Traveling for the holidays? Here’s how to prepare your pet

The weather is colder, the days are shorter, and your social calendar is filling up with holiday celebrations. The hustle, bustle, and stress that come with the festivities can also affect your pet. Whether you’re spending the holiday season at home or away, it’s important to take extra precautions to make sure the holidays are as enjoyable for your furry friend as they are for you!

Boarding Pets vs. Hiring a Pet Sitter

If you are celebrating away from home and won’t be taking your pet along, consider your pet’s personality when deciding who will care for them in your absence. Pets that are friendly and outgoing typically do well at a daycare and boarding facility (and will probably have a great time while you’re away). However, pets with separation anxiety or who fear unknown people and animals may fare better by being allowed to remain in the comfort of their own home. Hiring a pet sitter who can stay in your home, or who drops in several times each day for feeding, exercise, and play, will help ensure your pet is in good hands and out of trouble. Not only will this give you peace of mind, but it also provides your pet with a sense of security.

If you do plan to board your pet, remember their vaccinations must be up to date and you should be sure they are protected from fleas and ticks if you live in a milder area. Many species of fleas and ticks do go dormant in winter, but certain areas of the United States do not get cold enough to truly kill these parasites and stop them from infecting your pet. 

Top tips for Hitting the Road with Your BFF (Best Furry Friend)

If you’re lucky enough to take your pet with you on your holiday travels, it’s important to prepare accordingly. Below are a couple of ways to prepare your pet for travel by car and by plane.

If you’re traveling by car:

  • Dogs and cats should be placed in a crate or carrier for the safest travel possible. Another option for dogs is to restrain them in a harness that attaches to a seatbelt so they aren’t able to freely move around the vehicle. If your dog is free in the vehicle, install a barrier that prevents them from moving from the backseat to the front of the vehicle. Be sure it is sturdy and installed correctly so it doesn’t collapse on your pet. Never allow your pet to ride in the front passenger seat, as this puts them at risk of being tossed around during sudden stops and turns, or of being struck by an airbag if there’s an accident.
  • Make regular pit stops to give your furry friend a chance to stretch their legs, take a potty break, and have a snack and a drink.
  • Make your human potty breaks as quick as possible. Pets left alone in a vehicle are at risk for exposure to extreme temperatures, even after just a few minutes. Plus, stress from the trip could be compounded by your absence from the vehicle.
  • If you have an anxious pet that you think may not travel well, speak to your veterinarian before your trip about an anxiety vest, medication or a calming supplement that could help make travel easier.

 If you’re traveling by plane:

  • Understand the regulations at your destination about bringing animals with you. Vaccine requirements and quarantine periods can vary from place to place, particularly if you’re traveling abroad. It’s best to research these and have a good understanding of them before leaving home.
  • The safest way for any pet to fly is in the airplane cabin as carry-on luggage.  Check with your airline for their rules for traveling with pets. If your pet must travel in the cargo area:
    • Book a direct flight to your destination if possible
    • Make sure your pet is wearing a collar with an ID tag that includes your phone number and an alternate phone number. Your pet should also be microchipped in case they become lost.
    • Purchase or rent a USDA-approved shipping crate that is large enough for your pet to comfortably stand, sit and turn around. Attach a current photo of your pet to the outside of the crate, and also have your pet’s photo stored in your phone. 
    • Before heading to the airport, place a small dish of frozen water inside the crate, which will thaw during the journey, allowing your pet to stay hydrated. 
    • Be sure to mention to every airline employee you encounter that you are traveling with a pet in the cargo hold. Be your pet’s advocate, especially if the flight is delayed and you think your pet needs attention.
  • Speak to your veterinarian about an anxiety vest, medication or a calming supplement if you’re concerned that flying will be difficult for your pet. 

Be Prepared for Emergencies

Pet emergencies happen all the time and pet parents need to be prepared for an unexpected trip to the emergency veterinarian. If you are away from your pet, give the boarding facility or your pet sitter printed and digital copies of your emergency phone numbers and details of the veterinarian your pet should be taken to. If you’re traveling with your pet, research and record contact information for emergency veterinarians in the local area where you are staying. Remember to bring along a digital or printed copy of your pet’s vaccination records and any important medical notes a veterinarian would need to know.

Your Pets are our Priority!

At the National Animal Supplement Council (NASC), our number one priority is to promote the health and wellbeing of your pets. That is why we created the NASC audit program and the Quality Seal, which helps you identify animal health and nutritional supplements that come from responsible suppliers committed to producing the highest quality, most consistent products available. Visit our website to learn more and to see a list of NASC members that have earned the Quality Seal.