Preparing Your Pet for a Road Trip

Don't Forget the Doggles if Your Dog Likes to Stick His Head Out the Window During Car Rides! (Danijel Juricev Photo)

With more and more hotels becoming pet-friendly, an increasing number of pet owners are deciding to take their cat, dog, ferret or other pet along for the ride on that road trip or vacation.

It takes lots of preparations in order for a vacation to be fun and stress-free for both pets and owners. There’s several things that pet owners will need to do in order to get their animals ready to travel.

Consider these hints for pet owners who are planning to travel with their animals in the car.

Get the Pet Accustomed to His Temporary Living Quarters

The first step involves getting the dog, cat or other pet feeling comfortable in his crate or cage. Many pet owners fail to properly introduce their animal to the crate or cage in advance, and this only adds unnecessary stress to the equation when traveling with animals.
Introduce the pet to the crate or carrier several weeks before the planned vacation or trip. The carrier or crate should be left open in an area that the pet frequents, with a comfortable bed placed inside.

The trick is to get your pet to want to go inside the crate voluntarily; this can be done by hiding treats and toys inside, which helps your animal form a positive association with the crate. When a pet finds a treat or other goodies inside the cage, he realizes “Hey, good things happen when I’m in here.” I’ve also found that feeding the animal inside the cage or carrier with the door open is helpful, as it provides another positive association with the cage or carrier. This is the first step to getting the pet comfortable with being inside a crate or carrier.

Take Practice Car Rides to Prepare the Pet for the Road Trip

For dogs who are not used to riding in the car, and for cats and other pets, it’s important to take some short car rides. The first step is to get the animal comfortable with being inside the vehicle. Remember, most cats and some dogs only ride in the car when it’s time for a visit to the veterinarian, which is a frightening and stressful experience. So the key is to break that association and to get the pet to view the car as non-threatening.

For cats and dogs, it’s easiest to sit inside the car with the engine running, but keep the car in park the entire time. Owners should focus on calming the pet, and encouraging him to explore his surroundings. Offering treats helps form a positive association and once the animal’s fears are quelled a bit, try playing with the pet while sitting inside the vehicle. This will help the pet to associate the car with good things.

Once the pet is comfortable in the parked car, the next step involves adding movement to the equation. Do this by sitting in the parked car for a little while, and then after ten minutes, take a short ride around the block. Then return the car to park and sit with the pet until he or she calms and returns to the pre-ride mindset.

Over time, you’ll want to extend the length of the rides. And during the rides, you’ll want to bring a friend to sit with the dog or cat. When first introducing a pet to the car, it’s best to do this without a carrier or cage, particularly if the pet is not completely comfortable with the cage yet. Only once the pet is comfortable with car rides and the cage should the two be combined.

Get Vaccination Records and a Health Certificate

When traveling with a pet, it’s important to bring along vaccination records and a health certificate, which must be issued by a veterinarian within a few days of travel. A vaccination records and a health certificate, which certifies that the animal is free of any contagious diseases, are sometimes required by hotels and at border crossings.

Make Up a New Pet Tag With Your Temporary Location and Cell Phone Number

When traveling, it’s vital that your dog or cat has a temporary pet tag in addition to his or her normal tag. The tag should say that the pet is vacationing and it should mention the name of the hotel or address. It’s also important to include your cell phone number in the event that your pet is lost during the trip. Multiple tags may be required if you’re planning on a couple of stops during your road trip.

Bring Along Cleaning Supplies

Accidents happen and your pet may have an accident in the car or in the hotel room. So be sure to bring along some cleaning supplies for your dog, his crate and his surroundings.
Nature’s Miracle is a must to help clean up any urine or vomit stains. You’ll also need to bring along some paper towels, a scrub brush, unscented baby wipes and a few extra towels that can be used to line the bottom of a crate or cage in the event of an accident.

It’s also a good idea to bring along a few extra large zip-lock bags or drawstring kitchen bags in case of an accident involving the bed inside the pet’s cage or crate. This will contain any odors until you can launder the soiled bedding.

Don’t Forget to Bring Along Other Pet Items!

Pet owners should also remember to bring along other pet supplies, including a cage-mounted water bottle, food and water bowls, toys, leashes and collars, dog clothes and dog boots if you’re traveling in cold weather, pet medications, pet food, pet treats and bottled water. If the trip will involve a boat trip on the water, it’s important to bring along pet life preservers. A dog who will be swimming in salt water will need pet shampoo to remove the salt from his skin and fur (to avoid dryness and itching. In addition, many dogs and cats require daily grooming and brushing, so it’s important to bring along vital grooming tools like a pet brush, ear cleaner and ear cleaning supplies.

Bottled water is especially important because some dogs are especially sensitive to new tap water, and this could lead to a pet who is refusing to drink water. So get your dog or cat accustomed to bottled water a week or two in advance of the trip and bring along bottled water for him or her.

Pet owners should also bring along a first aid kit for their pets when traveling on the road and read How to Handle Pet Emergencies for more tips on how to help a sick or injured dog at home or on the road!

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Mia Carter is a professional journalist and animal lover. Her furry family members include 6 dogs and 12 cats. She is also a feral cat colony caretaker. Carter specializes in pet training and special needs pet care. All of her animals have special needs such as paralysis, blindness, deafness and FIV, just to name a few. She also serves as a pet foster parent and she actively rehabilitates and rescues local strays and feral kittens.

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