Millions of Americans partake in the annual ritual of summer vacation. In search of fun and sun, they flood destinations like Orlando, Honolulu, London and Rome. And in many cases, their canine companions accompany them.
Yet while you can pack your bags with relative ease, you wouldn’t dare toss Bailey or Buddy in your luggage and leave it at that. Traveling with your dog during the summer demands lots of care and consideration.
Here are eight tips for ensuring you and your dog enjoy a safe summertime journey.
1. Alleviate the anxiety.
To make your trip relaxing for you, your family and your dog, it’s vital to prevent tension, according to Dr. Hillary Cook, a veterinarian with NHV Natural Pet Products, a Canadian supplier of natural supplements for pets.
“The key to traveling with your pet this summer — whether driving or flying — is to minimize their anxiety and yours,” Cook says. “When most pets see their pet carriers, they think they’re going to the vet, not on a fun family vacation, so get them used to the carrier on a drive to a nonthreatening destination.”
In addition, you might look into herbal remedies for nervous pups. Pet supplements with ingredients like chamomile and lemon balm can naturally soothe them, Cook says.
Dr. Samantha Devine, a Virginia veterinarian who’s a lifestyle expert at personal finance website Money Done Right, recommends stress-relieving pheromone products for dogs. She also suggests checking with your veterinarian about prescribing antianxiety drugs, which are less worrisome than sedatives.
2. Choose the right carrier.
Dr. Sara Ochoa, a Texas veterinarian who’s a veterinary consultant for dog treats, gear and gadgets provider DogLab.com, suggests putting your dog in a soft-sided carrier rather than a hard-sided one if you’re flying on a plane. This will give him or her a bit more breathing room. However, a hard-sided carrier is better for car rides, she says, since you can stack lightweight items on top of a hard-sided carrier.
Place a T-shirt or blanket with your scent inside your dog’s carrier to help calm him or her, Devine says. You might want to stick your dog’s favorite toy in there, too.
3. Pack properly.
OK, so you know you need to cram your luggage full of shorts, T-shirts, bathing suits, sunscreen and other summertime essentials. But what about your dog?
Dr. Peter Lands, director of emergency medicine and critical care at Saint Francis Veterinary Center of South Jersey, says you should make sure to take your dog’s medical records and medications with you. Devine says those medical records should include a health certificate that shows your pooch was recently evaluated by a veterinarian; federal law requires this certificate if your dog is going to be aboard a plane.
4. Update your pet’s shots.
Before heading out on vacation, visit your veterinarian to see which vaccinations your dog needs before traveling, particularly if you’re taking off for another country, Lands says.
5. Check the ID.
Devine says your dog should be wearing identification tags in case he or she goes missing on vacation. Ideally, your dog should be microchipped, she says.“Especially in case of an accident, many dogs will run when scared. Make it easy for someone to return your dog if they get out,” says Kimberly DeCarrera, who runs the RV Tailgate Life travel and lifestyle blog.
6. Plan for potty breaks.
No matter whether you’re travelling by car or plane, prepare for doggie pit stops, Devine says.
“Check to see if the airport you’re flying out of has an area for dogs to eliminate,” she says, “or know ahead of time where rest stops are if you’re traveling by car.”
If you’re planning to fly, Ochoa suggests packing a pee pad in case your dog needs to relieve himself or herself in the bathroom.
7. Practice basic pet etiquette.
DeCarrera, the RV blogger, travels year-round in her motorhome with her 80-pound pooch. She says it’s critical to be a responsible pet parent when you’re traveling. This includes keeping your dog on a leash if required, picking up dog waste and curbing loud barking.
8. Keep cool.
Megan Marrs, founder of dog resource website K9 of Mine, reminds doggie parents to keep an eye on the thermometer, especially if they’re taking a road trip.
“While all dogs are in danger of overheating, hairy, thick-coated breeds are especially susceptible,” Marrs says. “What many owners don’t realize is that there are actually cooling dog vests that your pooch can wear to help lower their body temperature.”
Other cooldown tips include using heat-reflecting covers for car windows and parking in shaded spots. Along the way, make sure your dog drinks plenty of water.
Speaking of heat, Ochoa advises against checking your dog as cargo on a plane, as the cargo hold almost certainly will be hotter than the passenger cabin.
“The worst way to start a vacation is to get to my destination and find out that my dog died while under the plane due to heat stroke,” Ochoa says. “If I wanted to take my dog with me on vacation, I would just drive there.”