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Your Happy Pet: Tips for traveling with pets by car

Original Publication Date: December 23, 2013
By C. Sue Furman, Ph.D.

Many families wish to take their four-legged family members along when they travel. A pet can add great joy to a journey, but there are several things to consider before you start your trip.

Many pet parents do not realize that dogs and cats who cross state borders are required by the Department of Agriculture to meet certain entry requirements to prevent the spread of animal diseases across state lines.

So it is important that your pet be thoroughly checked by your veterinarian before travel.

Every state has different requirements for furry friends crossing its borders, but most require a recent health certificate from a veterinarian and a certificate stating that the pet is current on vaccinations, such as rabies. Fines can reach $700 or more if you cannot produce the necessary documents upon request.

It is also important that your pet have proper identification in case you become separated. The majority of lost pets that have happy reunions with their humans have tags, tattoos or microchips that allow rescuers to contact the owners.

Tags on the collar are helpful but are not permanent. A collar can easily be lost. Tattoos and microchips are permanent. Insertion of a microchip by a veterinarian is relatively quick and usually costs about $45.

Each chip has a unique identification number that can be scanned and matched to the registered owner. Proper identification is a small price to pay for a happy reunion if your pet is ever lost.

Travel by car can be a pleasant experience for you and your pet if you plan in advance. Get your dog used to the car long before the trip by taking short rides or just sitting with him in the car in the driveway.

A crate can keep a small to medium dog safe in the car and can also keep him from getting into trouble in a hotel room or at your host's home. If you are traveling with an Irish wolfhound or a Great Dane, he will probably get the back seat of the car.

Just a few more tips.

Do not let your dog ride with his head sticking out of an open window as this can lead to eye injuries.

Stop frequently for exercise and potty breaks. Be sure to clean up after your dog.

Never leave your pet in a closed car. Heat levels can soar quickly in summer and can drop to frostbite levels in the winter.

Plan your journey in advance. Check a computer search engine to find pet-friendly motels and hotels on your route and at your destination. Make reservations and include your pet as a member of your traveling party to avoid being turned away upon arrival. Some motels allow dogs but have size restrictions, so include the breed and size of your dog with your reservation.

With a little planning, you can have an enjoyable trip with your whole family, including your furry friend.

Sue Furman, Ph.D., has published two books and a DVD on canine massage and teaches classes in pet massage, acupressure, first aid and CPR. See her schedule and submit questions at