Taking your pet along when you travel is only fun if you’re well prepared. Poor planning can turn a fun family vacation into a nightmarish trip for both humans and pets. Before you set off on your next outing, get your four-legged companion ready by packing some essentials.
5 Must-Have Items
1. Enough food for the trip. If you’re moving, bring enough food to last you for at least a few days after arriving at your destination. Changing food brands can cause stomach distress or diarrhea. If your pet is already stressed, he might simply refuse to eat if you offer something different. Bring food inside Ziploc bags so it stays dry and doesn’t spill.
2. Bottled water. A change in water is even worse than a change in food when it comes to causing intestinal distress. According to expert dog trainer and behaviorist Jonathan Klein, some pets, just like people, have a hard time readjusting to different types of water. “I suggest bringing some bottled water along which will help introduce the animal to the new water source,” says Klein.
3. A collar (make sure it fits well and is not too loose) with an ID tag that lists a reachable number like a cell phone. Also, bring a second leash so you have a spare in case the first one breaks or gets lost.
4. Any prescriptions your pet is taking. Take more than you need in case you’re delayed somewhere.
5. A proper carrier. Carriers must be big enough so pets can stand up, turn around and lie down comfortably. This is required by the airline if you’re flying, but it’s a good idea to meet those same requirements if you’re traveling by car with a cat. Since you won’t be walking your cat during the trip, the next best thing is to provide a carrier big enough for him to move around.
5 Extra Things to Complement the Basics
1. Cleaning supplies. Bring a couple of packs of wet towelettes, a few rolls of paper towels, plastic garbage bags, and a couple of old sheets or large towels. Multimedia pet lifestyle expert and author Sandy Robins recommends puppy pee pads for both cats and dogs. “Use them to liner your travel carrier in case of an accident, and of course they work at your destination too,” says Robins.
2. Blanket. A blanket can be used to cover a cage (the darkness might help soothe your pet) or to provide warmth inside the carrier or car. If your dog usually sleeps on that blanket, it will also provide comfort, as it will carry “the smell of home.” You can also give your pet one of your blankets, which has your smell.
3. A couple of toys. Having something that’s familiar to them will provide comfort and make them feel less stressed by all the changes.
4. Weather specific items. Caitlin Moore from PetRelocation.com says your pet may benefit from foot protection (socks, ointment) from ice and snow in winter, or, extra water for warm weather. “Try freezing bowls and bottles of water ahead of time so that your pet will have fluids for hours to come,” says Moore.
5. Disposable litter trays and litter. If you’re going for a long trip, you don’t want to be carrying a litter box around. But you can get a big bag of litter and a few aluminum trays (the ones used for baking). When you make a stop at a hotel, you can add a bit of litter to a tray. In the morning, before you set off, simply throw the whole thing away.
5 Must-Have Items For Your Pet’s First Aid Kit
1. Anti-stress medication. Don’t give your pet sedatives or tranquilizers, especially if you’re flying. Not all animals react well to them at high altitudes and you can end up with an animal getting sick (or worse) because he has a bad reaction to the medication. Instead, Janice Costa, who owns Canine Camp Getaway in upstate New York, recommends carrying some Rescue Remedy. “A few drops in the water bowl can help calm anxiety and minimize stress, without resorting to drugs that tranquilize your pet,” says Costa.
2. Anti-diarrhea medication. All that moving around can affect even the strongest animal.
3. Antiseptic cream/cleaner. This is especially important for dogs, that will have to be taken for regular walks during a long trip and are more at risk of stepping on something or getting injured. Veterinarian Dr. Cathy Alinovi also recommends a topical antibiotic ointment, hydrogen peroxide to clean a wound, gauze bandage material and a pet wrap in case of any cuts or scratches and towels or dry wash cloths to clean any accidents or messes.
4. Motion sickness medication. Dr. Alinovi recommends a new medication called Cerenia. “Most over-the-counter medications are sedatives, therefore, I don’t recommend them,” says Alinovi. “Cerenia can be quite effective, but only use it if you know your pet has a problem with motion sickness. Mild motion sickness like a little drooling is not worth medicating.”
5. Soothing aids. Robins swears by a product called Comfort Zone® wipes or spray by CLS, which contain animal pheromones. The pheromones have a soothing effect and are often used to stop destructive behavior. Spray or wipe the product on your pet’s blanket, carrier or collar to help the animal calm down.
5 Must-Have Documents and Papers
1. Medical and vaccination records and any documentation you might need for the trip (such as health certificate). Stick everything inside a Ziploc bag so it stays together and protected from water. If you have to include information with your pet’s carrier because he’s traveling on his own, make photocopies of everything. If something gets lost, you can still access the information.
2. Photocopies and details of ID tags and licenses. “It’s easy to assume that your dog’s rabies tag constitutes proof of vaccination, but in some states, the tag alone is not considered adequate proof of up-to-date vaccination status,” according to Costa.
3. Recent photos of your pets. Hopefully nothing will happen, but if your pet ever gets lost, having a photo can make a world of difference –Not only can you show it around to help locate your pet, but you can also create LOST posters if needed.
4. Your pet’s microchip number or registration papers.
5. List of important phone numbers. You don’t want to wait until you have an emergency to start looking for vital information. You need phone numbers for at least two vets: your own back home and one at your destination. Write down phone and address for the closest 24-hour emergency veterinary hospital as well.