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Traveling with Pets: What You Need to Know

dog in car

When the holidays roll around, so do increased opportunities for travel. You might be planning a quick holiday getaway or an extended visit with out-of-town relatives. Often, your pet might be your faithful travel companion, whether you're making your journey over land, sea, or in the air. But, traveling with pets means you'll need to do some extra planning before you embark on your adventure, so give yourself some extra time to prepare.

dog in carrier

Traveling with Your Pets


No matter how you plan to travel with your pet, there are several things to check off your list first. Ensure your pet is in good health, up-to-date on all of her vaccinations, and has had a recent vet visit. Taking care of these things before you go helps verify that your pet is in good health and can handle traveling safely. If you haven’t already done so, it’s also highly advised to make sure your animal is microchipped where applicable and has a proper ID tag.

Before you start your journey, make sure your pet is used to her crate or carrier. Depending on your mode of transportation, your animal pal might have to make the whole journey inside of her kennel. Allow your pet some ample time to exercise before travel begins, don’t overfeed her or give her too much water right before travel, and try to avoid using sedatives or tranquilizers if flying. According to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), these substances can actually harm animals while in flight.


Bringing Your Pet on an Airplane

When traveling by air, every airline has different rules and regulations regarding pets. It’s your responsibility to carefully review these guidelines and know what the expectations are for you and your pet. For example, some airlines permit animals to travel in the cabin with you (typically just dogs and cats) if your pet is small enough to fit in an airline-approved carrier that can fit under the seat in front of you.

To help your pet pass the time, you can offer her an engaging toy in her carrier since you are right there to keep an eye on her. For example, you could give your pup a Rolly Canolli to keep her occupied; just make sure you consider the length of the flight and don’t put too much peanut butter or treats inside. After all, bathroom breaks will be limited when you’re flying.

Other airlines require pets to travel in a ventilated or heated cargo hold so your pet stays warm or cool during the journey. In fact, the IATA suggests that many pets may prefer traveling in the cargo hold because it is calmer and quieter than in the cabin. But, you know your pet best. When traveling in the cargo hold, make sure there is nothing in your pet’s crate that could pose a potential choking hazard since no one is around in the hold to keep an eye on your pet during flight.

If your pet travels in the cabin with you, you’re responsible for caring for your pal during any layovers and must ensure that your pet is a well-behaved traveler. However, if your pet travels in the cargo hold, the airline staff or ground handlers might take care of your pet during layovers. But this is something you need to verify before travel.


Can You Ship Your Pet?

Certain airlines only allow pets to travel on domestic flights. If you plan to travel out of the country, another alternative is for your pet to be an air cargo shipment. It is up to you to ensure you get the right quality and type of kennel for shipment and that it stays securely latched. There could also be restrictions in place when you can ship your pet during the year, as many US carriers won’t ship pets during the hottest months. For more information on shipping your pet, contact the United States Department of Agriculture.


Can You Bring Your Pet on a Cruise Ship?

Unfortunately, if your travels take you out on the high seas, your pet won’t get to come along. Cruise ships have stringent policies regarding no pets on board, mainly due to sanitation and health codes. The only dogs typically allowed on a cruise ship are service animals, but you will have to take all the precautions mentioned above, as well as to inquire about special “doggy-relief-boxes” for your pup.


Taking a Road Trip with Your Pet

Depending on your pet’s personality, this may or may not be the least stressful way to travel with your pet. Dogs especially enjoy a good road trip; cats, not so much. If your final destination involves a hotel, ensure it allows pets, and make sure to have vaccination records at the ready if the hotel requests proof. If you’re visiting friends or family, make sure they know you have an animal guest coming along with you. Of course, all of this applies to air travel too. It won’t do you much good to bring your pet along for the ride if she can’t stay at the destination. 

On a road trip, plan for multiple potty breaks, and remember that your stops along the way will be limited to places that allow pets (you absolutely should not plan to leave your pet in an unattended vehicle). Also, prepare for several walks with your dog so she can burn off some steam (especially on very length road trips). Therefore, either ensure you have a leash (and poop bags) at the ready or pinpoint dog parks along your route.

cat and carrier

Extra Considerations for Bringing Your Pet Back to the United States


If you plan to travel internationally, there are a few extra considerations regarding your pet, whether your pet is a new visitor to the country or returning home. If you’re returning to the USA with a dog, your pup must appear to be in good health, and most likely, you will have to show proof of a valid rabies vaccination (this is especially the case if you are coming from a country with a high-risk for rabies).

If you are unsure whether your pup has ever had a rabies vaccination, or this is your pup’s first rabies vaccination, you will have to wait 28 days before traveling. This is because the rabies vaccine needs 28 days before it takes effect after the initial dose. 

In addition to a rabies vaccination, certain states may require other vaccinations. Likewise, some locations have additional restrictions for particular breeds or types of dogs. Therefore, it’s imperative to check with the state health department to ensure you can get all of your ducks in a row before you travel.

If you’re traveling with a cat, your feline friend doesn’t necessarily need a rabies vaccination to enter the United States, but individual states have laws that require the vaccination. Therefore, it’s essential to check with the state health department beforehand, so you know exactly what you need to do.

Other animals, like monkeys, rodents, and various exotic pets, carry different sets of restrictions. In fact, some of these animals will not be able to enter the United States, even if they originated from the USA. So, before you take your spider monkey on an international journey, you better think twice if you want to bring your pal back home with you. 

It’s certainly possible for your pet to travel safely and securely; you just need to do your homework ahead of time. If you have doubts about your pet’s ability to travel, then consider asking a trusted friend or family member to pet sit, or find a reputable boarding facility to take care of your pet while you are away. In the meantime, if you have more questions about the best way to care for your pets, check out the rest of our blog! At NeaterPets, we’re all about making it easy for you to be a fantastic pet parent!


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