By Sheila Fitzpatrick, DVM

With a vast number of fees, regulations, time constraints and safety concerns, it certainly can be “ruff” adding your pet to your travel plans.

As a veterinarian in an international resort community, I have seen first-hand how many pet owners are unaware of the regulations for pet travel, nor the potential for health impacts of changing weather and the impending stress that confinement may bring.

Planning ahead and being prepared is the best advice a veterinarian can give for those who will be traveling with pets.

First of all, call the airline or specific carrier and be prepared to ask a lot of questions:

Do they allow pets?

Do you need to pre-book travel or can the pet be booked at the gate?

Do you need a Certificate of Health inspection from an accredited veterinarian showing proof of rabies vaccination and a current examination within ten days of travel?

What are the restrictions with respect to in-cabin travel?  For example, what should your pet weigh to be able to ride in the main cabin?

What are the measurements required for the pet carriers for in-cabin travel vs below?

What type of pet carriers are permitted, i.e. soft- or hard-sided?

What are the potential lowest and highest temperatures your pet may be exposed to?

What will he layover time be for my pet?

May I keep food and water with my pet at all times? How many water dishes do they require?

If you are traveling across state lines or international borders, be aware of the specific requirements of your destination. For example, to take your pet to Hawaii, you must begin preparations three (3) months in advance. For Canadian travel, only a rabies certificate is required. For European travel, you may consider applying for a “pet passport.”

It is an excellent idea to have your pet micro-chipped for easy identification of your pet at the time of travel or if your pet somehow is separated from you.

Once you have arrived at your destination, there are things you must consider as well.

Are you traveling to the south where heart worm, fleas and ticks may prevail? Ask your veterinarian for prevention medications before your trip.

Are you traveling where there is an extreme heat or cold difference? Give your pet time to acclimate and bring appropriate coverings should your pet be exposed to extreme cold.

Are you traveling to a higher altitude? Just like their owners, pets with underlying heart disease may have trouble with higher elevations, so consult your veterinarian if your pet does suffer from heart disease.

Bring your pet’s regular food, as sudden diet changes may result in gastric upsets.

Be sure your pet has water as often as allowed. Dehydration is all too common for the traveling pet!

Finally, have a great trip! Travel safe AND prepared!

Sheila Fitzpatrick, DVM, is a graduate of Colorado State University College of Veterinary Medicine and owns Mountain Mobile Veterinary Service in Eagle and Vail, Colorado, where she cares for small and large animals. She’s also a 1983 graduate of Ellicottville Central School and a frequent visitor to Ellicottville where her parents still live and her father Dana and brothers Greg and Dan own and run Fitzpatrick and Weller. She provides this column as a public service to pet owners in our area.