Summer Travel With Pets


Summer vacation and travel can be a lot of fun for the family. But for pet owners planning a trip, it can sometimes be difficult to decide what to do with the family pets. This week, we are focusing our blog around those trips when the pets get to come!

Where Can I Travel With My Pet?

These days, it’s pretty easy to find locations that have at least some pet friendly lodging. Whether it’s the beach, the lake, the mountains, or visiting family and friends, you may be able to find a way to include your pet in the fun.

Are You Traveling Outside of North Carolina?

Other states may have requirements for animals entering the state (even for a brief visit). Some may require a current, valid health certificate from a USDA accredited veterinarian, while others may not. Certain vaccinations and parasite testing may also be required. Check the AVMA’s overview of health certificates and the AVMA’s specific state importation requirements for additional information.

Are you Traveling Out of the Country?

International travel with pets can be more complicated. Health certificates, vaccinations, intestinal parasite control, and disease testing are some things that may be required. Some requirements may take months of pre-planning – so do your research early! Visit the USDA APHIS International Pet Travel Website for more specific information on destination country rules and guidelines.

Where to Stay?

  • Are you staying in a hotel or some type of rental unit? Make sure you understand weight limits, number of pet limits, and species or breed restrictions.
  • Perhaps a friend or family member has opened their home to you for the trip. Do they have pets? How do their pets get along with others? Investigating these questions prior to finalizing trip plans will help you make the best decisions about where to stay.

Don’t Forget the Prevention!

  • Be sure vaccines are up-to-date so that your pet is protected against the diseases for which we can vaccinate. In addition to the core vaccines (distemper/parvo combination vaccine for dogs, feline distemper combination vaccine for cats, and rabies vaccine for dogs and cats), some non-core vaccines might need to be added. Dogs who will be around other dogs, or in areas where other dogs have visited, should also receive the Bordetella (kennel cough) vaccine. With the recent upswing in canine influenza cases in the Southeast, you may want to talk with our doctors about whether the canine influenza vaccine is right for your dog. If your dog will be in areas of high tick prevalence, the Lyme vaccine may be something to consider. For dogs who will be hiking, camping, swimming, or in areas where wildlife roam, the Leptospirosis vaccine is an important consideration.
  • Don’t forget the combination monthly heartworm and intestinal parasite protection! Mosquitoes, which transmit heartworm disease, are out in full force during the summer especially. And, you never know when your pet might encounter a new environment that is contaminated with intestinal parasite eggs like roundworms, hookworms, and whipworms.
  • Flea and tick prevention is critical. When you stay in a location that is pet friendly, that means that other pets have come through there as well. External parasites could easily be lurking, waiting for the next pet traveling through.


Car Safety:

  • Avoid Heat Stroke: When traveling in a car, it may be more tempting to leave your pet in the car “briefly” to stop for gas or food. However, you should never leave your pet alone unattended in a car, especially on a warm summer day. If your pet will be traveling in the car, be sure you have a plan to always keep your pet cool and supervised.
  • Keep Pets Confined: Seatbelts or carriers can be used to help pets feel more secure, keep them safer in the event of an accident, and keep them from becoming a distraction in the car.
  • Minimize Anxiety:
    • Many pets do well riding in cars, but some can become anxious. Before the trip, take some time to desensitize your pet by slowly building him or her up to longer car rides. You can start by taking your pet out to the car and putting him or her in the car. If he or she is calm, use praise and offer a reward. Then, let your pet get out of the car and go back inside the house. From there, slowly work up to taking short car trips, and then longer car trips. Always praise your dog for calm behavior and do your best to ignore the anxious behavior.
    • Providing pets with distractions during the car ride may help lessen anxiety. Use a favorite toy or a Kong toy filled with a treat to help take their mind off being in the car.
    • Some pets benefit from the calming effect of a synthetic pheromone. Products like Feliway (for cats) and Adaptil (for dogs) work to calm pets by mimicking species-specific calming pheromones.
    • Consider speaking with one of our veterinarians if the anxiety is severe, as additional behavioral modification techniques and/or medications may be helpful in these situations.
  • Prevent carsickness: Pets may vomit on car rides because of anxiety, or from the motion of the car. We encourage you to talk with one of our veterinarians about ways to help if motion sickness is the cause (possibly through medications).

Outdoor Safety:

  • When pets are taken out of their normal environments, they may be more easily confused or frightened. Keep them leashed at all times outdoors so they cannot run off and get lost or injured.
  • The same rules of heat safety apply whether you are home or traveling. Animals need to be kept cool and comfortable, with access to plenty of fresh water.

Poison Safety:

  • Depending on where you will be staying, also keep in mind there may be new pet hazards for you to avoid. For example, if you are staying with a friend or family member, their house may not be as ‘pet proof’ as yours. Keep a close eye on your pet, and also inspect the areas your pet will have access to and remove any potential hazards (cleaning supplies, pest baits, etc.)
  • While you might know what human foods your pet cannot ingest, other people may not realize the toxic potential of certain food items. Again, close supervision is key, but also let everyone know your pet should not receive human foods.
  • Learn more about poison prevention here.

If you have questions or need help understanding what your pet might need for safe travel, give us a call today!

Author: Dr. C. Noureddine, DVM, MS