Traveling? Your pet needs prep

This little guy is ready to travel.
This little guy is ready to travel. Keynoter

With the busy season ending in the Keys as winter visitors head back north, many of us are thinking of traveling, whether to visit our families or to go on an adventure. When you have pets coming along, it takes just a little more advanced planning. Once you are on the road, things can get complicated, so take the time to think ahead.

Make sure your pet is up to date on vaccinations and have a copy of the vaccine history in your traveling files. Campsites, airlines — all have rules about vaccinations, especially rabies. If you lost that darn rabies tag, swing by the veterinary office to replace it.

When traveling within the United States, it helps to know roughly in which direction you are headed. If going up the east coast, you may want to consult with your veterinarian about tick prevention options and Lyme’s disease. Keep your pets on heartworm prevention during travel, as heartworm disease is becoming endemic throughout the U.S., even in Alaska in the summer months.

Remember, mosquitoes are pretty much everywhere nowadays. And have flea prevention on hand. When staying in some of the motels along the way, you’d be surprised (or not) at what can catch a ride on your pets.

If your pet is on medications, speak with your veterinarian about getting a large-enough quantity to last for the duration of the trip, and a few weeks past that, just in case. If your pet is on a special diet, consider calling ahead to other veterinary offices to see if they carry the brand or could order it for you while you are there. Changing a diet while on the road can create more problems than you need, with an upset tummy for your travel companion and finding a vet to treat it.

Consider how well your pet likes to travel. Fluffy may love the destination, but the way there and back — well, maybe not so much. Pets do get motion sickness, and one bad experience feeds the next. Speak with you veterinarian about the best options for your pet. You may need more than Benadryl.

When you are flying with a pet, airlines frown upon animals being heavily sedated. If something should happen, especially while your pet is in cargo, the airline will not take any responsibility if your pet was medicated. Also, know that when air temperatures exceed 84 degrees (75 for short-nosed dogs and cats), airlines will refuse to transport pets in cargo due to the risk of overheating.

The risk is while the pet is in transit, on the ground waiting to be loaded. With flight delays a possibility, ground time can be excessive and the temperature on the tarmac can rise dramatically. So factor this in when thinking of flying with your pet. Of course, if your baby gets to fly with you in the cabin, you’ll be fine. In that case, be mindful of the carrier size. The airline will have specifics posted on its website. Most airlines do not require a health certificate, but check anyway.

When traveling outside our borders, that is an entirely different animal. You will need an exam and health certificate no matter where you go. Research each country or island to which you would travel. The Bahamas have different requirements from the British Virgin Islands. South America is different from Europe and even within Europe, the requirements vary.

You do not want to be at the airport at your destination with a boarding agent that won’t let your pet enter the country because there is no paperwork on flea and tapeworm medication being given (by the veterinarian) the week before the trip. It has all happened.

Your veterinarian is there to help but it is your responsibility inform yourself of all the requirements necessary for travel. Some countries require rabies titers. These titers take time to return from the lab and if the titers are low, vaccines need to be repeated as well as the titers. Knowing this before you book your flight is probably wise. The internet can be helpful in this case.

There is a USDA website you can visit,, as well as: I also recommend contacting the embassy of that country to see if there are any changes in requirements that other websites may not be aware of. Best to be well prepared.

And now start dreaming and scheming about your next great destination.

Feel free to e-mail questions to or write to her care of the Marathon Veterinary Hospital, 5001 Overseas Highway, Marathon, FL 33050.