Pet Travel and COVID – Make Your Trip Safer and Easier

Pet Travel and COVID Stay Safe
Photo by Helena Lopes from Pexels

Do you want to take your pet with you on your next getaway? According to recent surveys, over 80% of pet owners are planning a trip with their pet, especially after this long period of confinement. But both pet travel and COVID can make things complicated, so how to make things safer and easier for you both when you’re ready to travel?

Many states have implemented restrictions to keep their citizens safer during the COVID-19 pandemic. Some cities or states require quarantine once you arrive (like Chicago), and most all states require masks when in public places. Of course, your pet doesn’t need a mask, but, if you intend to take your pet to public areas, you should be aware of mask requirements. Also, it is a good idea to keep your dog or cat away from other pets that you do not know as infections can be passed between animals.

Related: Is it Safe to Travel with Your Pet During the Coronavirus Crisis 

To reduce stress and minimize the impact of unforeseen circumstances, make do some research and make preparations beforehand. To help get you started on your journey and make the most of it, here are tips for pet travel and COVID – how to make things safer and easier. 

Protect your pet when you travel during the COVID pandemic
Photo by C. Hill

Get your paperwork in order

A few days before leaving, take your pet to the veterinarian for a checkup, rabies vaccination and health certificate. The health certificate should not be dated more than ten days before your departure. If you are traveling to another country, you may need additional documentation for pet import. Be sure you understand what paperwork will be required or authorities may quarantine your pet when you arrive at your destination.  A transport agent can assist you with these requirements.

Veterinarians have also changed their procedures in many cities due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Should your pet require medical attention or a health certificate, you may need to wait outside while veterinarians attend to your pet. For this reason, you will need to be proactive in securing your pet’s medical records. 

Do some research on quarantine

When considering pet travel and COVID-19, it’s also important to be well versed with the quarantine rules in the country you’re traveling to and to have a plan in place for this. For example, here are the current quarantine-free countries, subject to rules and conditions which you can read here:

  • Asia
  • Cambodia
  • The Maldives
  • Sri Lanka
  • Turkey
  • United Arab Emirates
  • Tanzania
  • Tunisia
  • Africa
  • North America
  • Mexico
  • Europe
  • Austria
  • Belgium
  • Denmark
  • Estonia
  • Germany
  • Hungary
  • Iceland
  • Italy
  • Latvia
  • Luxembourg
  • The Netherlands
  • Montenegro
  • Poland
  • Portugal
  • Slovakia
  • Switzerland
  • United Kingdom

If the country you’re visiting isn’t on the list, click here to read about their current rules around quarantining. You’ll need to ensure your pet has a place to stay and you have enough supplies. 

If you are planning to travel in the United States know that some states require quarantine for visitors. You can find more information about US State quarantine here.

Identify your pet

Get your pet microchipped. Pets outside of their environment can get excited and get away from you if you are not careful. Over 80% of pets who are not microchipped and are separated from their owners are never reunited with them. Don’t forget to register it in the manufacturer’s database. A microchip with no information attached to it does not do anyone looking for you any good.

Take a current photo of yourself with your pet and keep it handy on your phone or printed out and kept with your travel papers. Should you become separated during the trip, it will help others identify you as the owner. If your pet is chipped, take that certificate with you as well. 

Get the right-sized carrier

pet carrier
Courtesy of J Green Photo from Pet Travel Store

When traveling with your pet, whether by car, plane, or train, a pet carrier makes transporting them from place to place easier and can make them feel safer. Carriers, like pets, come in all shapes and sizes; some are hard, some are soft, some are designed to be carried on the back or shoulder, and some have wheels for hands-free convenience. Be sure it has adequate  ventilation, waterproof bottom and secure fasteners. Soft carriers are ideal for tucking under a seat but don’t skimp on size.

Hard crates are much more suitable for pets making the trip flying in the cargo hold. You will want to measure your pet carefully for its crate as the airlines will not accept pets that are too large for their crate. Whether hard or soft, your pet must be able to comfortably stand, sit, turn around, and lie down inside the crate. If the airline deems your crate too small, ticket counter agents will refuse boarding.

Be sure to write your pet’s name on the outside of the crate or carrier along with your name, address, and cell phone number. Should the airlines route your pet to the wrong location, the airlines will be able to reroute it much quicker. It’s also a good idea to add a phone number of someone at the destination, just in case your pet makes it there before you do.

Acclimate your pet to its crate or carrier

Don’t wait until the day of the trip to see how Fido likes a crate or a carrier. Take it out for a spin or two. Give him or her a chance to feel comfortable in their new surroundings before adding the stress of an extended stay. Drive them to the neighborhood park, to the local shopping center, and then to the next town. By gradually increasing the amount of time they’re in the crate or carrier, they will become accustomed to it and ready for a more extended trip.  

Related: How to acclimate your pet to its crate or carrier

Pack a bag

Pack a bag with everything your pet needs. Familiar items such as their blanket, favorite toy, and regular food and treats can help soothe your pet during your travels. “To prevent food or water spills, use a small container with a little circle cut in the lid”, says Richard East, author of Van Cat Meow

You will also need medications, leashes, a crate, pads, garbage bags, paper towels, and a spare blanket for any accidents. For cats, if you don’t want a kitty litter in the crate or there’s no space, take along a portable litter tray or a large container with a fitted lid so your cat relieves itself during rest stops. 

Find a pet-friendly accommodation

pet friendly hotel
Courtesy of Pexels.com

Pet travel and COVID-19 doesn’t have to be stressful. It’s essential to find pet-friendly hotels that allow your pet to stay with you indoors. Of course, hotels are far more limited during this pandemic, so make sure to also call and confirm your stay if you usually just book online. 

