Before embarking on any trip with your pet, visit your veterinarian. Your pet isn’t young any more, and it may not be in his or her best interests to travel with you. Even if your pet is in sound physical shape, he or she may not want to travel. It may be safer and less stressful for your pet to stay with a trusted pet sitter while you’re away.
No matter how you travel, your pet should have a carrier in which he or she should be able to stand up, turn around, and lie down comfortably. Put extra effort into making sure the carrier is a cozy place for your pet to spend an extended period of time. The addition of a puppy training pad – even if your pet is not a puppy – may make cleanup easier and quicker in the event of an “accident”. An enclosed space such as a private wheelchair-accessible bathroom will allow you to clean the carrier while permitting your pet to roam.
If you’re traveling by air, book a direct, nonstop flight and avoid traveling on statutory holidays or weekends whenever possible. Try to avoid travel during excessively hot or cold periods. Morning or evening flights are preferable during the summer. Note that airlines reserve the right to embargo pet travel during extreme conditions.
Tell the airline that you’re traveling with a pet at the time you make your reservation, as not all airlines permit pets.
Call the airline again 24-48 hours before your intended departure to confirm the reservation for you and your pet, to be sure that your pet will be allowed to travel with you. Confirm the check-in procedure for your pet and allow extra time to do so. You may be asked to check your pet in at a different location.
Ask the airline if you can arrange to have your pet in the main cabin instead of being stowed in the cargo bay. There may be weight or size restrictions on pets allowed in the cabin as the carrier must fit under the passenger seat. Remember to bring food and water for your pet, regardless of where they will be in the aircraft, and have your pet wear a collar or harness with proper identification. Your pet may need to be removed from the carrier during security screenings, and he or she must be restrained during that time.
Get a health certificate from the veterinarian before travel. The airline may request that this be completed within 7-10 days of your departure.
If you’re traveling by car, make sure your pet is restrained. While it’s possible to allow your pet to roam free in the vehicle, it’s safest for everyone to keep him or her in a carrier or restraint system. Your pet should be buckled up for his or her safety!
Break often to give your pet water, food and some time outside the carrier and vehicle. Your senior pet may need more frequent breaks than a younger adult animal. Keep him or her leashed during rest stops. Bring several baggies to clean up your pet’s droppings and, if your pet is a cat, don’t forget to bring kitty litter, especially if he or she is not accustomed to taking care of business outdoors.
NEVER leave your pet unattended in the vehicle! In summer weather, vehicles can get too hot for your pet in just a handful of minutes. Dogs and cats can’t sweat to cool off – they release heat through their mouth, nose and footpads. They can only pant to release heat quickly, and that’s not quick enough to counter the heat of a closed car. If your pet must remain in the vehicle for a short time, roll the windows down enough to let plenty of air through but not enough to allow your pet to escape, and return quickly from your errand. If you’re traveling with another human companion, one of you should stay with your pet.
The following tips are helpful for settling any pet in an unfamiliar location, but should be prioritized for senior pets to reduce stress.
Give your pet a tour of your vacation accommodations. Allow plenty of time for him or her to familiarize themselves with your temporary home. Show your pet where the food and water will be, and the litter area if appropriate. Offer plenty of reassurance while they are getting accustomed to their surroundings.
Maintain your home routine. Feed your pet at the same times you would normally would at home, with the same food. It may even be helpful to bring water from home. If your pet goes for a walk at a certain time every day, ensure that you walk him or her at the same time each day for approximately the same distance while on vacation.
Be sensitive to your pet’s physical limitations. If your pet’s hearing or sight is declining with age, he or she may become easily confused or alarmed in unfamiliar places. Talk to and touch your pet often to reassure them. Consider your pet’s limitations when choosing a vacation destination – your pet may fare better in a quiet locale or with calm activities.
Bring your pet’s sleep and play accessories. Not only will your pet be most comfortable in his or her own bed, but it will look and smell like home. Toys or a favorite item to lounge on will help make your vacation accommodations more homey, too.
As long as traveling is an enjoyable experience for your pet and he or she is fit for it, the companionship of your elderly friend can be a memorable vacation experience.