the crate can go a long way toward making their travel experience more enjoyable.
Tucker Out Your Pup
Nothing spells disaster quite like an energetic dog stuck on an airplane for hours on end. To help keep their energy levels down during the flight, we suggest going for a strenuous jog with your pup beforehand. This way, they will be sleepy and will want to rest for the duration of the flight rather than run and jump around.
Whenever you have the option, take a direct flight with your dog. Especially if your pup tends to get antsy during flights, you’re going to want to minimize the amount of time your dog has to cause a commotion and throw a fit. Therefore, we suggest booking direct flights and skipping out on the layovers.
Remember: Safety First
Vacations present a special opportunity for you and your pup to bond and explore someplace new. However, you need to remember that vacations pose unique threats to your dog’s health and safety.
Your vacation isn’t all fun and games when you bring your dog along—instead, it becomes a family affair that requires you to consider your pup first.