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Posted on 12-10-2015

Holiday Travel with Pets

One of the best things about the holiday season is that we get to spend time with family that we aren't able to see during other times of the year. For many of us, this involves extensive travel and depending on how they cope, it can be difficult to decide whether or not to bring family pets along. A boarding facility is certainly an option, but unexpected travel can make it really hard to find a place that still has openings. I highly recommend contacting local boarding facilities early as they can be booked up for holidays like Christmas by late summer or early fall!

If you would rather bring your furry family members with you, it's wise to plan ahead: does your pet do well on normal trips around town? If so, it's unlikely you'll need to consider sedation, but I'll talk more about that later. Lots of us don't think to take the family pet anywhere in the car until it's time to go to the vet and although we love to see you, they don't always think of it as fun and can come to associate car trips with us, worsening their anxiety. A far better way is to try to acclimate pets by starting long before an extended trip and taking them on a series of short rides that end with a positive event like playing in a park or treats and affection from you once you get home. As they seem less frightened, you can increase the distance from around the block to more like a nice Sunday drive. Going for trips when they're young can make that preparation unnecessary.

Safety is important too. There are inexpensive attachments available which use your car's seatbelts and can keep your pet from roaming around and potentially getting injured during sudden stops. There are also nets for the backs of larger vehicles so that they can relax without a crate without being able to get into the front.  

Once you've got everything packed and are ready to go, don't forget that once on the road, they need breaks too! Collapsible bowls are great for travel and don't take up a lot of room. Depending on the amount of time it takes to get to your destination, you should allow time for multiple potty breaks to give everyone a chance to stretch and get a drink of water. Unfortunately, some dogs and cats tend to vomit during car rides. If this is the case, talk to your vet about medications that can help.

Flying also has potential issues so make sure you check with your airline that they don't have requirements of their own. Not having the necessary paperwork will leave you stuck at the airport trying to reschedule so you can try to find someone to see your pet for a health certificate or rabies vaccine. Some airlines no longer allow for any but small pets that can fit under a seat. Larger dogs often aren't permitted for safety reasons since they would need to be held with checked luggage where it can get too cold during the winter.

I mentioned sedation, but for me, this is an option only if you have no other choice. If it is necessary, plan a trial run before you leave. Animals can have different reactions from what you expect and it's best to find that out at home. Whether they're too sleepy or experience a "paradoxical reaction" where the effect is the opposite of what you wanted (e.g., a sedative causing agitation or excitement), it is important that you're able to contact your regular doctor for any adjustment of the dosage.

Travel and the holidays can be very stressful, but with planning, it can be safe and fun for everyone!  To speak with a veterinarian at Phoenix Veterinary Center about holiday travel plans, please call us at 602-559-5500 or book an appointment online.

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