Traveling with Pets

By Mary Oquendo

Trade show season is opening soon! Just thinking about it puts a smile on my face. I adore going to trade shows: the people, the vendors, the classes, and the driving. Yes, the driving. I love to drive and think it’s a treat to travel two days to the Atlanta Pet Fair. In fact, I have been known to break out in song.

Spirit, my Husky, comes with me. He does not share my appreciation of Willie Nelson. Traveling with pets can be stressful, even more so if you do not plan properly. Before I pack for myself, I load the car for Spirit with the following:

His regular pet food – Stress and change in diet can cause gastric upset. “Road food” tends to be fatty and nutritionally incomplete. As he is fed raw, I bring a cooler and paper plates. In addition, I request a refrigerator in my hotel room.

Electrolyte-enhanced bottled water and water bowl – Stress can cause dehydration. Replenishing electrolytes can reduce or prevent the effects of dehydration. Brand names include Smart Water™ and unflavored Pedialyte™.

Identification — I check his collar tags to make sure that my cell number is readable. Many times, lettering on older tags fades. I update my microchip company with current information including an up-to-date photograph.

I place an updated laminated photo of myself with Spirit in my pet first aid kit. This photo will serve as instant identification in the event we are separated and another finds Spirit. Additionally, I can use this photo to make copies for a lost dog poster.

First aid kit – I check the contents for expiration dates and restock as necessary.

Copy of health certificate and dog license – You are required to have them if you cross state lines. An animal control officer may request to see them.

If Spirit had a chronic medical condition, I would have copies of his medical records along with extra medications. If I were to lose Spirit’s medications, a veterinarian unfamiliar with him would NOT be able to prescribe any medication without an examination and blood work first. That is federal law.  If the veterinarian had copies of the records, he could then legally prescribe without examination.

Installed veterinarian locator app on my smart phone – This app can tell me where the closest veterinarian is to my current location as well as their phone number and directions to the hospital.

Unwashed pillow, bedding, or toys – These are comfort items and have the smell of home on them.

Soft-sided crate – It is lightweight and folds down. If you have an escape artist, this will not work. 

Poop bags and flashlight – I clean up after Spirit. I do not want to be responsible for spreading disease. I use the flashlight when walking at night. We can be seen, and I can see what needs to be picked up.

Cooling mats – Spirit’s body temperature will rise if he is stressed. I keep one in his travel crate.

Once I am ready to leave, Spirit is placed in his restraint system. If I am involved in an accident, I do not want Spirit to become a projectile. He may cause harm or death to either of us. Spirit never sits in the front seat, as airbags deploy at over 200 mph. That is enough force to push a small dog into the body cavity of the lap they are sitting on. If Emergency Medical Services have been called to the scene, I do not want them to make a decision about Spirit because they cannot reach me. Spirit may try to “protect” me. EMS personnel are equipped to put down a dog on the scene if necessary.

Spirit’s head is always in the vehicle. We have all seen what a kicked up object does to the windshield. Imagine what that same object could do to the soft corneal tissue of his eyes.

I stop frequently at rest stops. We both need to stretch our legs. Rest stops, as well as hotel parking lots, are located alongside busy roads. I use a gentle leader harness for Spirit. I want to make sure I have complete control over him before allowing him outside of the vehicle. I never leave Spirit unattended in the car. Even in mild weather, the interior temperature can climb quickly. I travel with a human buddy as well. We take turns to using the facilities at the rest stops.

At the hotel, I clean up after Spirit in both the room and on the grounds. When I am not in the hotel room, Spirit is secured in a crate. I do not want Spirit to accidently escape from the hotel room if hotel personnel need access.

Because I take the time to prepare beforehand, I am better equipped to handle any situation while traveling. Both Spirit and I are relaxed and can enjoy the trade show. Who knows, maybe one day Spirit will start singing “Can’t wait to get on the road again” alongside me.

This article is dedicated to Ricky, my Golden Retriever. Ricky was my travel buddy for many years. This will be the first year without him. He is sorely missed.

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