Tips for Safe Travel with Pets

Summer is the season for fun vacations with the whole family, often including pets.

a dog sitting next to a car

Before hitting the road, Kit Darling, infection control coordinator at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, has some helpful tips for keeping pets safe and calm during road trips, plane rides, and any other type of trip away from home.

Just like people need to wear seat belts in the car, pets also need to be strapped in to stay safe while traveling. Pets can be secured with a harness that attaches to the seat belt or they can travel in a well-ventilated crate.

“Before attempting a car ride, acclimate your pet to the harness or crate,” Darling said. “Begin with short rides and then gradually increase the time in the car, taking frequent breaks every two to three hours to allow the pet to get some exercise and go to the bathroom.”

Pets should never be allowed to ride unrestricted in a truck bed or be left alone in a parked vehicle, as heat builds very quickly and can be extremely dangerous.

“Do not allow your pet to ride with his head outside of the window as dirt and other debris can enter the eyes, nose, and ears causing injury or infection,” Darling advised.

If traveling by airplane, pets will need to ride in an approved crate for the full flight. If the pet is not small enough for its crate to fit under a passenger seat in the cabin, it will have to ride in the cargo bay of the plane.

“Contact the airline to find out what they require for pets traveling on planes,” Darling said. “The airline may have a restriction on breed, size, or age of the animal. Most airlines also require a health certificate issued by a veterinarian within 10 days of travel.”

No matter how the pet will be traveling, there are many ways to make sure it stays safe and comfortable upon arrival.

First, Darling advises double-checking that pets are welcome at the destination, even if the host will be a friend or family member. Good pet manners, such as using a leash and cleaning up after the pet, can help make sure they stay welcome throughout the trip.

“Whenever leaving the pet alone, put it in a crate and leave your contact information,” Darling said. “In a hotel or motel, put a “Do Not Disturb” sign on the door, inform the front desk, and leave your contact information.”

When traveling with a pet, all supplies needed for that pet’s care should be brought along. Darling recommends packing a separate bag with the pet’s food, bowls, medications, toys, proof of rabies vaccination, veterinarian contact information, and any other necessary supplies.

Bringing along a familiar blanket or towel with the pet’s or the owner’s scent can help the animal feel relaxed in a strange place.

Pets may be tempted to run away if nervous, so they should be microchipped and/or wearing a collar with current contact information on the tag. Darling also recommends labeling the pet’s crate with contact information, especially for airplane travel.

Most importantly, remember to show your pet plenty of love and attention to help it feel safe, calm, and happy in an unfamiliar environment. Summer vacations are more fun when the entire family is having a good time.

Pet Talk is a service of the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University. Stories can be viewed on the web at Suggestions for future topics may be directed to

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