You love your pet like a family member. So of course you want to bring your dog with you when you go away on vacation or visit friends in another state.
But before you load your pooch into the car or start heading toward the airport, weigh the pros and cons of bringing him with you vs. leaving him at home.
Think: What would make your dog happier—being carted into unfamiliar territory or staying snuggled up on your living-room sofa? Would the stress of traveling be too much?
Every dog shows anxiety in his own way. The College of Veterinary Medicine at University of Illinois recommends you look for these common signs your dog is stressed (1):
- Excessive salivation
- Holding his ears back
- Frequent lip-licking or yawning
Whether you’re going camping for the weekend with your canine companion or embarking on a big cross-country journey, there are some important things you should be aware of before starting on your adventures.
Here are some surprising dog travel dangers that you should know.
Traveling in a Car With Dogs
When you set out on a road trip, your dog probably wants to sit up front where you are. But riding in the passenger seat comes with consequences. Passenger seats are especially dangerous if your dog is not buckled in.
Even if your pup wears a pet seatbelt or a special safety harness for dogs, the airbags pose a threat to his well being. Airbags weren’t designed to protect canine anatomy and their impact could cause serious injuries or even death.
What to do: Keep your dog in the back seat during car rides and always use a safety restraint or a hard-shelled travel crate to protect him during the ride.
Driving without a crate or a restraint is similar to walking without a leash. You may think you know how your dog will react in certain situations, but you never truly know until something goes wrong. If you get in an accident, your dog can hurt himself, you, or your other passengers.
If your dog enjoys sticking his head out the window, make sure he is adequately secured and can’t squeeze out. And dogs should never be allowed to ride in the back of a pick-up truck unrestrained.
What to do: Put your dog in an approved travel crate or use a harness specifically designed for pet travel.
We’ve all heard the horror stories of dogs suffering from being left in hot cars, so this danger shouldn’t be shocking.
What is surprising, however, is the number of people who think it’s okay to just crack a window, or who say “it’s not that hot out.”
An independent study estimates it only takes 20 minutes for the interior of a car to reach 99 degrees Fahrenheit if it’s 70 degrees outside (2).
What to do: Don’t ever leave your dog alone in the car. Do research before your trip to identify pet-friendly rest stops and restaurants along your driving route, so that you’ll never have to leave your dog unattended.
Traveling By Plane With Dogs
Unless you need to travel with a service dog, you should only bring your dog on a plane as a last resort. More things can go wrong during air travel than any other type of travel with your pup. The news is filled with upsetting reports of dogs who were lost, injured, or even killed as a result of airline mistakes.
What to do: First, check the airline’s pet travel restrictions before you plan your trip. Then ensure that you book a direct flight (no layovers) and that your dog can ride with you in the cabin. If riding in the cabin isn’t possible, make sure your dog’s crate is clearly labeled “Live Animal.”
Tell all of the attendants—in the air and at the gate—that you have a dog onboard. Make sure your dog’s microchip is up to date prior to your travel date and attach your contact information to your dog’s crate.
Some airlines refuse to fly dogs as cargo during the freezing winter or blazing summer. This is because they can be left out on the tarmac, and exposed to harmful temperatures leading to hypothermia, dehydration, or heatstroke. Airlines should have transparent protocols and assurances in place for handling fluctuations in temperature.
What to do: Check your airline’s seasonal embargo policies. Another tip? Avoid flying with your dog around and during the holidays. The holidays are busy times for airports and it is more likely that airlines are understaffed.
Big Dogs in Small Spaces
If you have a large dog, check with the individual airline to determine whether he can fly in-cabin. Most small dogs can be placed in a pet carrier under the seat in front of you. Crates that are too small can lead to anxiety in your dog, but crates that are too large may not be allowed on the plane.
Your dog should be able to stand up, turn around, and sit comfortably in his crate with ease.
What to do: Check your airline’s crate policy in advance to make sure you have the right size allowed in the cabin of the plane. Don’t let your trip be your dog’s first experience with the crate—leave it out for a few weeks so he becomes familiar with it.
Some dog breeds have a harder time than others when flying on planes. Brachycephalic breeds, known colloquially as short-nosed or flat-faced breeds, aren’t typically allowed to fly in the cargo section of commercial airplanes. These include Pugs, Shih Tzus, Bulldogs, Boston Terriers and more.
What to do: Check your airline’s breed-restriction policy before booking your flight.
If you’re traveling internationally, chances are you’re going to need to have a pet health certificate from a veterinarian. But some countries require international pets to undergo strict quarantine stays. For example, if you’re traveling to New Zealand (a rabies-free country) from America, your dog will need to have spent the past six months in America and will need to spend an additional 10 days in a quarantine facility upon arrival in New Zealand.
Dogs and owners that do not meticulously follow quarantine and vaccination rules for international travel may be denied entry into the destination country or the dog may face euthanization in extreme cases.
