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Guest Post: Caring for Pets When You Travel

Friday, September 16, 2011

Pets are more than precious possessions; they are our companions in life, and as such must be given all the consideration we would accords to human friends. When we travel, the dilemma of whether to take our pets or leave them in someone else's care can be a difficult one. But with a little planning, we can make our journey a good experience for our animals as well as ourselves.

Photo Credit: Rates to Go
Given the choice, it is always preferable to take our pets with us, so this option should be explored thoroughly. Having a pet along for the ride and during the vacation almost certainly means extra work and some change of schedule, but the benefits often greatly outweigh the drawbacks. When our pets are with us, we know that they are safe and happy, and we can keep an eye on them. Many pets love to travel and enjoy their "car time" as much as the vacation destination!
Before embarking on any long trip with your pets, make sure their veterinarian confirms that they are healthy and fit to travel. Be sure to pack any medications for your pets where it is close at hand, and tuck in some extra toys, treats, and other diversions. Familiar objects can mean a lot to a pet away from home, so take care to bring your animals' favorite toys for playing, chewing, and napping.

If your pets do not already have them, purchase or make identification tags for their collars. The tag should include the pet's name and a contact number -- preferably a cell phone, since you will be away from your landline during your travels. This simple precaution can prevent tragedy, and contributes greatly to your peace of mind, too!

Carrying a first-aid kit along on the trip is a sensible measure. Be sure that it contains bandages, antiseptic lotion, tweezers, and scissors for pet injuries. Always carry plenty of water for your pet, and pack it in such a way that it is easily available in case you make an unscheduled stop. And if your pet is traveling in a carrier or crate, take extra time to make his environment homey and comfortable with soft blankets and his favorite toys. For car travel, make sure that the crate is not in direct sunshine, and that your pet has enough room to stretch out and turn around comfortably.
Most important of all, schedule extra time with your pets. During a vacation we can be so caught up in the excitement of our new surroundings that we forget the loneliness or uncertainty our pets may be feeling in a strange environment. Make time to toss a ball, stroke, or scratch your pet every day, speaking to him in a cheerful, soothing voice. Pets rely on you to set the mood, and they will feel much less anxious if you are upbeat and calm.

Photo Credit: Casa Canine
Of course, it is not always possible to take our pets with us on vacation, and with a little effort we can make their time away from us easy and pleasant. If you must leave your pets behind, see if you can find a trustworthy person to stay with them in your home. Pets are always happier and more secure in their own environment, and remaining at home while you are gone is the best option for most dogs and cats. If this isn't possible, investigate the background of the kennel or other boarding situation thoroughly before you place your pet. Personal recommendations from people you can talk to are the most reassuring "background checks" of all, but take the time to tour the kennel and observe the pets being boarded. Do they look calm, well-fed, and content? Are the pet minders friendly and competent, and do they seem to be enjoying their job? Your instincts are your best guide to the quality of any kennel, but back them up with research.

Whether you bring your pets along on vacation or leave them in care until you return, their safety and happiness are essential to everyone having a great trip. Plan ahead, and the entire family will have a wonderful vacation!

Mike Hill works in the vacation rentals industry and run his own blog, Pet Friendly Vacation . His blog will provide useful tips on pet friendly vacation rentals and make your travel with pets easier.

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