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Tips for traveling with your pet

Summertime, when the living is easy and families go on vacation. And for many people, family includes their pets.

While having your entire family, four-legged ones included, along can make a vacation more enjoyable, it also is likely to run up your holiday costs.

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Travel costs for your pet begin before your trip even starts. Take your animal to the veterinarian pre-departure. Your vet can make sure your pet is up to travel or whether a tranquilizer is a good idea to make Felix or Fido more comfortable.

Your vet also can let you know if special medications are required. For example, if you live in an area without heartworm or Lyme disease, but you plan to visit a region where these diseases are prevalent, you'll want to put your pet on preventative medicine. And if your pet is already on special medications, you'll want to pick up enough for the trip's duration.

In addition, if your pet is traveling with you by car to Canada or Mexico or is flying anywhere by plane, you'll need proof of vaccinations, including rabies. (Trips abroad require a whole different set of considerations, primary among them the potentially long quarantine periods required by some countries.)

On the road
Once your pet has been cleared to accompany you on vacation, it's time to look at how you plan to travel and what that means to your animal.

Despite high gasoline prices, road trips are still a favored way for many families to vacation. Dogs tend to have the most fun out on the road, but a cat who's used to a car also can be a fine automobile traveling companion.

In general, your pet needs to be restrained while in the vehicle. Sure, dogs love to stick their heads out windows, but debris can fly into their mouths, eyes and ears, so it's best to keep the animal fully inside the auto. Once inside the vehicle, a pet needs to be secured or the animal can become a projectile in the event of an accident, presenting a danger not only to the pet but also to human passengers. Some states, according to American Animal Hospital Association, have enacted laws that require pets to be restrained while in a moving vehicle.

The best way to restrain your pet is to have it ride in a crate, one that's large enough for your pet to stand, turn and lie down. Make sure it has a leak-proof bottom covered with absorbent material, as well as ventilation on opposing sides. Once in the auto, securely fasten the container so that it won't slide around if you hit the brakes hard. If you don't have a carrying crate, your first pre-vacation stop is the pet store to buy an appropriate one.

If your pet is a seasoned auto traveler, you might be able to go with a harness instead of a crate. Pet stores sell various harnesses that can be used in conjunction with your car's seats. Some extend seat belts; others are separate restraints that work like seat belts.

Be sure to bring your pet's favorite toy and bedding to help him feel at home on the road. Your pet's other "luggage" should include enough food for the trip, a jug of water, a picture of your pet or other form of identification (tags, tattoo, microchip), a sturdy leash or harness and collar and plenty of pick-up bags so you can clean up after your pet relieves himself. Don't forget towels for quick mop-ups if your animal gets muddy or wet, and some sheets to cover beds in motels; these will remind your dog of home and will protect motel furniture.

Flying Fido or Felix
If you're planning to fly, check with your airline about its pet travel policies before you buy your tickets. Each carrier has its own rules, but in general most charge less for smaller pets that can ride in a carrier that fits under your airline seat.

It will cost you more if you have to ship your large animal as cargo. The exact price for cargo shipping depends on how large your dog is. The owner of one large breed dog, for example, shelled out $600 to fly the pet, one way, from Pittsburgh to Montana.

-- Posted: April 26, 2005




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