Whether traveling with your pet is recreational or strictly essential, the journey does not have to be stressful. Our Scripps Ranch Veterinary Hospital professionals share some tips to keep in mind—and to help you keep your composure—while traveling with your pet. 

#1: A clean bill of health—visit the veterinarian

Before you pack your bags, schedule an appointment for your pet at Scripps Ranch Veterinary Hospital. Ensuring your pet’s vaccinations are current and their parasite prevention medicine has been administered protects them from infectious disease, and makes them welcome at pet-friendly hotels and campgrounds, and major transportation centers, such as airports and railway stations.

If you plan to travel internationally, let our veterinary professionals know, so we can ensure you have your pet’s required health certificates, and that your pet is appropriately vaccinated and microchipped to meet your destination’s requirements.

If you know your pet experiences motion sickness or anxiety during travel, our veterinary professionals can prescribe anti-nausea or anti-anxiety medication to ensure they have a comfortable trip.

#2: Home away from home—familiarize your pet with their crate or seat belt

To prevent accidental injury to your pet, the driver, and passengers, we recommend always securing your pet during vehicle travel. If your pet is new to traveling, spend some time introducing them to their carrier, crate, car seat, or pet seat belt. To acclimate your pet to their carrier or crate, put the enclosure near their favorite napping spot, and place a comfy bed or blanket inside. 

Build positive associations by playing games before, during, and after restraining your pet. Common practice scenarios include:

  • Hiding special treats or toys inside the crate 
  • Inviting your pet to enter the crate and then exit to get a treat (i.e., preventing your pet from associating being in the crate with punishment)
  • Taking a walk or playing with your pet after unbuckling their seat belt
  • Once your pet is comfortable being restrained in the vehicle, taking short trips down the driveway or around the block, or simply carrying them in their carrier or crate from room to room

#3: Road rules—pets’ and owners’ travel etiquette

Whether your family member is two-legged or four-legged, keeping the peace during a long road trip can be a challenge. To avoid having to turn this car around, follow these suggestions:

  • Satisfy basic needs — Every few hours provide your pet regular opportunities for elimination (e.g., rest stops, litter box or potty pad access) and brief on-leash exercise for dogs. Keep your pet’s regular meal times when possible, and provide only bottled water to avoid gastrointestinal upset. 
  • Maintain social distance — Never let your pet rush up to or jump on unfamiliar pets or people. While you may believe your pet only wants to say hello, this behavior is not always welcome, and can be dangerous. 
  • Respect pet policies — Be a good steward for responsible pet ownership, and find out any pet policies—including local leash laws or breed ordinances—in advance. Throughout your journey, respect all pet-related signage and keep out of restricted areas.
  • Pick up after your pet — Pet waste is a nuisance and a public health hazard. Always immediately pick up and properly dispose of your pet’s waste. If you are on a trail, pack out your pet’s waste and leave no trace. If your pet has an accident at your destination, notify the staff so the accommodation is properly cleaned before the next guest arrives.

#4: Preplanned activities—focused pets stay out of trouble

Long car rides, flight delays, or rainy days stuck inside can leave your pet feeling antsy or mischievous. Like children, pets travel best when they have an outlet for their physical and intellectual energy. For pets this includes:

  • Regular exercise — Physical activity is a natural stress reliever, which is good for you and your pet. Whether you walk around the gas station or up and down the hotel stairs, find a way to be physically active with your pet every day. 
  • Foraging toys — Snuffle and pet activity mats are easy to pack, and make a great quiet game for your pet. Cats and dogs enjoy sniffing out hidden treats from underneath the folded fabric. As an added bonus, the act of sniffing is tiring—so your pet will be ready for a nap once they eat their treats!
  • Enrichment activities — Puzzle toys, food-stuffed Kongs, a long-lasting chew, or treat-dispensing balls engage your pet’s curiosity, confidence, and critical thinking. In addition, introduce your pet to new sensory experiences (e.g., exploring a new place or space), or activity, (e.g., swimming, walking on a beach, or riding in an elevator). Remember to use praise and treats to reward your pet’s courage and composure in new situations.

When your pet is a happy and well-adjusted traveler, you can relax and enjoy the ride. No matter where this summer takes you, Scripps Ranch Veterinary Hospital can help you prepare for the journey. If your pet needs a wellness examination, vaccines, medication, or health paperwork for travel, contact our caring team to schedule an appointment.