Tips For Traveling With Pets Or Leaving Them Behind

Author: Dr. Jason Nicholas

Published: September 2, 2016

Updated: July 8, 2021

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dog being pulled behind a bicycle in a cart

It's safe to say, many of you might be packing up and heading out of town for some much-needed R&R or holiday fun.

So we wanted to provide you with a few pet travel tips and considerations, regardless of whether your cats and dogs will be joining you for your trip or staying behind.

If you're taking your pets on the journey:

  • Travel Restraint: It’s not just people that need to “buckle up,” our cats and dogs need to be safely restrained for travel, too. And it’s not just for their safety, but yours too! Check out our article on pet travel restraint for more info and to see how easy it can be.

Dog panting in car because of anxiety

  • Travel Anxiety: Not every pet likes to go for a drive, right? If your cat or dog isn’t a calm and cool traveler, be sure to read this article on ways to reduce pet travel anxiety.

  • Hot Cars: Depending on how far you’ll be driving this weekend, you may want to or need to make some stops. When traveling with your pets, keep in mind that the interior temperature of a car can rise 20°F in just 10 minutes — and that’s even with the windows cracked! Read about precautions to take and tips to avoid heatstroke in cats and dogs.

  • Up-to-date ID: Pet identification is important throughout the year, but perhaps even more so when you’re taking your pets on vacation with you. After all, they’ll be in a new environment. Check out this article on the importance of pet identification, it’s written by our friends at PetHub (makers of super cool QR Code Pet ID tags!). Here's a step-by-step guide to make sure your microchip contact information is up-to-date.
    tips for pet travel
  • Parasite and Wildlife Safety: From fleas and ticks to rattlesnakes, cougars, and coyotes, and even mosquitoes and heartworm disease — there’s plenty of things to keep in mind when traveling to new areas and parts of the country with your pets. Be sure to look into what’s common where you’re traveling and chat with your vet to make sure your pets are protected. Here’s our article on what you need to know about fleas and one on heartworm disease (spread by mosquitoes). And there are times you will come across wildlife, while you are in the wild. Check out our great article on how to train your dog to stay away from snakes without using aversives.

chihuahua being carried in a backpack

  • Bug Repellents: And if heartworm disease wasn't enough to think about when trying to protect your pets from bugs, (mosquitoes), the type of bug repellent is important, too. DEET is especially dangerous for pets.

  • Sunscreen: If you're going to spend a lot of time outdoors in the sun and your pet is going to be joining you, consider packing some sunscreen for your furry friend. But human sunscreen has its dangers, so read this short article on what ingredients to avoid (some baby formulas are good) and there's even an FDA-approved sunscreen for dogs.Rat with a long tail

  • Rental Safety: Whether it’s an Airbnb, VRBO, friend’s or family member’s place, or a hotel or motel you’ll be staying at you’ll want to be sure to take precautions. Ask if there are any rat and mouse poisons being used or other pet hazards out. It’s not uncommon for there to be, and finding out the “hard way” will definitely ruin your vacation. There are other rental and hotel/motel hazards to be mindful of as well, like fleas, plants, and other toxicities in the rooms and on the property.

  • Problem Preparedness: As with everything, problems can arise and accidents can happen. It’s important to take a couple of simple steps to be prepared, just in case. Make sure to bring along a pet first aid kit (see our list of what to include) and also know in advance where the Animal ERs are where you’re traveling to.

For pets that are staying behind while you travel:

cat sitting on couch

  • Importance of Observation: For cats and dogs left behind, ideally they have a live-in pet sitter or they're staying in a boarding facility. You really don’t want to leave them without observation, even just for a weekend, and this applies to cats too! A LOT can — and does — go wrong in the space of a day or two. One of the biggest things is with cats and their ability to urinate — unfortunately, MANY cats develop a urinary obstruction while their owners are away, and it happens FAST and it can be deadly!

  • Leave plenty of food and meds: In the hecticness of getting all of your stuff (and the kid’s stuff) ready for the trip, take a quick moment to make sure you’ve got plenty of your pet’s regular food and any medications they need to leave behind for the pet sitter or boarding facility. It’s best to upset their routine — and medication schedule — as little as possible.

  • Treatment Authorization: Regardless of who you’re leaving your pets with, it’s always a good idea to leave a Treatment Authorization Form. This way, should it be needed, your pets can start to get the care they need even when you can’t be reached.

Download Our Treatment  Authorization Form

We hope these reminders and tips help you and your pets have a wonderful (and safe) vacation. Enjoy!

About the author

Profile picture for Dr. Jason Nicholas

Dr. Jason Nicholas

Dr. Nicholas graduated with honors from The Royal Veterinary College in London, England and completed his Internship at the Animal Medical Center in New York City. He currently lives in the Pacific Northwest.

Dr. Nicholas spent many years as an emergency and general practice veterinarian obsessed with keeping pets safe and healthy. He is the author of Preventive Vet’s 101 Essential Tips book series.

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