Ask the Veterinarian: Oh, the Places You'll Go

Dr. Hagerty, Avery and Bjorn

The second a suitcase or backpack is grabbed, my dog Avery knows exactly what it means. That moment forward he is adamant and determined that he will be included as a key piece to pack, never leaving my side until he is happily situated on the back seat of the car. There he waits eagerly for the adventure with his face pressed against the window waiting for the fun to begin. On the other hand, Bjorn, my overgrown puppy, is unconvinced by his brother’s enthusiasm. Just five months of age, Bjorn has just recently outgrown his carsick puppyhood; what remains is the memories of being nauseous. Looking like a mildly rabid dog, white foam at the corners of his lips and ears flat, Bjorn waits silently to be placed in the car. Slowly he is learning that the car ride is worth the fun of the destination to come, but for now a drooling sleepy puppy and a wide eyed eager traveller makes up the back of the car on our adventures.

As the holiday season fast approaches, more of us begin to travel. Before everyone piles into the car, stop and check to see if Fluffy is as adventurous as you. If he’s not, don’t worry; there are steps you can take to help make his journey more enjoyable.

Test Drive

Give it a go. If your pet is not a frequent traveller, small, shorter trips may be required to acclimatize him. Longer road trips require planning. Even if you find pet friendly hotels, not all hotel pet policies are the same. Some require your pet to stay in a carrier when not supervised and others may have hidden daily pet fees. Plan ahead to find pet friendly hotels, which meet your needs. Additionally, frequent breaks, short walks and adequate food and water is needed for longer travel. Remember McDonalds isn’t an option for our pets, so pack accordingly. A hot car, even with open windows, can quickly cause dehydration in your dog or cat. Continued panting and cooling through evaporation pulls water out of their bodies and overtime will lead to dehydration. Stop for water!

Just like people some pets may experience more anxiety then others while traveling. For traveling by air your pet will most likely be required to travel inside a carrier. This alone, regardless of the trip can cause undue anxiety. The first time going into a carrier should never be left for the morning of travel. If your cat or dog isn’t accustomed to it, start by allowing them to go in and out of carrier at liberty. Placing their favourite toy, a familiar blanket or feeding their meals inside the carrier will help. Make it a safe space for them. Once comfortable with the carrier in the house, transition to having the door closed for short periods of time until they relax and realize its not a horrible place to be. A few well-hidden treats for cats or a Kong like toy stuffed with food, are easy ways to make being inside the carrier an enjoyable pastime. Use these slow transitions to help prior to the actual trip. Our feline friends may also prefer their carrier to be covered with a light blanket or towel.

If possible, start young. Teaching your quickly growing puppy or kitten that a crate or carrier is a safe and comfortable space is valuable. Although some puppies and kittens experience carsickness (Bjorn, my quickly growing puppy can attest to this), short car rides can be made part of their routine. Short trips should be fun and exciting adventures, even if its just going around the block at first. Include experiences such as driving to the local airport and letting your new friend listen to the take off and landing of planes, while in the safety of their own car and with you assuring them. These noises are new and made less scary if experienced prior to travel.

Passport, Please

Unlike much of Europe, we do not currently have true “Pet Passports” in Canada, documentation is required for our four legged friends to cross boarders.

Depending on destination, requirements vary greatly and careful research is needed to determine current rules and regulations.

Travel into the United States requires a rabies vaccination certificate. Ensure that if your pet has never had a rabies vaccine before you must wait 28 days prior to entering into the United States (this rule does not apply if your adult pet’s rabies booster is current). If traveling by air, your pet may also require a health certificate signed by your veterinarian, depending on which airline you are flying with. Travel requirements to the rest of our globe reflect largely on disease risk and status of the travel destination. In general most destinations outside of North America require a complete health exam by your veterinarian within 10 days of travel, as well as an appointment with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency official veterinarian. Other requirements may include internal and external parasite control, additional vaccine requirements and possible bloodwork to screen for disease and check vaccine titres.

Leaving is the hardest part

There is no doubt that the companionship of your beloved pet improves any journey or new destination. However, sometimes we have to step back and make sure the trip is equally as enjoyable for our pet. Factors such as any health problems our pets may have, combined or exasperated by their anxiety levels associated with travel may make them unfit for all of our planned adventures. Severe weather, both hot and cold, can make traveling uncomfortable and even dangerous. In this case it is not just about the journey but also the destination. Is having a pet with you going to be feasible. Not all climates or locations are idea or safe for our non-human companions. As the holiday season fast approaches, our travel plans finalize; although, leaving a loved one home is never an easy decision to make, it actually may be the right thing to do.

Happy travels!

Points North: It's Your Choice

38th Annual Dickens Fair

38th Annual Dickens Fair