Packing The Pets

Taking a dog or cat along on vacation seems like a big pain, if you ask me. They get airsick, carsick, lost, scared, denied admission to various facilities and downright stressed by the whole adventure. They can be exposed to exotic diseases, heatstroke, parasites, fungal infections, and stomach upset from unfamiliar foods.

Yet, as Quinte area residents start gearing up their plans for March Break travel, many of them are putting pets, leashes and bowls on their checklists because the whole family is going away, fuzzy four-legged members and all. Actually, my assessment of vacationing with pets is intensely off-colored by my own dislike of travel. I’ve been airsick, lost, scared, denied admission to various facilities and downright stressed by the whole adventure. So far no exotic diseases.

But, if you are a good traveller with well-socialized pets, accustomed to cars, trains and planes, you probably see things from a different perspective. Fortunately, a growing segment of the hospitality industry in North America is looking through the same lens, welcoming pets to hotels, amusement parks and even restaurants. Just search for “pet-friendly…whatever” on the internet and you’re sure to find some suggestions along your route.

For important medical advice, talk to your veterinarian. Find out if extra vaccines or parasite prevention are recommended for your destination. Even cats should get heartworm prevention in the southern states and there are many nasty tickborne diseases common in the south that warrant special consideration.

If your dog’s rabies vaccination is not up to date, it may be too late to fix the problem. The vaccine must be given at least 30 days prior to the dog’s arrival in the United States. Surprisingly, there is no U.S. federal requirement that cats be vaccinated for rabies although it is mandatory in certain states.

Microchipping is an excellent way to help identify pets that may get lost. All small animal vets should be able to provide this service. Still, the chip should be used in addition to a legible collar tag providing information, such as a cell phone number, that can be used to contact you while on the road.

Certain airlines require pets being transported on their planes be accompanied by a full health certificate provided by a vet. Contact your airline to check their policies. It is illegal to ship pets in cargo areas at inclement times of the year. Unless small enough to go onboard as hand-luggage, animals could be left on the tarmac for extended periods in freezing or sweltering weather.

Finally, on your return, be sure all dogs and cats get at least one final dose of heartworm prevention if indicated for the places you’ve been visiting. And, in the event a pet gets ill once back home, remind your veterinarian that you have been travelling so all those nasty exotic diseases I mentioned earlier can be added to the list of possible culprits.

The poodles and I happily wish you Bon Voyage from the comfort of our living room.

Although there are hundreds of sites offering information about travelling with pets, here are a few links to get you started:

Air travel with pets (this site also contains useful links to accommodations and services)
Travel training
Read this if your dog has a short nose
Getting a dog into the U.S.
Getting a cat into the U.S.


Dr. Fiona Gilchrist
Hillcrest Animal Hospital
February 2012