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Hitting the Road With Your Dog
By: Carolyn Fisher, DVM
Director, Suburban Animal Hospital
Monroe Veterinary Associates
Labor Day weekend is the last chance for families to hit the road and enjoy that final bit of summer. Many dog owners choose to take their dog along with them on their trip. Traveling with your dog can be rewarding for you and your furry friend, but a little bit of preplanning is needed to be sure that the trip goes smoothly for everyone.
There are a few criteria to consider before deciding whether your dog is a good candidate for travel. First, it is important that your dog is able to handle the changing environments, routines and people that travel brings. If your dog is easily frightened or stressed by new situations, then travel may not be a good choice. Having a dog with good "manners" is critical to having a successful travel experience. If you have a dog that tends to bark a lot, he or she may not be a good candidate for popular travel destinations such as camp grounds and hotels. Finally, if Fido is not properly house trained, is hard to handle or is aggressive, he or she may also be a poor travel companion.
The most important consideration when traveling with your dog is to be sure that your dog will be welcomed along all parts of the trip. If you are planning a road trip, prepare yourself with a list of "dog friendly" hotels along each leg of your journey. The internet can be a valuable resource for this type of information. Websites such as www.petswelcome.com and www.pet-friendly-hotels.net are two such examples. Take time to educate yourself on the specific pet policies at each stop so that there are no surprises when you get there. It is also helpful to make yourself aware of the nearest emergency veterinary clinic so you know where to go should your dog have an emergency medical need.
Prior to your departure be sure that your dog is up to date on his or her vaccinations, especially rabies. If your dog has special health concerns, be sure to refill any medications so you have enough for the duration of your trip. This includes flea, tick and heartworm preventatives. Many southern states have very high levels of heartworm disease compared to their northern counterparts, so it is important that your furry friend is protected when you travel. Be sure to pack copies of your dog's rabies certificate, other vaccinations and medical history before you go. Other things to pack include: enough of your dog's favorite food and treats, and comfort items such as bedding, blankets and toys. Have a supply of water readily available for your dog in the car so that he or she can get a drink as you travel.
When traveling by car with your dog, be sure that he or she is safely restrained in the vehicle. An unrestrained pet can be severely injured during a sudden stop or crash. For smaller dogs, a secured crate or carrier is a good way to keep them safe. There are a number of different seatbelt restraint systems that are available as well. With most of these, the dog wears a harness that can be connected to the seatbelt of the car, safely restraining them for travel.
Finally, it is important to verify that your canine companion's identification is in order. Check your dog's tags to be sure that contact information is current and accurate. If your pet is microchipped, it is a good idea to verify that the information on file with the microchip company is also correct. This way, should your dog accidentally run away or get lost, he has the best chance of being returned to you if found.
Traveling with your dog can be rewarding for you and your furry friend. It can strengthen the bond that you have with your dog. With a little planning you and your dog can have a safe, stress free and enjoyable trip.