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If you’re used to letting your pup hang out the window or curl up on your lap in the car, you may want to put on the brakes: Experts across the board say it’s crucial to buckle her into a car harness or place her in a secured crate before you pull out of the driveway.
In fact, a recent study conducted in Washington state found that an unrestrained pet was a leading cause of distracted driving: 650 recorded accidents were due to texting — and 500 to loose pets.
“While traveling by car, dogs should be fastened into a harness attached to a seat belt or in a carrier,” explains Dr. Teller. “The carrier should be large enough for him to stand up and turn around in, but not so large that he can slide back and forth as the car is in motion.”
Just in case you’re involved in a collision, this will prevent a pet from becoming a projectile missile — and will likely save her life. It will also help keep the dog from getting loose and possibly running out into the road or highway, causing further risk to the animal and others.
Dr. Nicholas has also seen incidents in which unrestrained dogs have gotten into medicine or chocolate in the time that it took owners to grab a quick coffee. Getting the right pet restraint gear for the car is about peace of mind — for you and your animal.
“You would never not buckle in your child,” says Gordie Spater, president of Kurgo, a leading harness maker. “In the same way, the dog should be buckled in. A good harness is relatively inexpensive — between $20 and $30 — and very easy to use.”
Note: Smaller dogs may also need to sit on a booster seat, or you can put your pet in her regular carrier, and then belt it in.
When traveling by air, you must reserve a spot for your dog as soon as you know she will be accompanying you. “This is true whether she flies in the cabin or in cargo,” says Dr. Teller. “Check with the airlines for specific requirements, including crate size and vaccination requirements.”
Most airlines require a health certificate from your veterinarian documenting that it’s safe for your pet to fly. In general, airlines request that a pet is examined within 10 days of your departing flight, which will be reflected on the health certificate. Also, bring along proof of your dog's rabies vaccines and other immunizations.
You should also discuss with your vet any specific vaccine and quarantine requirements at your destination as well as basics such as flea and tick medication, especially if you're heading to a warmer locale in winter.
As for your carrier, the size you choose will be based on each airline’s requirements, but your dog should be able to stand up, turn around and lie down comfortably without too much sliding around when the plane is in motion. Crates flown in cargo must be hard-sided plastic; metal or wire crates are not usually accepted. If your dog will fly with you in the cabin — based on whether she meets the weight limit of the individual airline — the carrier must fit under the seat in front of you.
It's not advisable to use tranquilizers for dogs flying in cargo, although motion sickness medication may be a good idea for dogs who are susceptible. If your dog will be in the cabin, and you’re worried about barking, talk to your vet about anti-anxiety medication.
Dr. Nicholas recommends trying pheromone sprays called DAP (dog-appeasing pheromone). “That helps to soothe dogs and prevent anxiety,” he says.
For additional information about flying with your pet, the Air Transport Association, the trade group for the nation's airlines, offers information on its website. Click on the "Air Travel for Your Pet" link. The ATA details how to prepare your pet for air travel, how to set up the carrier and even how to check on your pet en route.
If your dog has an ongoing medical problem, speak to your vet about how to handle any problem while on vacation — or if it would be better to keep her at home.
Once your pet gets the go-ahead for travel, make sure to pack a complete supply of her medications, as well as a copy of her medical history, just in case you need to visit a vet while you’re away.
Dr. Nicholas recommends not flying animals in cargo, if you can avoid it: Extreme temperatures, as well as pets who escape from their carriers, have led to some fatalities.
Certain airlines have even banned “short-nosed” breeds from flying in cargo, including Boxers, Bulldogs and Pugs who may experience difficulty breathing while in flight. Regardless of your pet's pedigree, always check with your vet before booking any flight or hitting the road.
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