What to do: Unfortunately there’s no way around this one. Check with import laws in the country or territory you’re traveling to, and ensure you’ve filed all the paperwork correctly to make this process as stress-free as possible. In many cases, pets will need a certificate signed by a veterinarian for travel. Veterinarians can be a valuable resource in figuring out quarantine and other travel laws, but expect to pay for their time and expertise.
When You Get There
The “Great” Outdoors
Taking your dog on a hiking or camping trip is a wonderful idea. Just make sure you’re aware of everything that could await you and your four-legged pal. Your dog could experience new allergies from unfamiliar plant life, or a dangerous run-in with a wild animal. Even drinking unusual water could affect his stomach or harbor disease.
What to do: Keep an eye on your dog at all times and leash your dog when you are outside and in unfamiliar territory. Consider packing bottled water and a first aid kit.
In addition to the larger wildlife that may await your dog in a new place, smaller creatures can pose a big threat.
Certain types of ticks, fleas, and worms are more common at different times of the year (3). Whipworm and roundworm cases tend to peak in the winter, ticks are active whenever the temperature is above freezing, fleas are more prevalent when it’s warm, and hookworm peaks in the late summer and early autumn.
What to do: One way to keep parasites from ruining your trip is by keeping your dog on monthly parasite protection all year long. Broad-spectrum protection like Interceptor® Plus (milbemycin oxime/praziquantel) prevents heartworm disease and treats and controls hookworm, roundworm, whipworm, and tapeworm infections. To eliminate fleas and ticks, you can use a chewable like Credelio® (lotilaner) to prevent infestations and kill these pests.
See important safety information below for Interceptor® Plus and Credelio®.
If your dog is only used to interacting with you and your family, introducing him to new people outside of his comfort zone may be overwhelming. It’s great to socialize your dog—just make sure to do it gradually. Pay attention to little signs that might signal how your dog would behave in an unfamiliar place, surrounded by new people. How does he react to the mail carrier? Does he bark at other dogs?
What to do: Ease your dog into socialization months before your planned trip. Take him to a dog park or other pet-friendly, well-populated areas. Keep your eye on how he behaves around others and use positive reinforcement when your dog is interacting properly with pets and people. Consult with a certified dog trainer or behaviorist for the best tips on helping your dog adjust to new people and animals.
Infographic: Travel Dangers for Dogs
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Credelio kills adult fleas and is indicated for the treatment and prevention of flea infestations, treatment and control of tick infestations (lone star tick, American dog tick, black-legged tick, and brown dog tick) for one month in dogs and puppies 8 weeks and older and 4.4 pounds or greater.
Credelio Important Safety Information
Lotilaner is a member of the isoxazoline class of drugs. This class has been associated with neurologic adverse reactions including tremors, incoordination, and seizures. Seizures have been reported in dogs receiving this class of drugs, even in dogs without a history of seizures. Use with caution in dogs with a history of seizures or neurologic disorders. The safe use of Credelio in breeding, pregnant or lactating dogs has not been evaluated. The most frequently reported adverse reactions are weight loss, elevated blood urea nitrogen, increased urination, and diarrhea. For complete safety information, please see Credelio product label or ask your veterinarian.
Interceptor Plus Indications
Interceptor Plus prevents heartworm disease and treats and controls adult roundworm, hookworm, whipworm, and tapeworm infections in dogs and puppies 6 weeks or older and 2 pounds or greater.
Interceptor Plus Important Safety Information
Treatment with fewer than 6 monthly doses after the last exposure to mosquitoes may not provide complete heartworm prevention. Prior to administration of Interceptor Plus, dogs should be tested for existing heartworm infections. The safety of Interceptor Plus has not been evaluated in dogs used for breeding or in lactating females. The following adverse reactions have been reported in dogs after administration of milbemycin oxime or praziquantel: vomiting, diarrhea, decreased activity, incoordination, weight loss, convulsions, weakness, and salivation. For complete safety information, please see Interceptor Plus product label or ask your veterinarian.
Disclaimer: The author received compensation from Elanco US Inc., the maker of Interceptor Plus and Credelio, for her services in writing this article.
- Safe, Stress-Free Travel with Pets. College of Veterinary Medicine University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Retrieved from https://vetmed.illinois.edu/pet_column/stress-free-travel-with-pets/
- Estimated Vehicle Interior Air Temperature v. Elapsed Time. AVMA. Retrieved from https://www.avma.org/resources/pet-owners/petcare/estimated-vehicle-interior-air-temperature-v-elapsed-time
- Drake, J., Carey, T. Seasonality and changing prevalence of common canine gastrointestinal nematodes in the USA. Parasites Vectors 12, 430 (2019) doi:10.1186/s13071-019-3701-7
Credelio and Interceptor are trademarks of Elanco or its affiliates.
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