What You Need to Know When Traveling with Pets

As we slowly return to a more “normal” existence after the past few years of caution and uncertainty, many Americans are eager to resume travel. While planning your next trip, don’t forget to include your pets in the planning process. If you intend to take your pets along, there are many factors that you will want to consider to ensure that you all have a safe and enjoyable vacation.

No matter your destination, proper identification and a microchip are a must! Even the best-behaved travel companion has the potential to escape, bolt, or wander in times of stress or in new situations. I.D. tags with your current contact information can help you be reunited very quickly should your pet stray. Microchips are also an excellent way to ensure that your pet can be returned to you if lost, even if their collar is removed. Microchips are relatively inexpensive and can be quickly applied by a veterinary professional. The chip itself is about the size of a grain of rice and is injected just under the skin, often during spay or neuter procedures since the pet is anesthetized. The chip does NOT provide GPS tracking, but can be scanned with a device to retrieve a unique number that can be used to look up the owner’s information in a database. That being said, it is very important to ensure that your contact information is kept up to date with the microchip company so that you can be contacted quickly should your pet be lost.

Microchipped pets have a greater chance of being returned to their owner if lost.

Will you be flying or driving? Each mode of transport has its own unique considerations. If you plan to drive, ensure that your pet is properly restrained. For cats, that means confined to a carrier so that they cannot escape when the door is opened or distract you while driving. Dogs may be kept in a comfortable carrier or crate or restrained with pet-specific seatbelt that helps keep your dog secure. If your pet is not used to travelling in a crate or carrier, begin training as early as possible, using treats and rewards to create a positive association. Go for short rides somewhere fun so that your pet associates the car with an enjoyable experience. Does your pet stress easily or get carsick? Discuss these issues with your veterinarian well in advance so that you can obtain the proper calming or anti-motion sickness medications, if needed.

To prevent dangerous distractions and protect your pet in the event of an accident, use an appropriate carrier, crate, or pet-specific seat belt.

If you are flying, especially to other states or countries, it is very important to call the airline for specific travel requirements. Many states and countries require a veterinarian-authorized health certificate in order to enter, and some countries (and Hawaii) even require a quarantine period upon arrival. Ask the airline if there are any restrictions on the size or type of animal that can travel in the cabin, and what types of vaccines, carriers, and labeling are required. If you are traveling out of the country, contact the destination country’s Embassy to find out exactly what their requirements are. Also keep in mind that not all veterinarians offer health certificates for travel, and often the certificate must be obtained within a certain time frame of the date of travel. Plan early and avoid a vacation disaster!

As always, your pets should be current on appropriate vaccines, heartworm, and flea and tick prevention. Some geographical regions have a much higher prevalence of heartworm disease, ticks, or specific diseases. Warm, moist climates allow mosquitos and ticks to proliferate year-round, as well as the bacteria that causes Leptospirosis in both pets and humans. Fortunately, there are preventatives and vaccinations to prevent many common pet parasites and diseases. Just ask your vet!

Heartworm disease is transmitted by mosquitos, but fortunately monthly preventatives greatly reduce your pet’s risk of contracting heartworm and other parasites.

Keep in mind that not everyone is as welcoming towards our fur families as we would hope. If you are staying with friends or family, be sure to discuss your plans to bring your pet and get prior consent from the homeowner and/or landlord. Are you allowed to have pets in this residence, and are the hosts comfortable with this? Are there other pets in the household that should be considered? If you are staying at a hotel or Airbnb, ensure that pets are permitted and find out what the requirements and pet fees are prior to booking.

Is your hotel pet-friendly? Do they require a vaccine record, or are there restrictions or fees for pets? Know before you go!

Always bring a copy of your pet’s medical and vaccine records and a list of emergency vets along your route and/or at your final destination. If your furry friend requires daily medication, have enough on hand for the duration of your trip, plus a few extra days in case you are delayed. There are many factors to be weighed when travelling with animals, and in some cases it is best for the pet and the owner to consider utilizing a pet sitter or boarding facility to care for pets while you travel. Look to your veterinarian for guidance on travelling with your pet, and, one more time, be sure to plan ahead! 

To learn more about the veterinary services offered at SPCA Tampa Bay Veterinary Center, visit spcatampabay.org/veterinary-center or call 727-220-1770 to schedule an appointment.


Blog crafted by Amanda Corzatt, M.A. Biology and Digital Marketing Creator at SPCA Tampa Bay.