Traveling With Four-Legged Baggage

dogs in a yellow jeepWith spring break upon us, and summer vacations right around the corner, it’s time to start planning your much-needed getaways. Whichever destination you choose, having your pet by your side makes it even more enjoyable. However, there are some important things to consider before letting your furry family member tag along.

“The first thing you want to do before you go on a big trip with your pet is to go on a short trip with your pet,” said Dr. Mark Stickney, clinical associate professor at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences. “Drive around and make sure that they don’t get too nervous or car sick while they’re in the vehicle.”

If you notice that Fido is an anxious traveler but still need to bring him along, consult your veterinarian about motion sickness medication or tranquilizers to help make the ride more comfortable.

“Anytime that you travel with your pets, make sure that they are up to date on their vaccinations and that you have proof of the vaccination when you travel,” said Stickney, “especially for rabies vaccinations.” This is very important to have in case they get sick, lost, or accidentally bite someone out of fear. Since your pet must be fully vaccinated before traveling to an unknown area, they should be around five months of age or older in order to tag along.

If you’re planning on taking a road trip, remember that you will have to stop frequently and take your pet out for a walk and to use the bathroom. This means you should have a leash and doggy doo bags handy. You’ll also want to bring along a container of water and a bowl for food when they get hungry.

If traveling by air, it is important that you contact the airline ahead of time to see what exactly they require for that pet to fly. “Some require that they be in certain size carriers or that they need to be at the airport for a certain amount of time,” Stickney said. “You need to make sure that you know the details of where they will be traveling inside of the plane and where you will need to pick them up when you land.”

Before traveling anywhere, consult your veterinarian if your pet has any health problems or other special concerns. For instance, dogs that are brachycephalic, or that have “pushed in” faces such as pugs or bulldogs, are extremely sensitive to the heat. You want to be very cautious of this when traveling in the summertime, as they are prone to having heat strokes.

“This is especially true if they are traveling by air, because you don’t know exactly where they will end up,” Stickney said. “You don’t want them to have to be on a hot tarmac for hours, because they can certainly suffer very serious effects from that; these types of pets will want to travel in air-conditioned comfort.”

Keeping these considerations in mind before embarking on your journey, your vacation can be an enjoyable getaway for the whole family, the four-legged members included.

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