Health and Safety Guide for Traveling with your Dog or Cat

When traveling with your dog or cat, it's essential you give them a preliminary checkup, invest in the right travel crate, and keep identification tags on your pet at all times. Pay attention to different state laws when traveling with your pet. Most states have a minimum requirement of carrying a Certificate of Veterinary Inspection (CVI) and proof of a recent anti-rabies vaccination. Dogs need to have identification in virtually every location. Learn more in our health and safety guide for traveling with your cat or dog below.

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Natasha McLachlan is a writer who currently lives in Southern California. She is an alumna of California College of the Arts, where she obtained her B.A. in Writing and Literature. Her current work revolves around insurance guides and informational articles. She truly enjoys helping others learn more about everyday, practical matters through her work.

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Laura Walker graduated college with a BS in Criminal Justice with a minor in Political Science. She married her husband and began working in the family insurance business in 2005. She became a licensed agent and wrote P&C business focusing on personal lines insurance for 10 years. Laura serviced existing business and wrote new business. She now uses her insurance background to help educate...

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Reviewed by Laura Walker
Former Licensed Agent

UPDATED: Nov 21, 2020

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Pets are not just pets. They are also a part of the family. That is why it is no surprise that there are a lot of people who prefer bringing their furry friends along for vacations, road trips, or even just errands.

If you are planning to travel soon with a pet, you will want to keep them safe and comfortable along the way. This includes making sure they have the right food, lodging, healthcare, and pet-friendly travel options.

Best Practices

Bringing a pet along for long distance travel has its risks, so it is better to err on the side of being over prepared. Here are some useful tips on how you can ensure that both you and your pets enjoy your travel time.

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Precautionary checkup.

Your pet may be in good health now, but it is still a good idea to take them to the vet before taking them with you. Make sure all their vaccinations are updated. You may also need to get a health certificate or other paperwork signed by a vet if you will be traveling with your pet via plane or over international borders.

Prepare for worst scenarios.

Do your due diligence and research nearby vets or veterinary hospitals around the area of your destination. It is also recommended to bring an emergency kit of any necessary medications for your cat or dog.

Invest in a good crate.

Buying a crate to accommodate your pet is usually necessary for airline travel. Make sure the one you buy is big and comfortable enough for them to stand and lie in while still meeting airline requirements.

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Identification at all times.

Always have your pet wear a collar and leash to avoid losing track of them on the road. Make sure that a dog tag with your current contact information is attached to their collar. A microchip is also advised.

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Rules and Regulations when Traveling with a Dog or Cat

Depending on what state you are in and where you will be going, there may be rules you need to follow to safely and legally travel with your pet.

Most states have a minimum requirement of carrying a Certificate of Veterinary Inspection (CVI) and proof of a recent anti-rabies vaccination with the notable exception for the state of California. Dogs need to have identification in virtually every location.

Each country also has its own rules when it comes to documentation, microchipping, vaccines, travel checkups, and flea and worm treatment before international travel and entry into their country.

To make things simpler, we have included a link to the USDA’s pet travel guide, where you can input your state or country of destination, to help determine what laws and regulations you need to consider.

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Transportation

There are many ways to get from point A to point B and different things to keep in mind depending on your chosen mode of transportation.

Flying

Always make sure to check thr airline’s regulations on pet travel before booking a flight. Read reviews from other pet owners regarding a company’s performance when accommodating animals on the plane. Your pet will most likely be traveling in a different compartment than you, so be sure to prepare a crate with necessities and your pet’s documents.

By Car

When it comes to car travel, it is best to keep your pet sitting in the back seat since it is safer for them than the front seat. It’s also recommended to put your cat or dog in a crate to further secure them. In some cases, a harness may be a good choice.

Whether you are up for a long drive or a quick one, load your car with treats, drinking water, and toys to keep your pet comfortable and entertained. Do not forget to allow time to let them out of the car for breaks and stretching.

Train, Bus, or Boat

More public transportation lines are becoming pet-friendly and we are seeing both dogs and cats on public buses and trains these days. However, this is not the norm yet. A good majority of public transit options still only allow service dogs in their vehicles. If you are planning to sightsee in an unfamiliar city and want to bring your pet with you, research which bus or train lines allow pets on board.

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Lodging

Make sure that the hotel you are planning to stay in has a pet-friendly policy before making a reservation. There are several hotel chains that accept both cats and dogs. Just be prepared to pay extra fees for your pet in many cases.

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Food

According to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), passengers can bring solid pet food in their luggage, although security personnel may ask you to remove it from your bag during screening. If your pet’s brand of food can be easily purchased in stores, it may be better to pack enough for the day and buy more when you reach your destination.

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Medicines and Health

Traveling can really be stressful for your pet, but there are plenty of ways you can help make their experience better.

If your pet has a pre-existing medical condition that requires medicine, be sure to carry these with you and inform the cabin crew as well if you are flying. In some instances, you will be allowed to check in on your dog or cat in cargo.

You can also consult with your vet about sedatives if your pet may be anxious during flights. Just be aware of the possible side effects of sedatives.

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Additional Resources

Do you still have questions about how to keep your pet happy and healthy while you travel? IcatCare offers some great information on their website if you will be bringing a feline friend: Travelling with your cat, while the American Veterinary Medical Association also covers most of the basics of general pet travel on their site: Traveling with your pet FAQ.

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