Summer is almost here—and with it, all the joys of lazy days, weekend trips, and long-awaited family vacations. If leaving your four-legged family member behind while you travel doesn’t sound restful and relaxing, you’re not alone. Thousands of people prefer vacationing with their dog or cat to dealing with separation anxiety and worrying about their beloved pet while they’re away. Fortunately, more and more resorts and travel destinations are becoming pet-friendly, making it easier than ever to bring your dog or cat along for the trip.
Ideas for Pet-Friendly Travel
The best way to make sure that you and your pet both have an amazing time is to plan ahead, think through your pet’s routine, and prepare to make your pet as comfortable as possible during travel and in his new surroundings.
Make Your Vet Your First Stop
It’s important to be sure that your dog or cat is healthy enough for travel. Older pets, in particular, can get easily dehydrated or have GI issues when they travel or when their regular schedules are disrupted. Even if it’s not time for your pet’s annual wellness exam, feel free to schedule an appointment for a quick check-up before you hit the road.
Choosing Where to Go
It used to be that, if you wanted to bring your pet with you on vacation, your only real option was to book a pet-friendly hotel room and pay a large deposit. Now, the options are nearly limitless—from pet-friendly Airbnb rentals to full-scale pet resorts. Chances are, no matter where you want to go, there’s a pet-friendly vacation option nearby. One of our favorite regional vacation spots is Barkwell’s in the western North Carolina mountains. A perfect choice for a quick weekend getaway with your fur family member.
Driving with Your Dog or Cat
If you plan to travel by car, there are a few tips that will help you keep your dog or cat comfortable and safe during the trip. First, and most importantly, you need to crate your pet. While some animals may handle car travel better than others, driving with an uncrated pet is simply dangerous—possibly causing a distraction for the driver or injury to the pet if you have to stop quickly. No one wants their vacation ruined by a broken bone! Next, be sure to give your pet plenty of exercise before you get on the road. For dogs, go on a nice, long walk about 30 minutes before you travel and be sure to take your pet out to stretch his legs when you make pit stops. If your pet suffers from car-related anxiety, ask your veterinarian for suggestions or medications to help make the trip more enjoyable. Finally, while it’s a good idea to give your dog or cat water before and during your trip, don’t feed your pet for a few hours before your trip or during. Dogs, especially, are prone to motion sickness and GI issues during travel.
Air Travel with Pets
For those whose destination is further away, air travel with pets is also quite doable. Check with your airline to find out what their rules and regulations are. Many airlines require a certificate of health before allowing an animal to board—which Ambassador Animal Hospital is happy to provide. As with car travel, make sure that your pet is hydrated and has access to a little water during the trip, but don’t give your pet food for at least 2 hours before travel.
Keeping your Dog or Cat Calm
Our pets are intuitive and take their cues from us. If you don’t show signs of nervousness, your dog or cat is less likely to be anxious as well. While experts may argue about whether or not travel medications are necessary, you know your pet’s anxiety level best, and a medicated pet is better than an anxious or injured pet. We are happy to provide safe, low-dose, effective calming medications for travel through our on-site pharmacy. If you choose not to medicate, pre-travel exercise, bringing along a favorite toy or blanket, using naturopathic methods like lavender and chamomile, or gently petting and massaging your pet before travel will all help reduce anxiety.
When You Arrive
Allowing your pet time to adjust to her surroundings when you arrive is just as important as prepping your pet with exercise and attention before travel. Start with a nice, long walk to tire your pet out before you do anything else. If your dog is trained, ask him to sit and stay when you first arrive at your location while you settle in, unpack, take a shower, or relax on the bed. Keep your cat or untrained dog in the crate during this time. If your scent is everywhere before your pet begins exploring, he’ll have an easier time adjusting without anxiety. It’s also a good idea to set out your pet’s food and to check the accommodations for any dangerous items like glassware or small, ingestible decorations before your pet is free to roam.
Lots of planning and preparation means a more successful vacation for you and your pet. Once you get to your destination, be sure to explore the pet-friendly attractions in the area. We also highly recommend a good staycation. Downtown Greenville, SC had a number of pet-friendly options for whiling away an afternoon or two.