For many people, pets are part of the family. So when it's time to plan a vacation, they go out of their way to find a place where their animals can go as well.
In fact, a recent survey of travelers conducted by DogTrekker.com revealed nearly half (47 percent) of all leisure travelers own a dog, and about 40 percent of these dog owners have taken their furry friends on vacation in the past two years.
While taking your pet on vacation can be fun for you and the animal, experts say research and planning are needed to ensure traveling with your dog is a fun and safe experience for everyone.
The first consideration is how you will get there. According to VCA Animal Hospitals, whether you'll be traveling by car or plane, you should take steps ahead of time to get your dog acclimated.
Those traveling by car should first figure out the logistics of transporting a dog in their vehicle. Experts say that restraining your pet is important for his safety and that of the driver and other passengers as well. Restraint options include crates, harnesses and special seatbelts.
Start by slowly conditioning your dog to wearing the restraint or spending time in his crate, using his favorite treats as rewards. Then, progress to taking short trips in the car.
If you're planning airplane travel with your dog, you should also get him used to being restrained. According to a recent article in the New York Times, dog training expert Cesar Milan recommends using lavender oil beforehand to help the pet relax on the plane. Help your dog learn to associate the smell with positive feelings by placing a drop of it on your hands at meal time and letting him pick up the scent. That way, when he's on the plane, "the positive association will allow him to calm down and remain relaxed," Milan explained to the newspaper.
There are other considerations for air travel with pets, including researching the airline's pet policies and fees as well as requirements for pets upon arrival at your destination.
Experts also recommend taking your dog for a long walk or run prior to the plane trip so the animal is more likely to fall asleep. However, medication that helps sedate the animal may be necessary.
Veterinarians often suggest trying a new medication at home or at the vet's office before using it when traveling, as the correct dose and duration of effects may vary greatly between individuals and some dogs actually become more agitated or anxious with these drugs. A trial run will help your vet determine the correct drug dose and ensure the medication has the desired effect.
Before you leave, make sure your animal is healthy and that his dog vaccinations are up to date. You'll need proof that the animal has been vaccinated to stay at places. And if your pet needs any medications, you'll need to make sure you have an adequate supply for your trip.
Other things to bring include food and water bowls, a leash, an adequate supply of food, bottled water and toys. Bringing a first aid kit for your pet may also be beneficial. Your vet will be able to tell you what you'll need, based on your pet's history.
Losing a dog while traveling can turn a vacation into a nightmare. Bring a picture of your pet with you just in case he or she wanders off. Keeping your dog leashed at all times is important as is keeping a collar with identification on him or her. It's a good idea to include your cell phone number so anyone who finds your pet can get in touch with you immediately. In addition, some pet owners opt to have their dogs implanted with a microchip to make identifying them easier in case they're lost.
It's also important to plan your lodging accordingly. Make sure ahead of time that your hotel or is dog-friendly and research doggie day care options for outings in which pets are not allowed.