Vacationing With Pets

July 2, 2020

Opting for a road trip instead of air travel this summer because of COVID-19? You might consider inviting your dog, just like John Steinbeck did in 1960 when he drove from Sag Harbor to California with his French poodle, detailing his trip in a classic memoir, ”Travels with Charley.”

Not all pets are as willing to travel as Charley, and you probably know if you already have one of these. Veterinarian Dr. Jennifer Cabral of the North Fork Animal Hospital in Southold says that in general, “cats do not like change and are happier in their own households. Even rearranging the furniture can stress them out.” Likewise, dogs who are particularly nervous about car rides might be better off with a pet sitter.

But lots of dogs are content to ride shotgun. For 15 years I included my mini poodle Mila, who suffered from extreme separation anxiety, in my travel plans. “Do whatever you need to do to make your dog as comfortable and safe as possible,” says Cabral. Indeed, packing for Mila and getting her ready to travel often took longer than packing for myself. But these preparations allowed me to enjoy a canine-friendly Vermont beer trail, the Socrates Sculpture Park in Long Island City, a windjammer cruise around Bar Harbor with my very best friend. Here is some advice, gleaned from experts and my own experience, to help you vacation with your own pup.

Visit the vet:Before departing, check in with your vet to make sure your dog’s immunizations are up to date. Cabral notes that campgrounds require a Certificate of Veterinary Inspection and it’s also good idea to have one if you are crossing state lines. More good advice from the doctor: Ask for copies of your pet’s medical records if he or she has past or ongoing health issues and get an ample supply of any necessary medications. Inquire about carsickness and anxiety remedies, even if your dog has been fine on shorter rides, just in case. Try out those medications ahead of time to see how they respond.

Consider having a tiny microchip, about the size of a grain of rice, implanted in the scruff of her neck. The procedure is painless, inexpensive, and allows him to be scanned and identified if he is lost and then loses his ID tag. It’s also a good idea to research 24-hour vet clinics along your route and near your destination, just in case.

Pack a doggie bag: Essentials include food, water, bowls, treats, poop bags and leash. Depending on the types of activities you have planned, you might also include Frisbees, balls, and other outdoor toys, towels, dog shampoo, and paw wipes. Cabral suggests bringing comfort objects as well. “A familiar blanket or bed will provide that continuity,” she says. Make sure your dog has a well-fitting collar with a current ID tag and a cellphone number where you can be reached during your travels.

A crate or carrier is also essential. “Dogs need to be trained to travel,” says Gay Snow of Bridgehampton, who has taken Latte, her 11-year-old Havanese across the country several times. “I Ferberized her,” she says, referring to the technique of training babies to self-soothe, popularized by Dr. Richard Ferber. “I put her in the carrier for five minutes, and then gave her a treat. Then I repeated the process, extending the time she spent inside until she had no problem being there for a couple of hours.”

Drive safely with Fido:Amtrak only allows pets on select trains, and Greyhound restricts ridership to certified service dogs. In any case, driving is safer when it comes to avoiding COVID-19. Confine your dog to a crate or carrier that’s been anchored to the vehicle with a seat belt, or secure in a doggy car seat. The back seat is safest. If an air bag deploys while your dog is in the front seat, it might cause injury or even death.

It’s OK to let your dog hang his or her head out the window on local rides. But driving on the highway where there’s a lot of debris is another story. “Think of your windshield getting cracked when a pebble flies into it,” says Cabral. Ouch. Stop often for exercise and bathroom breaks. When possible, travel with a friend or family member, so you can take bathroom breaks of your own.

Finally, never leave your pet alone in the car. According to the Humane Society, a car’s interior can reach 102 degrees in 10 minutes, when it is 85 degrees outside, even with the windows cracked open. Left to sit even briefly at a high temperature, dogs may suffer irreversible organ damage or death.

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