Summertime in the Belgrades
May 31 – June 13
On the Road Again . . .
by Dr. Eleanor Sabean
Now that Memorial day has been and gone, a lot of people are hitting the road to explore new places or to visit old familiar ones for the summer. Many of you enjoy bringing your pets along on the adventure, but there are several things to consider when you're packing up the car with your dog or cat as well. Not only should you pack the necessities such as enough of their usual food, treats, bottled water, bowls, toys, poop bags and a crate or leash, you also need to consider the challenges of being on the road and keeping your pet safe once you've arrived.
Safe and effective car restraints are now available for animals that can protect them in case of an accident. It's also safer to have your pets restrained instead of allowing them to jump all over the driver or move beneath her feet while she is driving. Seat belts that fit like a harness, secured beds that have a tether and crates that can be secured are all good options.
Some of the restraints, such as a seat belt harness, are also handy when walking or taking your pet outside the car so they do not get scared and run away, resulting in loss of or injury to your friend. Many pets are carefully identified by tags on their collar and/or by a microchip under their skin which can be scanned by shelters all over North America to help find owners when a pet is lost. Check with your vet about having your pet microchipped, if you're traveling any distance. It may save his or her life. If your pet has a microchip already, make sure the information (such as your cell phone number) on record with the provider is up to date.
It's really important to keep your pet restrained at all times when in strange places. Even though your dog or cat may be well behaved and responsive at home, different environments may lead to bolting or unexpected behavior. If your pet is on a leash or in a crate, you will have control. If he is off the leash, there is no way to prevent him from running away or approaching other animals who may not be so friendly or trustworthy. This includes places like the groomers and the vets, too. Not all animals are as friendly as your own and appearances can be deceiving.
It's important to stock up on any medications your pet may be taking before leaving. Also pack some basic first aid supplies for your pet in case of a sting or an injury. At the least, your kit should include bandaging material such as Vet wrap, clean towels, a blanket, safety scissors (for trimming hair), tweezers, nail clippers, paper towels, hydrogen peroxide, saline eye flush, triple antibiotic ointment, cortisone cream, zip lock baggies (for ice) and possibly an antihistamine like Benadryl, which may be recommended by your vet or an emergency vet after a phone call.
With the help of the Internet, it's easy to find the location and the hours of local veterinarians in the towns where you will be traveling to. Emergency clinics that are open 24/7 are also available in many places. It's a good idea to check out the location of the ones in the area that you will be visiting or passing through. If your pet has a chronic condition, you may even want to check with one of the local vets before leaving to check whether they might see a visiting or summer client.
Some pets are seasoned travelers and are happy to curl up in the backseat for the entire trip. Others find the moving car a little more stressful. There are pet medications and products that can make the trip more enjoyable for your pet (and you) if your pet is one who normally does not travel well and ends up being anxious or nauseous. If your pet gets carsick, food should be given after you arrive, not before you leave. Pheromone products, such as Adaptil for dogs or Feliway for cats, come in a spray, towelet or collars which can ease the stress of the trip for your friends. It may be worth trying some of these products in a shorter "test" trip before heading out for real.
If administering pheromones and withholding food don't help, medications for car sickness and anxiety are available; but many require prescriptions, so it is a good idea to pay a visit to your vet before you travel to see which ones are the safest and most effective for your pet. Also check with your vet before giving any over-the-counter products; pet dosages are often very different than those for people.
We often remember to check our pets' vaccines before taking them to a boarding facility, but it's just as important to make sure that vaccines are up-to-date before traveling. New places often allow exposure to viruses, bacteria and parasites your dog may not see at home. Rest stops are notorious for being heavily contaminated with parasite eggs and Giardia and could be a source of viruses such as Parvo for a dog. Never let your dog or cat drink ground water there!
Even if you weren't planning to, it may become necessary to board your pet temporarily when you reach your destination (pet "day care" is sometimes available). Having a record of your pets' vaccine history with you can save some time and ensure your pet is protected while boarding.
Different areas of the country present different challenges. Keeping on schedule with heartworm preventive, and deworming for intestinal parasites becomes more important the farther south you travel. Folks who don't have many ticks at home may be shocked to find several on their dog or cat here in Vacationland. Many effective flea and tick prevention products, such as Vectra or Parastar Plus, are available to help combat the ticks and help prevent infection with some of the nasty diseases they may be carrying, such as Lyme disease.
Although we have no documented cases of canine influenza in this area, it is a problem in many other states. Ask the advice of your vet before heading out of state. If traveling to Canada, be aware that the Canadian Customs may require that you produce a current rabies certificate before they allow your pet to cross the border.
It may be tempting to leave your pets in the car unattended while you stop, but this can be a deadly choice for pets. Please keep in mind that the temperature inside a car in the sun can be significantly higher than the outdoor temperature. Dogs and cats cannot cool themselves by sweating except through their tongue and feet and will quickly succumb to heat exhaustion. Leaving them alone in a car running with the AC on is not an option; cars can stall and pets can die.
Wherever your travels take you and your pets this summer, be prepared, and of course, have a safe trip!
Dr. Eleanor Sabean owns the Lakeside Veterinary Clinic on Libby Hill Road in Oakland. She can be reached at the www.lakevets.com or