During this year’s traditional summer vacation season, countless Texans will be hitting the state’s highways, traveling to popular destinations located not only in the Lone Star State, but throughout the Deep South and beyond.
And while it’s easy to consider our own personal safety during these long road trips, it’s important to also take precautions for the four-legged members of the family. So the next time you’re packing up the car and heading out for a family vacation in South Padre Island, or Galveston or any other location in the great state of Texas and beyond, please plan ahead and be sure your “fur babies” will be well cared for.
To that end, we have some tips from Pet Travel.com for you to consider this summer…
1) Plan ahead
Spur of the moment traveling is not a good thing for pets unless they’re seasoned travelers. Removing your cat or dog from its environment can be stressful, unless you prepare in advance.
Well before you travel, get your dog or cat a restraining device such as a carrier, crate, harness or booster seat. Although things may be a bit rocky at first, practice always pays off. Acclimate your pet by taking short rides to fun places at first and always have treats in hand and lots of hugs when you return home.
If you’re flying, make sure you know your airline’s pet policies. This is very important if you have a larger dog that must fly in the cargo hold, as most commercial airlines will not fly live animals in the hold during the summertime due to high temperatures. If you’re flying internationally, know the regulations to import your pet to your destination country. Arriving without the proper documentation can result in your pet being refused and returned home at your expense.
Research your route as well as your final destination for pet friendly hotels, veterinary hospitals (in case of emergencies), dog parks, restaurants and attractions that allow pets.
2) Visit the Vet
A pre-trip health check is a good idea to make sure there are no unknown health issues you’ll need to deal with during your travels. And if you’re flying with your pet, know that some airlines also require a health certificate.
At the same time, get proof of current rabies vaccination and any medications that your pet will need during the trip. It’s also highly recommended that you get your pet microchipped prior to travel, if it’s not already. Be sure and register your information in the chip manufacturer’s database and include your cell phone number. After all, if your pet is separated from you during your trip, you won’t be home to get the call. You can also purchase a pet GPS tracker as an alternative to microchipping.
3) Depart cleaned and well groomed
A visit to the local groomer will make for happier travels. A good bath, haircut and nail clipping can make everyone feel better. Your dog’s coat provides protection for its skin, so keep this in mind before your pets get a summer haircut. Trimming is good, but make sure your pet doesn’t get too close of a shave. Remember, dogs can get sunburned too.
If it’s time for flea medication, certainly consider applying it. No one wants fleas to tag along on the trip.
4) Protect your pet from the heat
Dogs have little ability to control their body heat, so they’re vulnerable to high temperatures. Avoid exposure between 11am and 3pm, the hottest times of the day. Lay your hand flat on the pavement for 10 seconds. If it’s too hot for you, then it’s too hot for them. Booties or paw wax can help protect their paws on hot summer days.
Always have water available and encourage your pet to drink often. This will result in more frequent pit stops, which is a dog’s favorite part of the trip anyway. Also, NEVER leave your dog or cat in the car, not even for a minute. Cracking the windows is not enough as temperatures inside of a car on a hot day can climb to dangerous levels in under 15 minutes. Instead, leave someone in the car with the air conditioning running if you need a pit stop. If you’re driving alone, take a second set of car keys and lock the car while idling, with the air conditioning on, until you return.
5) Don’t forget the basics
Some items that you’ll want to pack are your pet’s collar with ID tag, a sturdy leash, medication, food, water, bed, treats, toys, brush, wipes, towels, a sheet or blanket to protect furniture, a picture of your pet (with you, of course) and bags to pick up after your pet.
Once you see the excitement in the eyes of your pet when travel day arrives and they know that they’re coming with you, it will be hard to leave them home on your next trip. Their presence will make every vacation more meaningful for you and your family. Just remember, however, to take the time to keep your pets safe, just as you would your children. They are, after all, part of the family too!
James Diehl is an award-winning journalist based in Delaware.