9 Tips for Safely and Sanely Traveling with Pets

It's all in the preparation.

For pet parents — who wouldn't dream of traveling without their fur babies — travel plans are never as easy as making some reservations and hopping out the door. Either you take your pets with you at what can be huge expense and hoop jumping... or you make arrangements to travel without them (and suffer the worry and guilt — not to mention the expense).

Whether traveling with pets by plane, train, or automobile, here are some tips that can improve the overall experience, with help from Danielle Bernal, veterinarian and on-staff nutritional expert for Wellness Natural Pet Food.

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1.  Keep them hydrated.

When traveling with pets, it can be difficult to keep them as hydrated as you do at home. Some animals just get jittery when they’re on the move and as a result, their eating or drinking habits might turn upside down. Bernal recommends a wet food option for animals who are inclined to drink less while traveling. That little bit of extra fluid can go a long way in keeping them hydrated.

2.  Animals get car sick, too.

Did you know that it’s not only humans who get car sick? Traveling with pets in a car, bus, or boat is especially likely to tell you whether your pet is prone to motion sickness or not. Animals can take medication like Dramamine, but it’s best to talk to your vet and figure out what the ideal action plan is for your pet. Making sure that your pet travels on an empty stomach can help reduce the potential icky cleanup, too. Cesar Millan, a.k.a. "The Dog Whisperer," has some solid recommendations for traveling with dogs: One suggestion is high-protein snacks when the car is stopped if you feel like you need to offer your pet something. In the case of dogs, a freeze-dried 100-percent meat treat can work wonders.

3.  You're not the only one who should be buckled.

“Click it or ticket” might not legally apply to pet travel, but that doesn’t mean that your pets shouldn’t be secured when traveling in the car. There are a lot of options out there that can help keep pets secure in their seats, but a standard car harness for a dog and a carrier for a cat are two of the best options, according to Bernal.

4.  There is help for debilitating anxiety.

Much like in the case of humans, when animals experience extreme anxiety when traveling, there is help available that can stop your pet from needlessly suffering. Talk to your vet about travel-related anxiety and the appropriate medication if your dog is experiencing extreme hardship.

5.  It only takes six minutes for a pet to overheat in a car.

Even on mild days, Bernal says, overheating is a risk. The temperature inside the car can quickly double the temperature outside. People often mistakenly think that tinted glass, partially opened windows, or parking in the shade can prevent a pet from overheating, but those actions don’t do enough to negate the risk. The best thing you can do is just not leave your pet in the car at all, especially not once the weather begins to warm.

6.  Bring a toy from home.

This might not seem important if your pet doesn’t usually play with toys too much at home, but it can be helpful while traveling. Even animals that aren’t overly playful can take to chewing on things out of nervousness and having a toy around that they know is theirs from home can help to keep them out of trouble.

7.  Tire your pet out before travel begins.

As is the case with children, tiring pets out before travel is a genius idea. The last thing you want is an antsy pet that hasn’t exercised enough for the day traveling alongside you. Work your pet extra hard before travel begins and they’ll have an easier time just going to sleep while in transit, which is the best-case scenario for everyone.

8.  Enter new spaces first.

It’ll be easier for your animals to adjust, especially in the case of dogs, if they can smell your scent in a new place when they enter. Keep your pets in their carriers, crates, or get your dog to sit still while you explore and inspect the new space. According to Millan, dogs will “assume control of the situation” if you allow them to wander into a new area you'll be staying, like a hotel room, before you.

9.  Your energy is more important than you might think.

Keep your energy consciously as calm and positive as you can. Pets can read your body language and energy, so if you’re overly nervous, they will pick up on it. Instead of allowing yourself to show nervousness, make a point to show your pet that you're in control and happy.

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