Its that time of year again, time to start planning summer vacations, and how to integrate your pets into those plans.
Some pets, mainly dogs, enjoy traveling with their families, and are quite at home in the car, or in a kennel at the hotel while the family is pursuing activities where a pet might not be appropriate or even allowed. Traveling with pets is one of the big reasons to embark on kennel training early on, to give you the freedom when needed. I’m not suggesting leaving the dog in its kennel 24 hours a day, but for a reasonable time, they are just fine.
In the car, make sure the animal is protected, in case of emergency or accident. A seat belt harness can offer some freedom to move around, but keep the pet from becoming a projectile in an accident and injuring itself or others. Alternately, a kennel properly secured to the seat or in the back of a station wagon or SUV can offer them protection. Make sure whichever route you choose, the animal is not exposed to excessive heat/light, and never, ever, ever leave them in a vehicle unattended. A few minutes unattended in the sun can stress or kill a pet.
For those that suffer from anxiety or motion sickness, there are many options to accommodate them on your trip. From something as simple as Gravol (ask your vet for dosage information), herbal remedies, pheremone treatments or even special clothing/devices, you can usually find a remedy that works.
Anxiety in some pets has been addressed though special shirts which are similar to treatments used for autism. These shirts have an elastic component that allows you to place a constriction on the main part of their body to simulate contact, like wearing a “hug” all of the time. This does not solve the issue in every dog, but some find it very effective.
A new treatment for anxiety was recently introduced by a company that manufactures the shirts. This “cap” is a hood that fits over the dogs head, leaving nose and mouth open to breathe, pant and drink. The area over the dogs eyes is a mesh that limits their vision, darkening the environment, reducing visual stimulus. Many dogs find this relaxing, after they get used to wearing the device, it can be very effective.
Before embarking on a long journey, try a short one and see how everyone fares. This can save a lot of grief, nothing worse than a carsick dog halfway through a week long trip.
If you can’t find a way to make traveling with your pet work, there are many options for them while you are away. House sitters (friends, relatives, professional) can stay in your house, tending to your pets, or you may have a friend or relative that can take your pet into their home.
Alternately, there are many options in boarding. Smaller dogs and cat can sometimes bunk at your vet, or at a professional boarding kennel. Its always good to visit the facility first, so that you can be apprised of how the animal will be cared for, and address any special needs, as well as arriving at a fee, so that there are no surprises when you return. Many offer different levels of enrichment, and some have the ability to handle special requirements, such as diet or allergies. The last thing your vacation needs is you showing up to drop off your pet and finding out that they are not equipped to handle your pet’s particular needs.
A little planning goes a long way to a happy vacation. Have fun!