By Dorrie Jordan, DVM
It’s summer and vacation time. You’ve got big plans for a family trip and that includes the dog, or maybe the cat. There are definitely a number things to consider before hitting the road.
First, look at your trip plans and make sure that your destination is pet friendly. Most camping areas are great for dogs, but not if they are in a national park. Dogs are allowed in Forest Service wilderness areas, as long as they are on a leash or under voice command and not harassing wildlife. Some motels do not allow animals, so choose one which will accept pets. Also, consider stops where animals may need to be left alone, like restaurants, and remember that vehicles heat up rapidly. This can cause life threatening problems for your pet. Plan your trip accordingly.
Traveling to new areas is exciting and fun, but can present new hazards for your pet. Check with your veterinarian about possible parasites or diseases that your pet might be exposed to in the areas where you plan to visit. For example, our area of western Washington has a lot of fleas during the spring, summer and fall seasons, but not as many ticks, or heartworm problems. If you are spending time in eastern Washington, ticks will be more of a concern. Travel to the midwestern states or further east brings not only ticks, but heartworm exposure to the forefront. Make sure your animals are protected from all of these parasites before leaving home.
Another consideration is your pet itself and how he or she react to travel. For some dogs, the car is their second home and they love to hop in and go anywhere with you. For others, it is very stressful and may cause enough anxiety for them to stop eating or develop problems, with stress induced diarrhea. Cats, in general, are not good travelers, though some do fine in motor homes. Pets who are not good travelers may be better off staying at a boarding facility or at home with a pet sitter. Some pets will do fine with a mild anti-anxiety medication while traveling.
Especially for longer trips, bring along your pet’s vaccination history and medical history, if there are any chronic issues. These will be very helpful if you need to board your animal or if there is a medical emergency. Enjoy yourself and take precautions so your pet will be happy and safe as well.