As summer approaches, Skipper will likely be making some extra trips for vacation. We can’t WAIT to take him to the beach and show him the waves and let him chase the ghost crabs, and see how he swims at the lake!
If you anticipate traveling with your puppy, it’s very important to work on acclimating to the car early, during the socialization period. We started by taking Skipper on very short rides with lots of treats. Ideally, try to get the puppy used to where you want him to sit in the car as an adult. For example, when we brought Skipper home the very first day we met him, he would only ride quietly on top of my shoulders. This was fine for 9 lb Skipper, but not exactly acceptable for the current, 45 lb Skipper.
There are lots of options for securing your pet when traveling, but disappointingly, not very many studies to determine the safest option. In my opinion, making sure that your dog or cat is secured away from the driver is the MOST important consideration. Your dog should not be able to climb on your lap (or your head), bump any of your car controls, or distract the driver in any way. Skipper has done quite well with a sling in the backseat which keeps him confined to the second row of the car, but gives plenty of space to lounge and look out the windows. His sister, Lily, on the other hand, has to be confined to a crate, because she will not settle in and relax as readily. There are numerous options including car seats, seat belt type attachments, kennels, slings, etc. Choose what option keeps your dog calm, happy, and away from distracting the driver.
I do strongly recommend keeping some form of identification on your dog during a car ride, as a precaution, in case the unthinkable accident occurs and your dog leaves the site of the crash in the fray. Because a collar could get lost or fall off, a microchip implanted under his skin is the safest way to ensure he is constantly carrying identification, and your contact information. Of important note, these microchips do not help track your dog; there is no GPS capability to the standard microchip. I can’t wait for the day that happens! The microchip is only helpful if a Good Samaritan finds your dog, and brings them to someone with a scanner to retrieve the stored information. You’ll also need to make sure to regularly update the information attached to the microchip, if you move, change phone numbers, etc.
For those dogs (aka Lily) who are very nervous during car rides, there are a few pharmaceutical options to help make the trip less stressful. These medications work beautifully even for short rides to the vet office. Consider this: if every time you got in the car, you went to the doctor, you vomited on the way, and THEN had to get shots or blood samples were drawn, you’d probably really hate the thought of getting in the car. For the animals who become car sick, there are a few antinausea medications. Benedryl will work for some dogs, however, there are a select few who become overly excited from Benedryl doses. I typically recommend giving maropitant (Cerenia) at home 1-2 hours prior to starting a car trip, long or short.
For the anxious creatures, trazodone or gabapentin (anti-anxiety medications) are great options to give 1-2 hours prior to leaving home. If you’re headed to come see us at Aldie, there is an added benefit of already having that anti-anxiety medication on board before you get to the clinic. Please don’t feel strange about giving anti-anxiety medications to these guys who are so incredibly worried at the clinic, or in the car. It is not a reflection on you, your training, or your pet. If you’ve ever experienced any level of anxiety/stress, you know how terrible that feels, and I suspect that our canine and feline friends feel the same. We CAN help these guys with a little “special” snack just a few hours before a trip!
If you are taking your pet on vacation, always make sure that your lodging arrangements permit pets. I also recommend bringing an appropriate kennel to confine your pet if you have to step out of your hotel room, or baby gates to cordon off dangerous areas of a rental house. Depending on when or how you’re traveling, you may also need a health certificate to cross state or international borders. These certificates can take some time to complete, so make sure to check with your veterinarian well in advance of your trip. Ideally, at least have a way to access your dog’s vaccination records (rabies especially!), in the event that your dog needs to see a vet while you’re away from home, or there is some bite or fight incident. Many veterinarians, including Aldie Vet Hospital, have user-friendly apps that allow you to access your pets’ medical records any time, directly from your cell phone.
Always make sure to bring your pets’ medications along and try to keep them on a consistent schedule. I recommend bringing these medications in their ORIGINAL bottles, just in case there’s a need for a new veterinarian to know the dose and drug name. If you’re going on a long trip, remember to check your supply and get refill requests in early.
If you’re not planning to take your pup along on a trip, there are a few options. There are several boarding facilities around, which work well for some pets and often have someone on staff 24/7. These facilities can be loud, and some pets can become very stressed in this type of environment, while others are unfazed and enjoy playing with the other boarders. There are also many in-home pet sitting services, or you may know someone who can stop by, or stay overnight, to watch your pets. In either situation, I recommend pre-arranging an authorization for veterinary care. Aldie Veterinary Hospital has forms which can be filled out ahead of time to authorize your pet sitter/boarding facility to request care for your pet in the event of an emergency. It’s also helpful to create an info sheet for caretakers, including emergency contacts, veterinary clinic number, and medications for each pet.
Happy travels this spring and summer! Share your pictures with us on Facebook and Instagram!