Pet adoptions and sales soared during the pandemic. No wonder: a host of scientific studies show that interactions with animals may help with depression, anxiety, and stress. And we were stuck at home, with few places to go. The perfect time to welcome and care for a new companion.
Fast forward a few months (post pandemic, thank you vaccine), and experts are predicting a pent-up desire to hit the road, get out of town, have a real vacation. But what about Lassie? Should she go or should she stay? Here’s some advice from the American Kennel Club’s chief veterinary officer, Dr. Jerry Klein. One thing to remember, Klein says, “Bringing dogs with you on vacation will dictate how you travel, the type of vacation and location, your place of lodging, and the amount of time and types of activities spent away from your hotel room.”
Consider the dog
Dogs do not travel equally well. Very frail or elderly dogs, or dogs with significant underlying conditions may have special needs. Also, “Some breeds of dogs are more sensitive to extreme temperatures,” Klein says. “Older dogs or hairless breeds are sensitive to very cold weather and some of the brachycephalic breeds are sensitive to very warm weather.”
If you cannot guarantee that your dog will be safe and comfortable for most of the trip, don’t take her along.
All dogs traveling should be healthy and free of communicable disease. Dogs should be current on their vaccinations, and up to date on heartworm prevention and flea and tick prevention. In case of any possible accident or escape, either during the trip or while at a distant location, dogs should have adequate permanent identification such as a microchip in place with current, updated information.
“Dogs should also become familiar and comfortable with their carrier or crate long before the actual date of travel,” says Klein. “This will make traveling far easier on your dog and you.”
Pack a doggie bag
Here are the essentials: collar and leash, food and water bowl, poop bags, and crate or carrier for the trip, baby wipes, paper towels, medications, along with a photograph of the list of your those medications in case you need to purchase more along the way.
While no papers are required for interstate road travel, Klein strongly recommends that owners have proof of current rabies vaccination, in case it is ever requested.
Generally, experts recommend not medicating your dog before traveling. “If a dog is used to traveling, no medication is usually required or recommended,” Klein says. However, if your dog gets car sick or is extremely anxious about traveling, talk to your veterinarian, who will evaluate and recommend the best approach.
Tailor your vacation
Each trip offers different things to different people; the same goes for dogs.
“A Pekingese is not the kind of dog to take hiking, nor would a German Shorthaired Pointer be content to just lie around in a hotel room,” says Klein. “This is why it’s important at the start, to choose a breed or type of dog that fits your lifestyle.”
That said, choose the vacation that best suits you and your type of dog.
Make sure your dog is safely confined, away from the driver.
“Dogs that are confined to their crates or by some harness-like device allow the driver to concentrate on the task at hand,” says Klein. “Also, in case of a significant car accident, dogs in crates are generally known to be safer.”
Back seats are better than front seats, and never let your dog hang her head out the window.
Also, dogs should never be left alone in a car on any occasion, but especially in warm weather.
“The chance of heatstroke to dogs is a very real and unfortunately common situation,” Klein says.
Finally, be sure to take exercise breaks every four to six hours.
Pet-friendly policies are not equal
Accommodations should have adequate facilities or grounds where you can exercise your dog. Consider requesting a first-floor room for easy in and out access, and look at alternative pet-friendly lodgings, like cottages, cabins, and B&Bs.
Always review and confirm an accommodation’s guidelines and policies. Generally, an accommodation with a pet-friendly policy will allow small dogs but may not allow large or even medium-size dogs. Also, traveling with more than two dogs may be more of a challenge.
Travelers should be aware that most pet-friendly lodgings still charge an additional add-on pet fee. This could be a per day charge or a per stay charge; and it might be flat rate per room fee for all the pets or it might be per pet. Make sure you understand the costs, so you’re not surprised with the bill when you check out.
Expect all pet-friendly accommodations to have some restrictions, including a maximum number of pets per room (usually one or two), size restrictions (such as “dogs under 50 pounds”), and property restrictions (such as pets allowed only in specific rooms and not permitted in common areas.)
“And this should go without saying!” Klein concludes. “Guests are responsible for cleaning up after their pets. Remember that you and your dogs are ambassadors for all the pets that travel in the future.”
Diane Bair and Pamela Wright can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org