Keep the family pet happy and healthy while on vacation

June 23, 2010

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Summer is a popular time for family vacations, but it also can be a stressful time for family pets.

Families taking their cats or dogs with them on vacation should try to keep a normal schedule to reduce stress for the animal, said Lorraine Corriveau, a wellness veterinarian at Purdue University's School of Veterinary Medicine.

It's also important to make sure your pet is healthy enough for travel, Corriveau said. Make sure they are up to date on all flea, tick and heartworm prevention and vaccinations. It's also important to be aware of any health risks in the area where you're traveling.

Be sure the pet is wearing a collar with an up-to-date rabies tag, name, address and phone number and consider adding temporary tags with the address and phone number of the final destination or a cell phone number.

Before leaving, feed the pet about one-third of a usual meal and feed the remainder upon arrival.

Here are a few other tips from Corriveau to consider when traveling with a pet:

* Use tranquilizers only if the pet has a tendency to vocalize excessively, drool or salivate, vomit, defecate or urinate in the car. For mild symptoms, Benadryl, at a dose of 1 mg per pound, can relax pets, but check with a veterinarian first to make sure it is safe for your pet.

* Make sure the pet does not ride unrestrained in the car - use either a seat belt or secure carrier for travel. The carrier should be large enough for the animal to stand up, turn around and lie down comfortably, and it should be leak-proof, well-ventilated, free of protruding objects and have a door that latches securely.

* Do not have the pet wear a choke or pinch collar while traveling as these can get caught on objects and result in serious injury.

* Take a break every three hours to allow your pet to exercise, relieve itself and get a drink of water.

* Take the pet for a series of shorter trips to make sure it is used to traveling in a car.

* Consider a microchip implant as a means of permanent identification.

* Bring an extra leash, preferably a slip-loop leash.

* Research pet-friendly parks and hotels.

* Remember that health certificates are required if crossing the Mexican or Canadian borders.

If owners decide not to take the pet on vacation, they should find a kennel or pet sitter for their time away.

An important part of finding a suitable kennel is to make an appointment to see the facilities and ask questions. It's good to know where the pet will be staying, how often it will be taken outside, what vaccinations are required, what health records must be provided and whether there is a veterinarian on staff, Corriveau said.

If a friend or family member will be looking after the pet, there are a few options. They can either stay at the house with the pet, visit the pet a couple of times a day or have the pet stay with them. Keeping the pet in its own environment will help to reduce stress, Corriveau said.

If the pet sitter chooses to visit the animal a couple of times throughout the day, they should stay at least 30 minutes for a walk or playtime, she said.

For families who have trouble finding a pet sitter, ask around at the local veterinary clinic. Sometimes veterinary technicians or assistants also do pet sitting or have a good idea of where to find sitters.

"There are more pet sitting options out there than what people think are available," Corriveau said.

Writer: Julie Preble, 765-496-3006, jmpreble@purdue.edu

Source: Lorraine Corriveau, 765-494-7789, corrivea@purdue.edu