Tips for Traveling with a Pet

Traveling By Car

  • If possible, start the animal on short drives around home before vacation time. This will gradually get it used to the motion of the car.
  • Before starting a long trip, have your pet examined by a veterinarian. Be sure you have health and rabies vaccination certificates available, especially if you plan to cross state or international borders.
  • Ask your veterinarian to prescribe a motion-sickness pill or sedative if your animal suffers from severe motion sickness. NEVER give an animal tranquilizers without your veterinarian's approval.
  • Bring a pet carrier if you are traveling with a cat or other small animal. Let the animal become accustomed to the carrier before you leave.
  • Take along the pet's food and water bowls, blanket and bedding, and some familiar toys. They'll give the pet a touch of home.
  • Don't let your pet jump around the car or hang its head out of the window. It should sit or lie quietly and not annoy the driver.
  • Don't feed an animal for several hours before any trip. Bring along a canteen of fresh, cool water and stop frequently to let it drink.
  • NEVER leave your pet alone in a parked car. The heat in a closed auto can easily reach more than 120 degrees in a matter of minutes. In cold weather, cars can become as cold as refrigerators. When traveling, keep the windows rolled down several inches or use the air conditioning to cool off the car.
  • Allow your pet to cater to its needs when you cater to yours. Dogs, in particular, need regular exercise.
  • Bring a full litter pan if you're traveling with a cat. Carry the pan and litter inside a plastic garbage bag.
  • Keep the pet in your car with you, not alone inside a camper or trailer or in the back of a pick-up truck. This way you can easily tell when it's hungry, thirsty, hot or tired.
  • Make sure that your pet wears a comfortable collar with complete identification (pet's name and your name, address, and phone number) and a license tag.

For information on hotels and motels around the United States that allow pets and the services they provide, write to Gaines TWT, PO Box 1007, Kankakee, IL 60901, for the booklet, Touring with Towser.

Shipping By Air

  • We strongly recommend health and rabies inoculation certificates for your pet's sake, and because many countries and states require them. In some cases, inoculations for distemper, hepatitis and leptospirosis are also required.
  • Contact the airline well in advance to check regulations and services, and to make reservations.
  • Tranquilize a pet only with your veterinarian's sanction. Never give an animal tranquilizers without a prescription from your veterinarian.
  • Feed your pet a light meal at least six hours before departure. Do not give an animal water within two hours of the flight except in extremely hot weather.
  • Exercise your pet before placing it in the shipping container.
  • Whenever possible, plan your trip so that your pet does not arrive on a weekend, a holiday, or during off hours. Try to schedule the flight so that there are a minimum of stops and transfers. Arrange evening flights during the hot summer months.
  • Ask in advance about other cargo on your flight. (Fumes from dry ice, for instance, can be lethal.)
  • If the flight is a long one, place a supply of dry food in a cloth bag and attach it to the outside of the crate. Include a water dish so that the airline attendants can feed and water the animal without harm. Do not put water in the dish prior to departure because it may spill and dampen the whole crate.
  • Make sure that the shipping container is well constructed of reinforced, unpainted wood; wood and metal; or reinforced plastic. It should be equipped with a leak-proof bottom. The door should have a positive lock, such as a hasp with a harness snap. The crate should be large enough so that the animal can stand, turn around easily and lie down. There should also be good cross-ventilation. Consult the transporting airline.
  • Allow your pet to get accustomed to the shipping container a few days before departure so that he will be comfortable in his temporary home during the flight. Use the crate as a bed or feed the animal in the crate for several days before leaving.
  • A bedding of shredded paper, a favorite toy, and a small article of clothing with your scent will make the trip more pleasant for your pet.
  • Shipping containers should be marked LIVE ANIMAL. Attach labels with staples or strong glue, clearly indicating your name, address, destination, the animal's name and destination, and the name and address of the person to whom the animal is being sent. Indicate the correct position of the shipping container by using an arrow to show the upright position. Note whether your pet is friendly with strangers.
  • Pick up the animal promptly upon arrival. Don't take leashed animals on escalators.

According to the 1976 Animal Welfare Act, pets must be at least eight weeks old to be shipped, food must be provided, and animals must be weaned for at least five days. Make special arrangements so that the animal does not arrive at the airport more than four hours before his departure. Animals cannot be brought to the airport more than six hours before departure.

Obtaining the Right Shipping Container for Your Pet

Flight kennels for dogs and cats come in custom sizes to provide your pet with the room, ventilation and comfort that he needs. Consult your airline on the best type of kennel; it should be one approved by both the United States Department of Agriculture and the Civil Aeronautics Board. Do not make your own!

Check the kennel to make sure it allows your pet room to stand, turn around and lie down. Here are four of the most popular sizes:

  • 22" long x 12" wide x 15" high - Good for small cats and toy breeds of dogs. Weight: 12 lbs.
  • 26" long x 18" wide x 19" high - Ideal for medium-small dogs such as beagles, cockers, fox terriers, and miniature poodles, cats; and other small pets with shoulder heights up to 15 inches. Weight: 20 lbs.
  • 36" long x 22" wide x 26" high - Perfect for medium-large dogs such as Dalmatians, standard poodles, springer spaniels, and other breeds with shoulder heights up to 22 inches. Weight: 35 lbs.
  • 43" long x 25" wide x 30" high - Provides plenty of room for large dogs such as collies, Dobermans, retrievers, and other pets with a maximum shoulder height of 25 inches. Weight: 45 lbs.

Traveling By Train

Each railroad line has its own policy regarding transportation of pets. Amtrak, for instance, presently adheres to a strict "no pet" policy. Check in advance with your rail line before making any plans.

Traveling By Ship

Each ship line has its own policy regarding transportation of pets. Check in advance with your ferry or cruise line before making any plans.

On Vacationing With Your Pet

  • Prior to departing, have your pet checked by a licensed veterinarian.
  • Obtain a health certificate from your veterinarian if crossing state lines or going into another country. Be sure a valid rabies certificate -- indicating that the shot was administered within the past year -- is attached.
  • Make certain that your pet's vaccinations are up-to-date.
  • Have a good collar on your pet with vaccination tags and identification securely attached.
  • Plan your trip by inquiring which motels, airlines and railroads allow pets, and courteously comply with their regulations so that pets will continue to be welcome.
  • Do not transport your pet in the back of an open pickup truck, and never tie your pet in the back of an open pickup truck.
  • When traveling by car, make certain there is plenty of air circulating and never leave your pet in a closed or hot car since it can die from suffocation or heat prostration much more easily than humans.
  • Stop to allow your pet to exercise and relieve itself every two hours.
  • Try to keep your pet from looking continuously at scenery or lights as it passes the car's side windows to prevent motion sickness.
  • Do not allow your pet to ride with its head out of the car window.

For More Information

For information covering up-to-date regulations on shipping your pets or for information regarding camping with your pet or moving with your pet, contact the Prince William County Animal Shelter, 14807 Bristow Road, Manassas, VA 20112 or call 703-792-6465.