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Smart Tips for Traveling With Your Pet

8 ways to keep your cat or dog safe and healthy on vacation

En español | Want to go for a ride? This question unleashes wide grins and full-body wiggles in most dogs who always seem up for new adventures — no matter if it’s a ride across town or a road trip across the country. Heck, even some cats are content to go along for the ride.

See also: Keep your pet safe in the heat.

Pet travel is on the rise in America with more than 29 million people bringing their pet on trips of 50 miles or more, according to latest Travel Industry Association of America survey. Dogs win the popularity poll, representing 78 percent of pet travel mates, followed by cats (15 percent), fish, ferrets and rabbits (3 percent) and birds (2 percent).

Group of dogs hanging out in trunk of station wagon

Photo by: Margo Silver/Getty Images

Make sure your dogs are in crates or safety restraints before hitting the road.

About 6 percent of pets fly in commercial airplanes, but that percentage is expected to rise, thanks, in part, to the advent of companies such as Pet Airways. An airline exclusively for dogs and cats, the company first took off two years ago and continues to add hubs throughout the country. So far, trains have not hopped on board this pet-traveling movement.

Whether traveling on the road or in the air, these are the best ways to play it safe and make sure your pets are welcomed back to any destination:

  • Get packing. For road trips, your pet’s packing list must include his commercial food, treats, food and water dishes, grooming tools, poop bags, cleaning supplies, enzymatic stain and odor remover, a flat sheet to place over the hotel bed, medications, a copy of your pet’s vaccinations, ID tag and collar, spare leash, pet first-aid kit and pet bed or crate.
  • BYO H20. To reduce the risk of your pet developing an upset stomach or digestive issue, quench his thirst with bottled water or tap water from your home that you store in gallon jugs. If your pet is prone to motion sickness, don’t feed him before the trip. Check with your veterinarian about a new anti-nausea medicine called Cerenia that seems to help dogs woozy by motion.
  • Buckle up. Pets should ride inside crates or be in safety restraints and ride in pet hammocks or pet care seats located in the middle or cargo area — never on laps or in the front passenger seat. Christina Selter, founder of the Bark Buckle UP pet safety program, cautions that unrestrained pets can become driving distractions and can become deadly projectiles in collisions. We wear seat belts — our pets should be safely restrained as well.

  • Beat the heat. Attach a crate fan to help keep your pet cool during the drive. Freeze a couple of gallon jugs of water and position them so your pet can curl up around them to keep cool — instant air conditioning! Senior pets and dogs or cats with flat faces or short noses (such as pugs, bulldogs and Persians) can quickly succumb to heat extremes.

  • Clean up your act. Make sure your four-legged travel companion has been bathed, groomed and is free of fleas before staying in a hotel.

  • Dial “S” for safety. If you have a smartphone, download a photo of your pet to show in case he gets lost during the road trip. Keep a photo of your pet in your glove compartment, too.
  • Keep grounded. Unless your pet can fly in a climate-controlled cabin with you or aboard Pet Airways, do not transport them in the cargo area of a commercial airlines during the hot summer months.
  • Leave 'em home. If you’ve got a rowdy dog or an easily agitated cat, don’t bring him along with you on vacation. Instead, leave him at home under the care of a professional pet sitter or trusted friend or relative.

Dr. Marty Becker, "America's Veterinarian," is the resident veterinarian for Good Morning America and The Dr. Oz Show. His latest book, Your Dog: The Owner’s Manual, became available this spring. Find him in the AARPPetPals forum of

You may also like: The truth about pet safety.