The weather is getting hotter and hotter by the day, folks. Summer is the time for barbeques, beach days and for some of us lucky ones, a vacation trip. What about Fido or Fluffy though? Do you have plans for your pets while you travel? Of course, we would love to see them at our lovely boarding facility where they will be kept safe and happy while you enjoy your vacation. Our friendly animal care staff will see to your little buddy’s every desire during his or her stay and can even notify a compassionate veterinarian if a medical need arises. That way you can enjoy yourself with the peace of mind that your companion is safe and sound at Ocean County Veterinary Hospital.
That being said, some owners are able to take their pets when traveling. If your buddy is a good copilot, a vacation can be a great bonding experience. Just like everything in life though, there are measures that should be taken to make the adventure as safe as possible.
Anything can happen on a trip. Your dog could decide that he really needs to explore something really curious at a rest stop, your cat may find a way to break out of her carrier at just the wrong moment in a parking lot, or a loud trucker’s horn can scare your ferret out of your daughter’s hands during a picnic lunch. These are just a few examples of how your pet can be lost far away from home. Like it or not accidents happen, and the easiest way to ruin a vacation is to lose your pet in a strange place. New sounds, smells, people, and events can all cause even the most stalwart companion to act uncharacteristically. As good custodians of their welfare, we need to protect them from themselves as much as anything else.
Pets should be properly restrained during car travel in an approved carrier or seatbelt. It is a state law in New Jersey that all pets must be properly secured during travel, not just for their safety but for yours as well. So be sure when you buckle up that they do too. In addition, be sure that your pets have at least two forms of identification. No, good readers, I am not joking and I do not expect that you will be taking them to any adult drinking establishments. However, if they get lost you will be happy your pet has a microchip and identification tag so that he or she will not need to make an Incredible Journey to get back to you. Having your pet micro chipped by one of our doctors is the easy, affordable and permanent way to identify it as belonging to you. It is also a good idea to have a few pictures, possibly on your smart phone, of your buddy with you just in case. You will be glad you have all of these tools if your pet gets lost or just to brag about how awesome your little one is to others.
Before you hit the open road or airways please make sure that your pet is up to date on all vaccinations, you have proper travel documentation and that you have copies of all of his or her medical records. No one expects a midnight visit to the emergency room on vacation, but if it should be necessary, the vet will have a lot easier time if they have your records handy. In addition, some states or countries require health certificates and proof of vaccinations for travel.
International and flight travel require very specific documentation with stringent requirements and time frames. Some airlines require health certificates to be issued within a week of the trip and have specific vaccine requirements. International travel is even more stringent and the approval process can sometimes take up to six months depending on which country you wish to travel too. All in all it can be a lot to remember, but is very important to assure that your vacation goes smoothly. You do not want to be shocked and disappointed when your pet is denied access to your flight. Luckily, we are here to help and assist you in navigating travel regulations. Please do not hesitate to contact our office if you need records, a health certificate, or must booster any vaccines before traveling. As with everything, you do not want to wait until the last minute. Plan ahead to assure that you have everything you need to legally and safely travel with your little one.
I always recommend bringing your own supply of food for your pet. This is important for two reasons: 1) it gives them a source of comfort and a feeling of home and 2) they are less likely to get an upset stomach if you cannot find their regular food and need to switch brands. Don’t forget any medications that he or she is regularly taking, including heartworm and flea/tick preventatives! A familiar toy or treats are also recommended. My dogs used to love to travel within their beds. They curled up and were happy as could be during even the most epic drives. However, if your little one is nervous or nauseous, we can help with that. While we do not routinely prescribe sedatives for travel, in certain cases they are indicated. If you think your little one will need one, please call well in advance of your trip, so that an appropriate medication plan can be discussed with your doctor. We also have a safe and effective once a day car sickness medication called Cerenia, which can be very helpful if your buddy is queasy during long or short car rides.
Lastly friends, be sure that you are mindful of your furry friend’s needs during your adventure. Especially with good travel companions, it can be easy to forget that they need time to stretch their legs, go to the bathroom, and get some food and drink in the middle of long car trips just like the rest of us. Many travel stops have designated pet walking areas to safely do this. Even if they do not, I have found as long as you clean up after your little one there is most always a small patch of green for a little break at most rest stops. Never leave your little one in a hot car while you stop to eat lunch. Studies show that cracking the windows is useless on hot or sunny days and opening the windows too far is asking for trouble as we previously discussed. Even a few minutes can be gravely dangerous, especially during these hot summer months. It’s best to skip the long lunch or shopping detour until your pet is safely set up at your destination.
Alright, that’s it for now folks. Have safe and fun travels this summer!
Zachary Weiner DVM