On the road again... this time with extra safety measures!
Travelling can be stressful at the best of times - booking flights, managing itineraries, organizing and packing - but travelling with pets adds another layer of complexity when it comes to sorting out a trip. Pet Travel Safety Day (marked on January 2 each year) is an opportunity to educate pet owners about the possible dangers for pets when travelling and to make them aware of the best ways to keep them safe when you take a family trip. We’ve put together our top tips for travelling with pets to help ease the stress of taking along your beloved furry friend(s) on your travels, including a checklist of our top travel planning suggestions.
Consider the risks
Some of the main risks to pets when travelling are:
- Heatstroke: leaving a pet in a locked car is never safe. The high temperatures that the interior of a vehicle quickly reaches in warm weather can cause irreparable damage to your pet’s organs and even death. Just as you would for children, make sure to never leave your pet inside a car, and always keep them hydrated when travelling.
- Travel sickness: like humans, some pets suffer from motion sickness. Look out for the signs (distress, vomiting) and consult your veterinarian if you have concerns.
- Stress or anxiety: travelling can be a stressful experience for animals. Be sure to get them used to the idea of it by familiarising them with their travel carrier, or taking them for short trips in the car if you’re planning a longer journey. Always make sure they have some home comforts and a safe, comfortable place to stay while on the road or in the air.
As with any trip, planning ahead can really help to mitigate any issues that might arise when you bring your pet along on your travels. Check ahead to make sure your hotel or accommodation is pet friendly, and know what the expectations and arrangements are. If you’re travelling abroad, it’s important to make sure you have good pet insurance (and proof of it!), as well as copies of your pet’s medical care history and your pet licence, if applicable. Knowing how and who to contact (local vets or animal hospitals) in case of an emergency is also a great way to ensure peace of mind that you know what to do if something unexpected happens.
If you’re planning to travel by air with your pet, there are several ways that you can help to keep them safe during this period of time:
- It’s always recommended to bring your pet with you in the cabin rather than having them travel in the hold, which carries more risk of injury or loss due to rough handling, poor ventilation or excessively hot or cold temperatures. Most airlines will allow you to bring them in the cabin for an additional fee but always contact them ahead of time to make sure you’ve got everything covered.
- Take direct flights whenever possible - easier for your pet and also easier for you!
- If you have a brachycephalic pet such as a Pekingese dog, bulldog or Persian cat, don’t ever ship them in the hold, as they are more prone to respiratory problems.
- Let your pet become familiar with their travel carrier before taking them on a plane so that they don’t suffer unnecessary stress from this new mode of transport while flying.
- If possible, put ice cubes in their water tray so that they have water during the flight without risk of spillage from a water bowl.
Right gear, right idea
When you’re travelling with your pet, an important way to ensure their safety is to make sure you have the right gear for them.
- Carriers and safety harnesses: when travelling by car, be sure to bring a carrier for small pets or a safety harness or crate for larger dogs. Cats in particular can be averse to travelling in vehicles, so it helps to ensure their comfort and safety to keep them in a carrier. Always make sure to restrain the carrier with a seat belt around the front of it, or anchor a crate to the vehicle using a seat belt to prevent it from bouncing around and causing injury to your cat or dog. Check out this harness and these carriers for some good options.
- A collapsible travel bowl: it’s incredibly important to ensure that your pet is properly fed and hydrated while travelling, especially on long road trips. A handy travel bowl that you can easily fit in a bag or pocket is the perfect way to make sure you always have an efficient way to hydrate your pet. Check out this option.
- A pet first aid kit: something we never want to have to use, but essential to have on hand just in case! You can build your own (make sure to include some gauze pads, bandages, tweezers, scissors, medical gloves, and medical tape to get started) or check out this pet first aid kit if you’re looking to save some time!
Road tripping safety trips
Travelling by car with pets can be one of the most straightforward ways to enjoy a holiday with your beloved furry friends, but it can also present some risks (heatstroke, motion sickness). To keep your dog or cat safe and comfortable, consider doing the following:
- Feed them approximately four hours before the trip to help prevent motion sickness
- Attach their leash to the inside of the car to prevent them accidentally escaping when you open the door
- Keep the car at a comfortable temperature
- Let them run around and exercise before you leave so that they don’t get too restless in the car
- Let your pet hang their head out the window
- Let your dog roam around the car - and don’t let your pet in the front seat, as they could be seriously injured if the airbag deploys
- Leave your dog alone in a parked vehicle during warm weather - even if it doesn't feel that hot to you, the temperature inside a car can reach dangerous levels very quickly and being in that type of heat can cause serious organ damage or even death
We all want to keep our pets safe, so make sure to know the risks and plan ahead - and, most importantly, enjoy your trip, wherever and however you might be travelling! (And remember, there are always alternatives to taking your pet with you on holiday, such as leaving them with a reliable pet-sitter or at a reputable boarding kennel in your neighbourhood).
- Avoid feeding your pet for about four hours before travel
- Make a plan for bathroom breaks
- Bring comfort items to help ease any stress
- Make frequent stops to stretch, pee and get water (but make sure they have their collar, ID tag and leash when doing so)
- Keep the windows slightly open for ventilation
- Bring feeding bowls, water and food
- Make sure your pet is up to date on vaccinations and you have their health records handy
- Make a list of vets near your destination, in case of emergency