Traveling with Your Dog

posted: 05/15/12
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Anne-Marie Weber/Corbis |

Before departure on a long trip, you should confirm that your intended accommodations permit pets and determine whether any special rules or fees apply. Ten days beforehand, visit your veterinarian for a canine physical, including scheduled inoculations, and to obtain state-required rabies and health certificates. If you are planning international travel with your pet, contact the appropriate consulate for necessary documentation. When leaving the United States for a destination in Canada or Mexico, you'll only need rabies and health certificates. Some countries (although not Canada or Mexico) and even some states (Hawaii, for example) may require quarantine periods for visiting dogs, which could cause you to rethink your plans.

In addition to traveling papers, your dog needs food, bowls, blankets, leashes, a pooper-scooper and plastic bags, and any medication he may be taking. To avoid unpleasantness of traveling with a dog with diarrhea, you can bring some of your own water from home and make the switch over to local water a gradual one. Don't neglect your dog's grooming while you're on the road; bring along any necessary grooming supplies. Your dog's favorite toys and blanket or pillow will be familiar and comforting to him. Make sure your dog is wearing a flat collar (and never a choke collar) with identification tags listing your home address, a neighbor's phone number and a number at your destination. In the event that he gets lost, bring along a good photo. And it never hurts to have a canine first-aid kit with you.

Riding with his head out the window leaves a dog's sensitive nose, ears and eyes unprotected from flying objects. Dogs should ride in a crate, attached with a harness or, alternatively, lying down on the back seat. Otherwise, they might interfere with the driver and, in the event of an accident or even a quick stop, risk being injured or even thrown from the car.

Dog Harnesses

With a dog harness, a dog is able to enjoy the view out the window without interfering with the driver or being a danger to himself or others in case of an accident. Riding in the front seat poses a potential danger to your dog if you have a passenger-side air bag in your vehicle. In that case, he should be harnessed in the back.

Heatstroke occurs when body temperature suddenly rises to dangerous levels. It poses a particular danger to dogs, which rely on panting to keep cool. (Only the canine's paw pads have sweat glands.) Overweight, elderly and ill dogs are most at risk. Parked cars and other confined spaces with little ventilation represent danger. In humid, 75 degrees F (24 degrees C) weather, a car parked in the shade with partly open windows reaches 120 degrees F (49 degrees C) in just a half-hour and the dog inside suffers. As his temperature rises, he becomes weak and uncoordinated; shock, coma and then death may follow. If your dog is a victim of heatstroke, soak him in cool (not cold) water and rush him to a vet.

Heatstroke can be avoided by keeping your dog in a cool, ventilated space with plenty of water. In really hot weather, avoid car trips if possible, unless the vehicle is equipped with air conditioning. Sun blinds attached to the car windows can also help keep your dog cool.

Moving has its own special stresses for dogs, so your pet needs extra attention and reassurance during this time. Keep your dog in a safe spot, out of the action, on moving day. Once in the new home, a quick return to familiar routines and the swift reappearance of well-known toys and bedding should reassure your dog that he is home.

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