Traveling With Your Pets

Since our pets are important members of our families, we would love to bring them everywhere we go – especially on vacation! However, it’s not always practical to bring them along, and they may not respond well to the stress of traveling. Pet sitters or pet boarding kennels are usually the best option when you leave for an extended time, but sometimes traveling with your pets is necessary.

Traveling in Vehicles

If you’re taking your pets with you in your vehicle, first decide how you’re going to restrain your pet. Just like people without seatbelts, loose pets are at risk of serious injury during accidents, and can also be a reason for the accidents themselves. Cats will prefer to stay in a carrier, while dogs may also enjoy harnesses, pet seats, wire cages and more. Familiarize them with the carrier by putting favorite treat or toys inside, letting their curiosity take over until they claim it as their own. You may also want to take a couple test runs to the park or beach, helping them associate traveling with pleasant experiences.

Before you leave, check that your pet’s collar and identification is up to date. Bring your pet to your veterinarian to make sure they’re healthy enough for traveling – a health certificate may be necessary when crossing some state or international borders. Make sure you have extra food, water and first aid supplies for the entire trip so you don’t have to worry about the effects of unfamiliar food as you’re vacationing.

Don’t feed your pet as much food the day you leave – there’s a lower chance of motion sickness with an empty stomach. Let them exercise before you leave, and stop frequently to let them walk around or relieve themselves. Make sure the carrier is secure in the car, and monitor your pet as you travel for any changes in behavior or health. Never leave your pet in a car alone – the temperature can quickly rise to over 120º Fahrenheit and cause serious heat-related problems.

Traveling in Airplanes

While thousands of pets safely trvel in airplanes every year, you should only consider air travel when you have no other options. There are many factors that can affect your pets in ways you may not anticipate. However, with some extra preparation, airline travel can also be safe and successful.

You can prepare your pet for flights by giving them time to adjust to their carrier. The loud and unfamiliar airline noises may also frighten them, so bring them to the airport a couple times to help familiarize them with the strange noises. Make sure your pet’s identification is up to date and includes your destination and contact information.

Your pet’s health is the first priority when traveling by air. Airlines will require a health certificate from a veterinarian that is no more than 10 days old. Pets need to be over 8 weeks old and fully weaned. Brachycephalic breeds, or animals with a “pushed-in” face such as Boxers, Shih Tzus, Persians or Himalayans, may have increased breathing difficulties at the high altitude. Unless your veterinarian recommends it, you shouldn’t tranquilize your pets – the altitude may also cause some unpredictable results.

If possible, choose a direct flight. You should also minimize the temperature extremes – pick a morning or evening flight during the summer, and a midday flight during the winter. Check and double-check your airline’s requirements for traveling with pets. The carrier should have a leak proof bottom, good ventilation, handles with grips and clearly labeled with a 1-inch “Live Animal” identification. Some airlines allow small pets in the cabin, while others need to travel in the cargo area.

Before you go anywhere, make sure you know the pet requirements of your destination, whether it’s a campground, hotel or popular vacation spot. By making the proper preparations for every aspect of your journey, traveling with your pet can be seamless and enjoyable trip!

Shop all Carriers Shop all Travel Supplies
Return to Doc Roy's Clinic - Summer Education

The materials, information and answers provided through this website are not intended to replace the medical advice or services of a qualified veterinarian or other pet health care professional. Consult your own veterinarian for answers to specific medical questions, including diagnosis, treatment, therapy or medical attention.

Return to Doc Roy's Clinic


We take care of people who take care of pets