Winter is just around the corner and that brings with it freezing weather and holiday plans that often involve travel. Travelling with our pets anytime of the year can pose a unique set of problems but especially during the winter months a little extra planning is required. After all, frigid temperatures are not pleasant and can be downright dangerous, for both you and your pets, if not properly planned for.
Here are some simple winter travel tips to help ensure that you both reach your destination warmly and safely!
Make Sure Your Pet Is Fit to Travel
Before any travel plans are made make sure that your pet is healthy and up for making the trip. In some cases, it might be better for your pet to stay at home with a sitter, or even safely boarded, while you make the trip yourself. The anxiety and stress often surrounding travel can put your pet in a state of distress that can put a damper on your travel plans or even lead to a decrease in your pet’s overall well-being.
Pets that might not be suitable for traveling include:
If you are unsure if your pet is up for making a trip, consult your trusted veterinarian to see what will be best for your pet!
Before Your Trip
Before you jump in the car and begin your trip make sure that you have a clear planned idea of where you are going, how you will get there, and a strategy for any emergencies that can occur.
Contact Your Veterinarian
It is a good idea to discuss your travel plans with your veterinarian BEFORE you make your trip to make sure that your pet is up to date on all their required vaccinations and any preventive care. Depending on where you plan to travel and how you plan to get there (plane, train, or automobile?) Your pet might need a current health certificate that indicates they are healthy, parasite free, and up to date on their vaccinations before they are allowed to travel at all.
Research Where You Stay
Call any hotels you plan to stay at to ensure that they allow pets and whether they have any specific requirements. Some hotels allow pets but have strict weight limits, limitations on the number of animals allowed, or other restrictions- like not being able to leave them unattended in your room.
Even if you are staying with friends or family, it is a good idea to confirm that everyone there knows your pet is coming along with you, and any behavioral traits associated with your pet. Even the best-behaved pets can act out under stressful conditions so make certain that your pet has a safe, peaceful place that they feel comfortable in and that allows them to escape from the craziness around them.
Pack For Pet Safety
No matter what time of year it is, it is important to have updated identification information for your pets with accurate contact information when traveling. This can help you be reunited with your pet in the off chance you get separated or they become lost. Before you head out on your trip, it is a good idea to research and have the names and contact details for nearby emergency veterinary hospitals. You can ask your veterinarian for suggestions and for a printout of your pet’s updated medical records to bring with you in case you need to seek emergency care on your trip.
Ensure Your Car Is Pet-Friendly
Car travel with pets can easily become dangerous if the proper precautions are not taken. Unrestrained pets can become a distraction to the driver, while also posing a significant risk of severe injury in the event of an accident. Know what works best for your pet, be it a carrier, kennel, or secured harness, and help keep everyone safe on your travels.
It will also help your pet feel less scared or stressed by acclimating them prior to your trip. Try taking them on short drives and gradually increasing the time spent in the car. This way their first time in a harness or carrier is not during a multi-hour car trip and they have a better idea of what to expect. This will also help you know what to except out of your pet!
Make sure to pack a roadside emergency kit that includes safety products for both you and your pet!
Some pets may also experience motion sickness or need sedative medications to travel. Discuss with your veterinarian a few weeks prior to leaving to allow time to try these medications out before heading out on the road.
Keep Them Warm
During wintry weather it is important to remember that our pets are just as cold as we are and should be given an extra layer of warmth before leaving the house. This can include a pet sweater, which fits their size, an extra blanket or two, or even a heated or insulted pet bed. Keep in mind that some fabrics, such as knit, can snag, or get caught within animal safety harnesses, so make sure you choose something that will allow your pet to move around and relax safely and comfortably.
Do Not Forget The Essentials
It is always a good idea to pack extra pet food and water, and do not forget their bowls either! Having extra food and water is especially important in unplanned delays, such as being stuck in traffic, car trouble, or running into dangerous weather. Extra blankets and towels can come in handy too!
If you plan to bring your pet’s favorite toys, it is best to secure them, so they do not get lost or end up flying around the car.
Do not forget to include any medications your pet may be on regularly or might need for the trip itself. Pack extra in case you end up expanding your trip or need to stay away longer than originally planned.
During Your Trip
Make Lots Of Stops
While driving it is a good idea to stop every few hours so you, and your pet, can take potty breaks and get a chance to stretch their legs. No one likes being cramped in a car (or kennel) for too long and allowing time for necessary stops will give you both time to move around as needed. When planning your trip, be sure to incorporate these extra stops into your overall travel time so you do not feel stressed or rushed and can better enjoy your trip together.
During these pit stops, check the sidewalks, parking lots, and rest areas for ice-melting products or other hazardous debris that can cause harm to your pet.
Never leave your pet unattended at any type of pit stop as your pet could easily run off and get lost or even stolen.
Keep Your Stops Timely
Be aware of how long you spend out in the cold with your pet. Our pets can suffer from frostbite or hypothermia, which can occur when your pet is exposed to cold temperatures for too long or is not able to warm themselves back up after being outside.
At risk areas for frostbite can include ears, nose, paws, or tip of tail. Frostbite can initially turn skin a reddish color and then eventually turn gray. To treat possible frostbite, contact your veterinarian immediately, but you can start by giving them a warm bath (warm, not too hot!) and wrap them in warm towels. Try not to rub an area that has frostbite as this can cause increased irritation.
Signs of hypothermia can include paleness of skin and strong shivering that can be followed by listlessness to the point of lethargy. If you see your pet exhibiting these symptoms, bring them inside immediately and contact your veterinarian right away.
Once you arrive at your destination, provide a comfortable and quiet environment for your pet. They may need time to recover from the stress of the trip and the anxiety of being at a new location. Create a safe space by providing some comforts from home, blanket, pillow, toy, whatever makes them feel safe and calm! If you must leave them alone, make sure they are secured properly, and that the area has been cleared of anything that can cause them any harm.
Prepare, plan, but most of all HAVE FUN!