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Yearning to Travel: Doggie on the Move
by Carole Schwalm A variety of different dogs displayed in silhouette against a yellow background.

Taking your pet on vacation involves more a jug of water, a bag of kibbles, "and thou."

Dog sitting on suitcase next to a mini van with its rear door opened. Your To Do List:
1. Ensure your dog's shots are up-to-date. If your traveling companion is under four months old, be especially careful, because little puppies are especially at risk.

Distemper is a highly contagious virus transmitted by infected dogs and/or wildlife (like foxes, raccoons and skunks).
Administer flea and tick protection.
Heartworm, spread by mosquitoes, is 100 percent preventable with medication.
Parvovirus is picked up through stools, in dog parks for example. Get this vaccination and monitor hygiene, again particularly with young puppies.

Make a copy of vaccinations to leave at home. Carry original certificates with you because some states quarantine. Be aware of potential dangers where you are going, for example: Lyme disease, fungi or parasites. For safety, do not let pets roam free. Make sure your pet wears an ID tag. Get your pet microchipped.

Dog swimming in hotel pool 2. Where are you staying? If at a hotel, are pets welcome? What are their pet-friendly accommodations? Pet-friendly hotels are listed online, but even so, you are wise to check to make sure nothing has changed before you leave home.

Make your pet your first priority when you arrive at the hotel. If there are two of you, one pet parent can do a walk, letting your pet explore outside surroundings. The other pet parent unpacks bedding, bowls and toys.

Then, get a list of veterinary offices or emergency facilities nearby.

Many pet traveling guides suggest hanging a Do Not Disturb sign on hotel doors when owners leave pets alone. Take a moment and picture Bart Simpson (in the guise of an adult or child version) running through the halls taking Do Not Disturb signs off the doors. It takes only a minute with an accidental door opening, or an intruder gaining access and your beloved friend is subjected to dangerous conditions.

Dog lying in hotel bed with its head on a pillow and under the covers. The dog in the room alone is susceptible to that and more, like lead paints, electric wires. They may have separation anxiety in a strange situation. The pet barks, whines, paces, gets restless and may destroy the hotel room chewing, peeing or pooping, even if they are angels and completely housebroken. Crate, and crate train, encouraging them to enjoy the experience, before the trip. Or best of all, do activities that everyone can participate in rather than leave your pet alone in a strange situation.

3. Pets fly in airplane cargo holds. Here, the crate has to be airline approved. It should be big enough to allow your friend to sit, stand, turn around and lie down. 'Test drive' the crate so he or she feels comfortable ahead of time. Attach your name, phone number, cell number and contacts, and any medical needs and a vet contact, securely and safely to the outside of the crate. Depending on size and weight, some pets can fly in an airline approved carrier stowed under your seat.

Airlines and many kennels require up to date health certificates. Make sure you have everything you need well ahead of travel date.

Cat with head in glass drinking water 4. For the canine car traveler; dogs should ride in a crate or carrier. Many guides recommend seatbelt usage (good luck with that). Never leave the pet unattended in the car. Temperatures rise or drop in just seconds. Have water available at all times during the trip. Be aware of exhaust fumes, that are dangerous to humans AND animals, in parking lots and rest areas.

When traveling, keep the inside temperature comfortable. Be as extra-cautious of car door locks with pets as you should be with children. Big and little paws could accidentally push a handle while the car is moving.

We've talked about vaccination records. Your pet needs a secure collar with an ID tag. Consider a harness because some Houdini dogs slip out of collars. (Our dog Fiona unfastens a collar in just minutes). You'll need a leash.

Pack his or her water and food dishes and necessary good and snacks. Add a few towels and clean-up items in case of car sickness. And poop bags (you know why!) Bring all medications and written prescriptions. Don't forget the right size crate with familiar blankets and toys.

Pack a first aid kit with the following: A muzzle. A blanket or towel. Non-latex gloves. Gauze roll and pads and medicinal tape. Add something for a splint. You'll also need scissors, tweezers. Include a thermometer and sterile lubricant. Hydrogen peroxide (check the expiration date), Triple antibiotic ointment, ophthalmic saline solution. Include the number for the pet poison helpline: 800.213.6680 or

Dogs adapt well to many environments, especially when traveling with their loved ones. They love to be outside, and vacations are a lot about enjoying nature and the outdoors. Be careful of things like dampness, exposure to full burning sun and penetrating winds. Always have water available. If hiking, pack a backpack with water, a bowl and food and treats. There are doggie backpacks, but make sure your dog can manage it.

Crate train before the trip, if your friend is used to freedom.

Last but not least: Stick with your pet's regular habits. A dog is a creature of habit!

Share your pet traveling experience or if you'd like more information.