What you should know about traveling with your pet
Planning and Preparation
Planning and preparation are necessary when traveling with family pets. Consider
whether your pet is comfortable when traveling. Some animals, like some people,
function better in familiar surroundings. A car-sick animal can make a trip miserable
for everyone. Some ill or physically impaired dogs and cats cannot withstand the
rigors of travel. If this is the case, discuss options such as using a reliable
pet-sitter or a clean, well-managed boarding facility with your veterinarian.
If you will be staying with friends along the way, be considerate. Find out in
advance if the pet is welcome. The same goes for hotels, motels, parks, and
campgrounds. Always check whether pets are allowed or kennel facilities are available.
If the pet must be left alone in a hotel room, place a "Do Not Disturb" sign
on the door and inform the maid and the front desk. Consider bringing along a
portable kennel for use in hotel rooms or the homes of friends or relatives who are
not comfortable with your pet loose when no one is home.
A few general tips apply whether you travel by car or plane. Be sure your pet is
properly identified with a current tag and/or a microchip. Grooming (bathing, combing,
trimming nails) before a trip, plus having its favorite food, toy(s), and dishes
available will make your pet more comfortable. Have both proof of rabies vaccination
and a current health certificate with you when crossing state or international
Before undertaking any trip, consult your veterinarian to be sure that all required
vaccinations are up-to-date and to receive a health certificate within ten days of
Travel by Air
Air travel is of most concern to pet owners. The airlines sometimes update their
regulations on pet travel including restrictions on breeds and size. Check with your
airline well in advance for their current regulations. Many of the major airlines now
allow cats and dogs under 15 pounds to travel in pet-designed carry-on luggage that
will fit under the seat. Also, new, smaller air travel services such as Companion Air
pets and their people to travel in the cabin together.
Federal regulations require that pets be at least 8 weeks old and weaned at least 5
days before flying. Always try to book a nonstop, midweek flight and avoid plane
changes whenever possible. During warm weather periods, choose early morning or late
evening flights. In colder months, choose midday flights. The Federal Animal Welfare
Regulations prohibit airlines from accepting dogs and cats for shipment if the airline
cannot prevent exposure of the animal to temperatures less than 45 degrees F for more
than 45 minutes while transferring the dog or cat between the terminal and the plane.
However, this prohibition is waived if a veterinarian provides an acclimation
certificate stating that the dog or cat can be exposed to lower temperatures. Your
veterinarian cannot give a certificate allowing exposures to temperatures above 85
degrees F for more than 45 minutes.
Reconfirm your flight arrangements the day before you leave to ensure there have
been no unexpected flight changes. Arrive at the airport early, exercise your pet,
personally place it in its crate, and pick up the animal promptly upon arrival at your
destination. When boarding the plane, let the flight attendant know that your pet is
in the cargo hold.
Transport crates, available from most airlines or pet shops, must:
- Be large enough to allow the animal to stand (without touching the top of
the cage), turn around, and lie down.
- Be strong and free of interior protrusions, with handle or grips.
- Have a leak proof bottom that is covered with plenty of absorbent
- Be appropriately and clearly labeled. Include your name, home address,
home phone number, and destination contact information, as well as a designation of
"Live Animals," with arrows indicating the crate's upright position. (In
addition, carry your pet's photo and health information with you on the plane for easy
identification in the event the cage label is lost.)
- Be ventilated on opposite sides with exterior rims and knobs so that
airflow is not impeded.
Before leaving on your trip, take the time to accustom your pet to the crate in
which he will be traveling.
Ask your veterinarian for specific feeding instructions. For your pet's comfort,
air travel on an almost empty stomach is usually recommended. The age and size of
your pet, time and distance of the flight, and your pet's regular dietary routine will
be considered when feeding recommendations are made. It is recommended that you not
give tranquilizers to your pet when traveling by air.
Travel by Car
If your pet is not accustomed to car travel, take it for a few short rides before
your trip so it will feel confident that a car outing does not necessarily mean a trip
to the veterinarian or an unpleasant destination. Cats should always be confined to a
cage or in a cat carrier to allow them to feel secure and prevent them from crawling
under your feet while you are driving.
A dog that must ride in a truck bed should be confined in a protective kennel that
is fastened to the truck bed. Dogs riding in a car should not ride in the passenger
seat if it is equipped with an airbag. Some car companies are now providing optional
"Pet Lovers Packages" with their new vehicles that include items such as pet
tethers, harnesses, and cushions. These car companies realize that your dog should be
in a secure harness or sturdy carrier to avoid injury should you make a sudden turn or
stop. Pet harnesses attach to the seatbelt and safely keep your dog in one place.
Accustom your dog to a seatbelt harness by attaching a leash and taking your dog for
short walks while wearing it. Offer your dog a treat and praise at the end of the walk
to associate a positive experience with wearing the harness.
Stick to your regular feeding routine and give the main meal at the end of the day
or when you reach your destination. Feeding dry food will be more convenient, assuming
your pet readily consumes it. Dispose of unused canned food unless it can be
refrigerated. Take along a plastic jug of cold water in case other reliable water
sources are not available. Give small portions of food and water and plan to stop
every two hours for exercise. Remember to include a leash with your pet's traveling
supplies. If your dog is has a problem with carsickness, your veterinarian can
prescribe medication that will help the dog feel comfortable during a long car
Pets should not be allowed to ride with their heads outside car windows. Particles
of dirt or other debris can enter the eyes, ears, and nose, causing injury or
infection. If you must leave your pet in a parked car, don't leave him for a long
period of time and be sure to lock all doors, park in a shady area, and open windows
wide enough to provide ventilation without enabling your pet to jump out or get its
head caught. Be aware of weather conditions. You should never leave your pet in a
parked car when the temperature and/or humidity are high or when temperatures are near
or below freezing.
Travel by Bus or Train
Most states prohibit animals from riding on buses and similar regulations restrict
travel on trains. Exceptions are made for guide and service dogs accompanying blind
and disabled persons. Consult your local carriers in advance for information.
Camping With Pets
Travel to country settings with your pet presents its own challenges. Skunks,
raccoons, porcupines, snakes and other wildlife can bite or otherwise injure your
pet. Keep your pet within sight and on a leash. Be considerate of other campers. Be
sure to ask your veterinarian about flea, tick and heartworm prevention before you
Additional Pet Travel and Health Tips
- When traveling by car, pack a simple pet first-aid kit that
includes assorted bandages, antiseptic cream, an antidiarrheal medication that is safe
for pets (ask your veterinarian to suggest a product), gauze squares, and the phone
numbers of your veterinarian, a national poison control hotline, and a 24-hour
emergency veterinary hospital.
- In addition to a standard identification tag (which should be
labeled with your name, home address and phone number), your pet's collar should
include a travel tag with information on where you are staying while away from home.
Should your pet become lost, this will allow you to be contacted locally.
- Perform a daily "health check" on your pet when away
from home. In unfamiliar surroundings, your pet's appetite, energy, and disposition
may change. Watch for unusual discharges from the nose and eyes, excessive scratching
or biting of any body part, abnormal elimination, or excessive water consumption.
Visit a local veterinarian if you are concerned about any physical or behavioral
For more Information and helpful tips on traveling with your
The American Veterinary Medical Association
(AVMA), established in 1863, is a not-for-profit association representing more
than 74,000 veterinarians working in private and corporate practice, government,
industry, academia, and uniformed services. Structured to work for its members, the
AVMA acts as a collective voice for its membership and for the