During the holiday season we often travel to visit family and friends. Sometimes we take our furry family members along or we may arrange to have them cared for while we are away. Both travelling and being cared for by others can be stressful for many animals. However there are some ways we can hopefully minimize the stress and make things easier for everyone.
If you are travelling without your pet it is important to keep your pet’s personality and lifestyle in mind when choosing a caretaker for them. If you are considering sending your pet to another person’s home while you’re away take into consideration both the human and animal members of their household. For example a home with small children may not be best for a pet that is fearful of sudden noise/activity. A pet that has separation anxiety is probably not a good fit in a home where the occupants are away for large parts of the day. For those pets that do not adapt well to new places, people or other animals, an in-home pet sitter may be the best option. Another option is to take your pet to a boarding kennel. These typically have the benefit of having multiple staff to give pets more around the clock attention. They also tend to have lots of experience/training handling a variety of pets. The facility may be more secure for pets that are prone to wandering or running off. However boarding kennels do vary so it is important to research the facility ahead of time, ask for references and maybe even consider touring the facility before sending your pet there. The downside is that there will likely be multiple other animals boarding at the facility so there is more risk of your pet being exposed to illnesses. Boarding kennels may also be an issue for pets that are aggressive towards other animals. Most boarding facilities will need proof that your pet is up to date on their vaccinations before they will accept them. This usually includes vaccination for kennel cough (Bordetella) in dogs, in addition to their core vaccines. Overall it is a good idea to make sure your pet is up to date on wellness exams, vaccines and deworming before they are in someone else’s care to help prevent any health issues while you’re away. It is also a good idea to write down the details of your pet’s routine, feeding schedule/amounts and any medications they need to be given. If your pet does have a health condition that requires medication make sure to enquire with the sitter/kennel facility that they are comfortable administering these. In case of a health emergency while you are away it is prudent to provide the pet sitter with the contact number of your veterinary clinic and reliable numbers for where you can be reached in case of an emergency. Some kennels may already have a protocol for where they take sick pets; so be sure to enquire about this ahead of time.
Sometimes you may decide to bring your pet along with you when you go on holidays or to visit loved ones. This comes with its own set of challenges but has the upside of allowing your pet to be included in the activities. First you need to make sure you pack all the essentials your pet will need for the trip. Keep in mind that you should bring enough of any special food or medication to last the trip, as it may be difficult to find these items. Your pet should also be up to date on vaccines before travel and depending on where you are going proof of vaccination status may be required. If you travelling by airplane, the airline will have regulations on what type of travel carrier your pet needs. Be sure to look on their website or call them to acquire this information. If you are driving you may also want to have your pet in a carrier or if it is a dog consider a seatbelt harness that allows them to be strapped in. This is a lot safer for both you and them in the event of an accident. If your pet is stressed during travel you can try things such as a thundershirt or pheromone sprays/collars to help combat this. If it is severe you should talk to your veterinarian ahead of time as they may be able to prescribe anti-anxiety medication if needed. Again it is prudent to make sure your pet has been examined by a vet recently, especially if they have ongoing health issues to ensure they are in optimal health before you leave. In the unfortunate event of a health crisis with your pet while you are travelling, your regular vet clinic will gladly send your pet’s medical record to another clinic to aid in treatment of your pet but they need your permission to do so.
The decision to bring your pet along while travelling or to leave them with a caretaker depends on many variables including the pet’s personality, destination and duration of time spent away. There is no wrong decision; no matter the choice, with some preparation, you and your furry friend can have a happy, relatively stress free holiday!
This article was prepared by Dr. Nicci Bachmann of the Beausejour Animal Hospital. If you have any questions about Holiday Travel with Pets please don’t hesitate to give us a call at (204) 268-2177. May you and your loved ones have a wonderful Christmas, and a Happy New Year!