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On the go with Fido or Fluffy: Kansas State University veterinarian has tips for traveling with pets

Tuesday, June 21, 2015 


MANHATTAN -- Taking your pet along on your upcoming vacation? A Kansas State University veterinarian says there are many factors to consider when planning your trip. 

"You need to make sure that the trip is suitable for your pet," said Susan Nelson, clinical associate professor in clinical sciences at the university's Veterinary Health Center. "Obviously, they can't tell you in so many words, but if they are a nervous wreck traveling in vehicles or suffer from motion sickness, it may not be a good idea to take them with you. If you have no option but to take them, you can talk to your veterinarian about medications to help ease the anxiety or nausea."

Nelson recommends having all pets restrained in some way when traveling with them in a vehicle. Cats and small dogs tend to travel best in secured crates, while specialized harnesses for larger dogs help keep them strapped in the vehicle. Letting pets run loose in vehicles can be extremely dangerous because the animal can get between the driver's feet and the pedals.

Since heat stress and heat exhaustion are a common concern during the summer, Nelson said it's crucial to not leave pets in the car.

"Other considerations when traveling by car include stopping every two to three hours so your dog can relieve itself and have some exercise," Nelson said. "It's best to leave cats in their crates, unless they are leash-trained. If your cat's carrier is too small for a litter box, you can bring one along and let the cat use use it inside the car during extended trips. Be sure to line crates with plenty of absorbent material, such as newspaper, in case of accidents — and pack some cleaning supplies just in case."

It's also a good idea to bring along a supply of tap water that your pet is used to drinking. This can help minimize gastrointestinal distress that can be caused by consuming water the pets are not used to drinking. The same goes for food and treats.

If your travel plans involve crossing state lines with your pet, health certificates are required by each state as well as other possible health requirements. These certificates can only be issued by a veterinarian. You can check your state of destination's requirements online at the USDA-APHIS Traveling With Your Pet website. If traveling by car, the certificates are valid for 30 days. If traveling by plane, most airlines require health certificates within 10 days of traveling.

Along with health certificates, some airlines require acclimation statements from the animal's veterinarian that state the animal is accustomed to the temperature. However, keep in mind that pets aren't allowed to fly when temperatures exceed 85 degrees.

 "If it is hotter than 85 degrees, no pets are allowed to fly, so you should schedule your flights for early in the morning or during evening hours because of the heat restrictions," Nelson said.

 Nelson advises not giving any type of sedation to a pet that will be traveling by plane as sedatives can affect a pet's balance and limit its ability to regulate its body temperature, which can be crucial if the pet will be in the plane's cargo hold. However, if excessive noise or motion sickness is an issue, Nelson said pet owners should speak to their veterinarians about possible options to make the flight more comfortable for their pets.

 "My best advice is to get on the airline's website a few weeks prior to travel and find out everything they require as far as crate specifics and other flight regulations," Nelson said. "Also, be aware that there are certain breeds many airlines prohibit from traveling on their planes, regardless of the time of year."

 No matter what form of travel you may be taking this summer, Nelson reminds pet owners to have some form of identification for their pet. Ideally, a pet will have tags and a microchip, and any crates or carriers also should be labeled. Consider carrying a picture of your pet in case it should get lost and you need proof of ownership.

 If you will be boarding your pet instead of taking it along, Nelson suggests checking with the boarding facility first about any requirements. One of the most common requirements is for the animal's vaccinations to be up to date before it will be admitted to the facility.

 "Core vaccines — the distemper combinations for cats and dogs and rabies — are almost exclusively required," Nelson said. "Most also require kennel cough vaccines for dogs, and some require the canine influenza vaccine. Some facilities may have additional requirements for cats. Be proactive and call ahead to ensure your veterinarian has time to get your pet vaccinated so they will be adequately protected before they arrive at the kennel."

 Don't forget to ask about drop-off and pickup times, as well as any additional amenities the facility may offer, such as individual or group playtime and grooming, Nelson said.

 Not sure if your pet is up for staying at a boarding facility? Then consider leaving your pet at home and having a neighbor, relative or family friend provide care. Pet sitters also can be hired in some areas. Nelson cautions, though, to always have plans in place in case of a pet emergency.

 For more information, contact the Kansas State University Veterinary Health Center at 785-532-5690.


photo credit: Pet Dog via photopin (license)


Susan Nelson



Written by

Kelly Hannigan

At a glance

Keep in mind your pet's safety and comfort if they will be traveling with you this summer, according to a Kansas State University veterinarian.

Notable quote

"Be proactive and call ahead. Make sure your veterinarian has time to get you in and get those vaccines to your pet."

-Susan Nelson, clinical associate professor in clinical sciences at the Kansas State University Veterinary Health Center