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12 Days of Holiday Hazards...Day 10

12/09/2008

On the tenth day of the holidays, my true love gave to me...A TRIP!

A lot of folks will be traveling with their pets over the next few weeks. It's pretty cool, I think, how many people take their pets along when they travel these days - but this does mean we need to plan ahead to make sure everything goes smoothly, and stress (for furry and non-furry family members) is minimized.

If you're planning to fly with your pet, it's best, by far, if your pet can go with you in the cabin. This is certainly safest, and a lot less terrifying, for both of you. Of course, if your pet is too big to travel in the cabin, this won't be possible (in which case you may want to consider leaving the pet at home or in a kennel). If your pet is small enough to go with you in the airplane cabin (and I would be willing to have my pet be pretty darn cramped in a carrier to avoid putting him or her under the plane), be sure to reserve this ahead of time with the airline. There may be a fee.

 Make sure you have all the paperwork you need, which often involves a health certifcate from your vet within a certain time period before the flight. Don't wait till the last minute to schedule this! And be sure your pet is well-identified, preferably with both an ID tag on a collar and a microchip. Whether your pet is going in the cabin or under the plane, if the unthinkable happens and your pet somehow gets loose, you want to maximize the chance he or she will be returned to you.

If you are traveling by car, things are a lot easier. Consider whether your pet tends to get motion sickness (which can be evidenced not only by vomiting, but also by drooling or restlessness). If your pet has indeed shown symptoms of motion sickness in the past, consider asking your vet for something to ward this off. If you will be stopping along the way, avoid leaving your pet alone in the car, especially in an area with a lot of strangers around, such as a rest stop. If you take your pet out for a walk along the way, be extra careful - a loose pet in a strange place is a nightmare none of us need! Make sure your dog's collar and leash are on and shipshape before opening the car door.

Pet parents often ask vets about sedation during trips. Unless your pet goes ballistic during travel, it's generally safer to avoid sedation if you can. Pets are better able to regulate their body temperature and otherwise keep themselves safe when not sedated, which can not only cause a drop in body temperature but also in blood pressure, depending on the drug used. Don't automatically assume pets should be sedated for travel - most shouldn't.

Be sure to take with you any necessary medical information, and if you're driving a long way, consider locating some veterinary emergency clinics along your route. Make sure your pet's prescriptions are refilled if necessary, and it can be prudent to ask your vet for a written prescription to take with you in case medication gets lost along the way. Lots of hotels allow pets these days; it's best to check ahead for hotels that welcome pets along your route or at your destination.

p.s. If your pet is a cat, consider that unless you will be away for a prolonged period, your cat might rather stay home! With the loving care of a catsitter, of course. Tomorrow we'll talk more about pets whose owners are going away without them.

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