Travelling with pets: how to make sure your furry friends stay safe

Travelling with your pet? Here's how to make sure it's a smooth trip. Getty Images

Travelling with pets can be an enriching experience, but if not done right, it can be stressful for owners and animals alike.

That’s why the Canadian Animal Health Institute (CAHI) released tips on how pet owners can bring their furry friends along on trips, while making sure they’re safe and comfortable.

“You need to familiarize yourself with the requirements to allow your pet entry to your destination,” the organization said in a press release.

It added that there are several different factors to consider — health checkups before travel, comfort and safety during travel, and what mode of transportation to take.

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Road trips

Brandon James, an inspector with the Ontario SPCA, said the most important thing to remember on road trips is that you can’t leave your pet alone in a vehicle.

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He added that while on road trips, animals should be properly secured. Most animals — reptiles, rabbits, birds and cats — should be kept in a carrier or cage that still allows them to move around.

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For dogs, James said it largely depends on their behaviour. If smaller canines are very active and will move around a lot, it’s best to keep them in a cage. Larger dogs should wear safety harnesses.

“If something were to happen, you have to make sure your animal is not going to fly around,” he said.

Buses, trains, flights

It’s smart to contact the transportation company ahead of time to ask about their rules surrounding animals, the CAHI said.

“Confirm where your pet will be kept; you may not be able to keep your pet with you.”

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It’s also important to ask about how your pet will access food, water and take bathroom breaks.

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James says taking pets on public transportation or flights is a personal decision that depends on the pet’s behaviour. For example, an elderly dog may not be comfortable on long flights.

Visit the vet before travelling

Getting pets checked by a veterinarian before travel is imperative, James says. Vets have information on which vaccines pets need in different countries, so they won’t be turned away at customs.

They can also advise on whether animals are healthy enough to travel, and offer specific tips for each pet.

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In some cases, veterinarians may suggest semi-sedation — but this should be done with caution and only for serious reasons, James said.

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Semi-sedation means pets will be calm and more likely to sleep during travel, but it has health risks. It should only be considered if pets have severe anxiety or motion sickness.

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