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Pet Care While You Travel

Got plans to hoof it – and furry friends at home? Here's what to do

If your family has vacation plans – and a pet or two – you know it's crucial to find the best care option for your furry friends before setting sail. Read on for options that can help you make the best decision for your pet.

Bringing them by car

It may or may not be a good idea – depending on where you're going and your pet's temperament. Some are better left at home, especially if they don't do well in unfamiliar places or have medical problems or physical impairments.

There are safety precautions to keep in mind if you take your pet, according to the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). When traveling by car, your pet should always be restrained in the vehicle. If your dog is familiar with using a pet safety harness, use that while traveling. Hard-sided kennels that are well-ventilated are also a good choice.

Dogs seem to love sticking their head out of the car window, but the HSUS says to avoid this because the dog could be injured by flying debris. Never transport pets in the back of a pickup truck. Give your pet frequent potty and exercise breaks and avoid leaving them unattended, as severe temperatures can be deadly.

Other 'take along' scenarios

HSUS recommends pets be transported by air only if absolutely necessary. The Airline Transportation Association estimates that every year, around 5,000 animals are killed, lost or injured on airplanes. To blame? Usually extreme cold or heat in poorly ventilated cargo holds, and kennel damage. If you do fly with your pet, take small ones onboard in a carrier that fits under the seat. Contact your airline carrier for specifics.

Most cruise ships and trains don't accept pets; contact them directly if you're considering this. Most lodging facilities also don't take pets, but some hotels and motels do. Research and reserve in advance. And be sure to take all the necessary supplies and an emergency kit with you.

Boarding options

Many folks opt for boarding, or a pet hotel. Before making arrangements, ask your vet for recommendations. Tour the facility, too. Many pet hotels let log on to their website and see your dog through live video stream, which may set your mind at ease when you're miles away. You may also consider taking the pet there for a day before starting the trip, as a trial run.

Pet sitters

You can either find someone to watch the pet in your home, so your pet has more one-on-one attention, or have a sitter visit, still allowing your pet to stay on familiar turf. A sitter may visit as many times a day or week as you like; some will even stay the night. Other services may include dog walking, tending to litter boxes, giving insulin shots and a variety of other in-home services.

Home alone

For others, especially cat owners, leaving pets home alone is an option. Cats can usually be left for a few days with adequate food and water supply. Fish can be taken care of with an automatic feeder.

Experts note that some dogs can suffer from separation anxiety after a vacation, if they're used to being around their owner frequently. These dogs may display inappropriate behavior when left alone, such as digging, chewing, howling or urinating in the home. Try gradually getting your dog used to being without you by taking him to boarding or dog day care, or leaving him with a friend or relative.

Plan in advance

Whatever option you choose, be sure to talk to your veterinarian and have all vaccinations up to date. The key to a happy family vacation, with or without the pet, is prepping ahead!

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