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Traveling with Your Dog

A week on Cape Cod. A drive up the California coast. Ten days visiting the castles on the Loire. There are countless ways to spend a vacation, but before you start making plans, you have to answer the big question: Do you take your dog with you or leave him at home? Here are some guidelines to help you decide what’s best.

Where Are You Going?

If you’re going abroad, the policies of the nation you’re visiting may make the decision for you. Some countries – such as Great Britain, for instance – require quarantines that may last 6 months or longer. Some nations, such as Canada or Mexico, only require you to show proof of vaccination. Canada requires proof of rabies vaccination within the past 3 years while Mexico requires proof of vaccination within the past year.

By the way, if you plan to travel to Hawaii, you should be aware that the state is considered “rabies-free.” State law requires you to quarantine your pet for 6 months.

Other factors to consider

Getting There by Plane

Within the United States, an estimated 160 million people and 500,000 pets travel by air each year. This summer, flying with a pet in tow has become more expensive – and complicated – than it used to be. Some dogs are small enough to travel as carry-on, but the rules vary from carrier to carrier. Check your carrier’s regulations before you make your reservations. For more information on individual airline policies, see Airline Rules for Flying with Dogs.

If your dog is going cargo, you have to ship him in an airline-approved carrier; if he’s flying in the cabin, his carrier has to fit under your seat.

Getting There By Car

During summer drives, keep the air-conditioner going. If you make a stop, never leave an animal alone in a closed car, where he can overheat. Even on a cloudy day a short trip into the grocery store can turn fatal. The same is true in cool weather. A closed metal car, if exposed to the sun, can still turn into an oven. Other points to consider:

The Issue of Sedation

Many owners ask whether they should sedate their pets on long trips in an airplane or the car. In general, many veterinarians do not recommend tranquilizing or sedating pets on trips. Sedatives have the potential to cause side effects, which may be severe enough to require medical treatment. This is why most veterinarians oppose tranquilizing pets traveling by airliners. Traveling as cargo, a pet is not continually supervised by the crew or the owner, so they may be unaware of an emergency. In addition, should an emergency occur, there isn’t any chance of stopping off at a veterinary clinic or hospital.

For more information on sedation, see the story The Pros and Cons of Sedation. Always consult your veterinarian about sedation before making a decision.

A Crate or Carrier is a Must

Whether you’re going by car or by plane, invest in a sturdy airline-approved carrier with enough space for your pet to move around easily, stand up and lie down. Mark it clearly with your name, address and phone number, and up arrows, and attach “Live Animal” stickers to it.

Where to Stay

There are plenty of hotels and motels that will make your pet welcome. Some may restrict sizes or breeds and some charge special fees and/or damage deposits. Make reservations well in advance.

The bottom line: Think of other pet owners coming behind you. Don’t ruin it for them!

When to Leave Your Pet Home

Your veterinarian can help you decide whether to take your pet with you or put him in a kennel or can recommend a place for him to stay if you decide to leave him behind. You might even consider a pet sitter.