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Mom, can Bandit come too?

Tips for traveling with your pet this summer

Vacation... what a wonderful word. 
I have to admit, as a mom of three plus two furry family members, vacation planning is not stress free for me.  In fact, if I’m honest, it seems easier to plan a stay-cation where all seven of us (the furry and non furry alike) play together in our back yard, rather than venture out into the great unknown.  However I have been assured that traveling with the family pet need not be the anxiety ridden experience I imagine.

Where shall we go?
Vacation planning usually begins with some daydreaming.  Do we want sun and sand or a bit adventure?  Perhaps some quality time with family and friends who are far from home?  Once selected, you need to consider how the destination will affect the family pet.  Dr. Amy Enkler of Hudson Valley Veterinary Services recommends that your first step in planning is to think about how your vacation activities will affect your pet.  She asksAre the activities you will be doing while on vacation dog friendly?  Will you be able to do the activities you have planned on your vacation if your pet is with you?” 

READ MORE: 6 travel activities to entertain kids

To board or not to board, that is the question!
Once the destination has been chosen, you must decide if you will be taking your pet on vacation, boarding them or having a pet sitter come and stay at your home.  Dr. Enkler suggests you consider, “Will travel be more stressful on your animal than boarding?”  There are some pets that simply don’t travel well and to bring them with you would not make for a relaxing vacation.  If this is the case, boarding may be the way to go.  Dr. Enkler offers “Many boarding facilities offer services with extra attention such as spa treatments or video updates, so do your homework.  Always visit the facility first and ask questions such as:  What is the pet to attendant ratio?  How much play time, outside time and individual interaction is afforded to each pet?  Can your pets be housed together?  Can you bring their bedding?” 

Another option is to find a pet sitter.  If you feel your pet would be more comfortable in their own surroundings, this could be the least stressful option for everyone.  Christina Lemmey of Fishkill can relate, “This past summer was especially tough for us, because our dog had cancer. The kennel had access to our vet in case of emergency but he was on a rapid decline and we didn't want his last days to be locked in a kennel.  My dad stayed with him and was able to stick to his very strict medication schedule and was able to give him his special food and the love that he needed.”  If you can’t find someone who is willing to stay home with your pet, it doesn’t mean that option is out, as Dr. Enkler notes, “Many veterinarian technicians pet sit on the side which is a great option if your pet needs extra medical attention.” 

It’s settled, Fido’s coming!
Heather Potter of Bloomingburg often calls her BFF Rosie, port-a-dog because she brings her everywhere.  She states “I would not feel like me without Rosie!”  As a result, Heather and her family often choose to vacation with Rosie in tow.  She does however caution, “It is important to note that most of my traveling with Rosie has been to visit family and that decent dog friendly vacation destinations are difficult to find. You pretty much have to find a vacation rental that allows dogs, and many do not.”  If this year’s vacation will include your pooch, the internet can be an amazing resource.  Dr. Enkler recommends sites such as bringfido.com and petfriendlytravel.com to help.  With information such as the best dog friendly beaches and a list of pet friendly attractions, you are sure to find a location that will give all members of your family the vacation they are dreaming of.

READ MORE: 4 ways pets benefit your kids

Dr. Enkler’s tips to consider once you have decided to travel with your pet:

  • Use your phone to photograph your pet’s health and rabies certificates so you have them in case of emergency.
  •  Research local veterinary emergency clinics and store their contact information.
  • Take a snapshot of your pet as you leave for easy access in case of emergency.
  • Have your pet micro-chipped.
  • Be sure all vaccinations are up to date.  If you are unsure about what vaccines are necessary, contact your vet.
  •  Pack a pet travel bag including:  toys, food, medication, water, towels, poop bags and a first aid kit.

Dr. Enkler’s top tips for pet travel by land:

  • Prior to your trip, take them on short rides. 
  • No big meals prior to departure.  
  •  Be sure to bring their favorite toy. 
  • Stop frequently for leg stretching and bathroom breaks.
  • Ensure they have fresh water.
  • Never leave them unattended. 
  •  Use a safety harness or pet seatbelt.

Dr Enkler’s top tips for travel by air:

  • Discuss any health risks that could make air travel risky with your vet. 
  • Check the airline’s policy regarding health certificates, temperature restrictions, breed restrictions and embargo periods.  Speak with a representative so there are no surprises.  
  •  Label the kennel, with name, address and telephone numbers.
  •  Once at the airport, stay with your pet as long as possible. 
  • If carrying your pet on, be prepared to take him out of the carrier when going through security. 
  • If possible, ship your animal with a travel bowl of water.
  •  If your pet is anxious, an article of clothing with your scent may help put them at ease. 
  • If your pet has a history of eating things when stressed, do not include ingestible items.
  • Ensure the crate size is adequate for your pet.

So there you have it, tons of things to consider as you plan the next family vacation.  As for me, all things considered, traveling with my dogs may not be as stressful as I had originally thought.  Maybe it’s time to give it a try.  After all, they are part of the family, don’t they deserve a little vacation time?