Taking a trip with your dog can be a nice experience — but it can also pose some challenges.
Obviously there are special needs and requirements when on the road with your pet, but there are preparations you can make before you go that can make things more pleasant.
Now, we’re talking today primarily about dogs. Some cats travel well, but most don’t. It’s best to leave Tabby at home when going on vacation but if he or she must be in the car with you, pretty much what follows applies to felines as well as mutts.
First off, make sure your pet doesn’t get car sick. Go for some short drives before you hit the road seriously.
“If your dog settles down, you have no issue,” said Dr. Angela Whelan of Spencer Creek Animal Hospital in Dundas. “But if he’s anxious from motion sickness, there are medications available.”
Once the issue of motion sickness is settled, prepare a place in the vehicle for the pet (cats should be in a cage), covering the seat with a blanket or large towel. Our 7-month-old Airedale Terrier, Abby, would be considered a large dog and she basically took up the entire back seat of the car.
It’s not wise to have the dog, especially smaller breeds, sitting in the driver’s lap. Driving is challenging enough without having an animal slobbering in your face.
Travelling for a few hours with your dog to a cottage, or on day trips, should not be a problem. But overnight stays are another matter.
Check that your accommodation will allow pets and be prepared to pay an extra fee to have the animal in the room with you. If, despite your best efforts, your dog barks in strange surroundings, it’s better to leave it in a boarding kennel at home. In any event, try to keep it as quiet as possible.
Thousands of snowbirds head south each fall and many take their pets with them. At border crossings into the United States — and this applies for weekend and afternoon trips as well as for longer stays — you will be asked for an up-to-date rabies vaccination certificate.
According to U.S. Customs and Border Protection, vaccination papers — signed by a licensed veterinarian — must show the dog as being vaccinated at least 30 days before entry into the United States.
The agency also warns that some breeds are subject to restrictions.
While customs officers may allow your dog to cross, it would still be prudent to check with authorities at your final destination. A few states, such as Ohio, Texas, and Utah, have adopted state-wide breed-restriction legislation but, for the most part, dog restrictions and bans are mandated at the municipal level.
For example, a pit bull-type breed could be allowed in one area of a state, but not another. There are websites such as www.dogster.com that lists breeds which could be affected, but the best rule of thumb is to do your homework for your specific situation.
Now, returning to the more mundane, you might have any open dog-food cans or containers confiscated at the border so it’s best to take only unopened pet food across with you. And you can’t take any lamp/sheep/goat meat of any kind into the United States.
When crossing, it’s best to present your dog’s documents when you offer up your own passport. It’s also wise to keep your dog restrained during this time, as an animal jumping around or trying to lick (or nip) the border inspector may not bode well.
And make sure the back-seat windows are down so the officer can see the animal.
When returning to Canada, the Canadian Food and Inspection Agency requires basically the same documentation, not only to show that your dog is healthy but to prove that you didn’t buy it in the United States.
Also when returning home, only 20 kilograms of dog food is allowed so don’t load up the trunk with cheaper American food.
While the Canadian and U.S. governments require the rabies documentation, it’s also a good idea to have a microchip implanted. You pet can run away just as easily in Florida as it can at home and a chip can help an animal control officer or vet track you down.
If you plan an extended stay in the United States, Spencer Creek’s Dr. Whelan advises that you do some research and make contact with a local veterinarian.
“There are all kinds of parasites that are foreign to us here,” she said. “Our injections take care of most of the local parasites, but there are some in the southern U.S. that are totally unfamiliar.”
Whelan also suggested that, when travelling with a dog, you give it bottled water rather than water taken from a local tap.
“Give them bottled water,” she said. “Sometimes the (water) change is too great and they will end up with Montezuma’s revenge.”
When on a trip, treat your dog as you would yourself. Make sure all two- and four-legged riders get out every two hours or so to take a break, stretch their legs, and do their business.
If you’re concerned about leaving the dog in the heat of the car while you’re off having a bite, plan to make your pit stops a family affair: pack a lunch and eat it at a rest stop table while your dog chows down beside you.
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