Almost a third of all Americans will travel more than 50 miles this holiday season. Many of those trips will include the family pet. Much like traveling with young children, traveling with your pet requires some extra planning and preparation to ensure a stress free travel experience.

Before You Go
Before your trip, it is important to select a quality travel carrier. You want to choose something that is well ventilated but is still sturdy enough to not slip around or fall apart during the travel. Make sure that the carrier is large enough for your pet to sit, stand and turn around in.

As with nearly all activities involving your pet, proper acclimation is key to ensuring a positive experience for them and for you. Get the carrier out days before you travel and let your pet explore and spend some time in it. Take short trips with your pet in the carrier and gradually increase the time spent on each trip. Trips to fun experiences like the dog park will create positive travel memories for the pet. Providing treats and rewards after each trip will further link the trips with happy memories.

Gather all of your relevant pet documents into one file that you can access during your trip. Make sure your pet has a tag with relevant vaccination info and well as your contact number in case you get separated. If you haven’t already, consider microchipping your pet. Furthermore, if you are traveling by airline, contact that airline specifically to ensure that you understand all of their specific rules and regulations for flying with your pet and that you have all of the documentation needed.

If your pet is prone to high levels of anxiety associated with travel, talk with your veterinarian about options to reduce that stress. There are products like wraps and “Thundershirts” that can help comfort your pet. Many pet owners have found success with synthetic pheromones like ADAPTIL and FELIWAY. Pet owners can also talk to their veterinarian about supplements and prescription medication that can help with travel related anxiety.

In The Car
Securing the pet for travel in a car is important for their safety and yours. We all love pulling up to a stoplight next to a car with a dog hanging its head out the window. However, an unsecured pet is at risk from injury from an auto accident and can be a distraction to the driver. Furthermore, imagine the risk of a pet jumping into the floorboard under the driver’s feet by the brake and gas pedals, especially if the car is in motion.

Place the carrier in the back seat and secure it using a seatbelt or tethering device. Avoid placing the carrier in the front seat where an airbag deployment could cause serious injury.

While keeping a stash of car snacks is a part of any good road trip, be mindful that pets can suffer motion sickness just like humans. Try not to overfeed in the car unless you are prepared to spend some time cleaning up the potential mess. Ensuring a steady flow of fresh air to your pet, especially if they are in the backseat or trunk area of an SUV, will help create a comfortable travel environment.

Those who have traveled with young children know all about the need for frequent potty breaks. The same principles apply to our pets. You should plan for bathroom breaks every 2-3 hours, even for those pets who go longer between breaks at home. Regular bathroom and exercise breaks along the journey provide for a far more enjoyable experience for everyone. Just be careful when exiting the car that your pet is firmly secured and doesn’t dart out into traffic.

Never Left Alone
It should go without saying, but never leave your pet alone in a parked car. Inside temperatures can quickly reach dangerous levels in just a few minutes in the summer months and can just as easily drop to uncomfortable levels in the winter. Furthermore, an unattended pet is at risk to be stolen.

Traveling with your pet at Christmas time, or any time for that matter, can be stressful. If leaving your pet at home or with a sitter is not an option, prior planning and preparations can provide for quality travels with your pet.

Pet owners who would like further help in preparing their pet for travels can speak to one of our pet specialists here at Family Pet Health by calling 615-907-8387.

About Family Pet Health, PLLC
Family Pet Health is located at 3307 Manchester Pike in Murfreesboro. The practice, owned by Dr. Amy Shirley and her husband Michael, is a small and exotics animal veterinary hospital. They provide a full range of veterinary services including exams and vaccinations, lab work and diagnostics, surgeries, referral services and overnight lodging. All of their staff members are Fear Free certified and have undergone extensive training on recognizing signs of fear, anxiety and stress in their patients. Learn more at