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Tips for a Safe Summer Vacation With Your Dog

July 26, 2014

By Justine Lee, DVM, with additional writing by Martha Barnette and Melanie Mannarino
Photo by Garden State Hiker/flickr

Planning to take your pet with you during your summer travels? There are a few things you should know, first. Cats are generally bad travelers, so it’s best to leave them with a sitter or board them at a kennel. But if you have a pup, here’s how to prep for a trip:

Related: 21 Ways to Keep Your Pets Safe All Summer


See your vet.
If you are traveling across state lines or out of the country, you’ll need a health certificate dated within 10 to 30 days of travel.

Research emergency vets.
Find several veterinarians at your destination or along your route.

Related: 3 Pet Symptoms You Should Never Ignore


Keep your dog in the back. Driving with her in the front is unsafe—and illegal in some places.

Coordinate rest stops. Each time you pull over for a bathroom or water break, be sure to extend the same courtesy to your dog.

Consider your pet’s comfort. If it’s hot, park in the shade and leave water out and the AC running—cars can warm up rapidly in hot temperatures, resulting in fatal heatstroke. Likewise, in extremely cold temps, keep the heater turned up to prevent your pooch from freezing.

Related: 5 High-Tech Ways to Keep Your Pets Entertained

In a minivan, SUV, or station wagon: A crate is a smart choice, says Christie Hyde, automotive/driver safety spokesperson for AAA National. Even a divider between the backseat and trunk/cargo area isn’t enough to protect your pet in a crash. Make sure the crate is large enough for her to stand, sit, lie down, and turn around—but not so large that she can pace. Place the crate in the back, facing forward (to prevent car sickness). Pick a hard crate for safety and unclip her leash to prevent dangerous tangling.
In a sedan or sporty two-door model: A crate might not fit in the backseat. A seatbelt harness, available at pet stores for about $20, will keep her secure. Look for one with a broad front, lots of padding, sturdy metal hardware, and wide straps that are made of a seatbeltlike material.

How to Take Your Dog on a Road Trip


Investigate airline regulations. Each carrier has its own set of policies—make sure you know the requirements weeks in advance so that you have adequate time to prepare.

Carry on your small breed. Some airlines will allow you to take little dogs or cats on board in a soft-sided carrier. The fee is usually $100 each way, and your pet must stay in the carrier under the seat at all times.

Related: What Your Dog’s Breed Says About You

Fly direct if possible. And choose early morning or late-evening flights in the summer to avoid peak heat hours.

Feed your pet 3 to 4 hours before the flight and make sure he relieves himself.
Some owners freeze water in a dish that attaches inside the crate so their pet can lick it when thirsty.

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