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Traveling With Your Pet

The holidays are a busy time for travel and it is becoming more common for people to travel with their pets.  There are many things to consider when making your plans so that travel is safe and relatively stress free.  First, consider the accommodations where you and your pet will be staying.  Bring your pet’s regular diet or make sure that is available where you will be staying or traveling.  Diet changes can often lead to problems such as digestive upset in dogs and urinary issues in cats.  In addition, your pet’s regular diet may serve a sense of familiarity in new surroundings to limit stress.  Oftentimes, mixing of pets from different households leads to fighting and injuries.  Introductions between new animals should always be done slowly and with supervision.  Toys and food should be taken up and pets fed separately.  Any pets with respiratory signs, such as eye discharge, coughing, or sneezing, should be kept separated and family members encouraged to wash hands between handling different pets.

If your pet will be traveling in a pet carrier, allow your pet to become accustomed to it prior to the day of travel.  Experts recommend providing constant access to cat carriers for pets so they are not just associated with stressful times, such as vet visits.  Synthetic canine and feline pheromones are available in spray form to spray the bedding to provide pets with a sense of safety and familiarity.  Make sure that your pet with have water available during travel.

For some pets, the stress of travel can be excessive and the use of the medications may be helpful.  Always speak with your veterinarian regarding your individual pet before giving any over the counter or prescription medication. Diphenhydramine (i.e., Benadryl) is an antihistamine which has sometimes been prescribed for its sedative side effects.  These side effects are minimal and occur only in a few individuals.  Melatonin is an over the counter sleep aid which has been used successfully in dogs to treat conditions such as thunderstorm phobia and can be administered prior to travel to help pets sleep and relax during the trip.  Alprazalam (i.e., Xanax) may also be prescribed to relax your pet.  This is a controlled substance and should only be prescribed by a veterinarian.  This medication helps relieve stress and appears to have a calming and euphoric effect, especially in cats.  Side effects are minimal (increase in appetite), but a small population of cats may be prone to “aggression disinhibition,” so I would recommend a trial dose in cats before the actual day of travel.  Acepromazine is a sedative which veterinarians have prescribed for years for pets during travel.  Acepromazine can be unpredictable with regards to the level of sedation achieved in individual pets.  Side effects include a potential drop in body temperature and blood pressure.

Happy Holidays to you and your pet!

This section features current events in the veterinary world and information about pet care that is timely – such as holiday hazards around the holidays or dental care during the month of February. If you would like to see a particular topic, please use our contact form and choose ‘General Feedback, Other’.

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Veterinary Technical Services Department

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