When you arrive, check for hazards such as insecure fences or chemicals on the premises.  Be sure and protect the hotel furniture with a sheet or blanket and don’t leave your pet alone in the room.

You can also consider putting a tracker on your pet’s collar with the details of your accommodations so you know where they are, and someone can find you if your pet runs off. 

See to their needs 

Ensuring a mostly empty tummy will reduce gastric issues while traveling. Instead of loading up the dish right before the trip, try feeding a partial serving about four to six hours before you leave. According to Pet Food Sherpa, your pet will have more time to digest food when fed earlier. Less food will cause upset to your pet’s digestive system which is already under stress due to new surroundings and activities. Take your pet out for a romp, if possible. A bit of exercise will tire him or her and cause them to sleep more during the journey. Be sure they have an opportunity to empty their bowels and bladder before leaving and stop several times along the way.

Water, on the other hand, is important. Be sure your pet is hydrated before leaving. If traveling by car, keep a small amount of water in the dish at all times. If flying, empty the water dish before handing the pet over to the airlines. Leave the bowl inside so it can be filled by airline employees checking on the pets—especially important if there is a delay between legs of your flight.

Related: How to Travel with an Older Dog

Traveling by car

pet travel by car
Photo by Charles Roth from Pexels

Restrain your pet while traveling to keep you both safe, as well as help you avoid getting fines or warnings. If you have a dog, a crate or a harness that connects to a seat belt, this is the best way to restrain them, says Dr. Chester. If you have a cat, put them in a crate or carrier with a lightweight sheet covering three sides, strapped in by a seat belt. 

If your pet gets carsick, you can skip their morning meal or get anti-nausea medication from your vet to help them feel less travel sick, says Dr. Barnard-Nguyen. You should also take frequent breaks at rest stops away from the road during a long car trip. Your pet will always appreciate a breath of fresh air. 

Related: How to Prevent Car Sickness in Pets

In some areas, rest stops have been closed due to the pandemic. It could be more difficult to find places for a quick potty break. Check with the state you are passing through or visiting to make sure you know where you can stop. Pulling off alongside the road is never safe. You could be hit by a passing motorist or your pet could dart into traffic. 

Consider installing smart car tech to make driving easier and your road trips safer for everyone. These include personal assistant apps (voice commands for driving), parking apps (find, share and pay for parking), GPS units, reversing cameras, blind-spot warning systems, and advanced driver-assistance systems. 

Traveling by plane 

Taking your pet along for a trip that includes plane travel may not always be straightforward, but as with many things in life, it may be unavoidable. In such a case, here is some advice on how to keep pet travel safer and easier during COVID-19.

Arrive early for your departure, but not too soon. Allow some time for a walk to tire your pet out. Your pet will not be permitted to be outside of its crate or carrier once you are inside the airport. When flying with your pet, you must check-in at the counter. Approach the counter only once when you have all your documents ready, including your pet’s health certificate. Expect to wear a mask at a public airport, but pets are not subject to this requirement.

In the cabin or in the cargo hold?

With fewer people traveling due to stay-at-home orders issued by states and countries, the majority of commercial airlines are operating with fewer services for live animals, with many are suspending services altogether. American Airlines recently announced changes which include a “relaxed seating policy, reduced food and beverage service and suspension of checked pets.” Live animals cannot fly in United and Delta’s cargo hold either at the publishing of this post.

That being said, most airlines will fly you and your pet in the cabin during the COVID pandemic if your pet is small enough to conform to airline pet policies. You may find that the rules surrounding pets in the seating area of the plane are more relaxed. It’s worth calling up before making an online booking and having a chat with the airline about what is possible.

If you would like to take your pet into the passenger section, be sure the carrier can fit under the seat in front of you. You can contact your airline and ask them how much room their is on the aircraft that serves your route. Also, know that your pet must be able to stand up and turn around in the carrier.

If you find an airline who will take your pet. Booking your ticket early may allow your pet to travel in the passenger section. Call the airline before booking to check for restrictions. Book your ticket with the same agent to ensure your desires are not lost by switching to another agent or booking online. Request a non-stop flight or choose a weekend when planes are not as full.

Should your pet be required to travel in the cargo hold, it can be a traumatic experience—especially for timid breeds. To maximize their comfort, fly during the spring or fall and choose early morning or late evening flights. Temperatures will be cooler at those times. Be sure to include a bed or blanket to minimize vibrations.

Related: How to Keep Your Pet Cooler in High Temperatures

During the COVID pandemic, many airlines will fly larger or unaccompanied dogs as air cargo. With this class of service, you will check your pet in at your airline’s cargo facility. Plan on flying between larger airports.

Should you sedate your pet?

sedated pet
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Speak to your vet before giving your dog or cat calming products like sedatives and pheromones to reduce their anxiety while in the car, says Anne Chester, chief vet at the RSPCA, Brisbane. Benadryl is commonly used for dog anxiety relief in these sorts of situations, but you should always check with your vet before giving your pet any medication. 

Sedatives are for consumption whereas pheromones are embedded collars worn around the neck or dispensed with diffusers. You can also try out all natural pet calmers when car training your pet, and if they react well, you can use them for your trip. 

As for air travel, the American Veterinary Medical Association says sedatives and tranquilizer can create respiratory and cardiovascular distress at high altitudes. They can also interfere with balance and equilibrium, making the pet unsteady when being moved and put them at risk of injury. Most airlines will not accept a sedated pet flying in the cargo hold.

Give them a break

Once you arrive at your destination, get outside, take off your mask and take your pet for a long walk. It will do you both good. Renting the car, checking in at the hotel, or taking a cab should be put off for the few minutes. It will take to give your companion a badly-needed and well-deserved respite. It will also allow them to calm as their anxiety level decreases. 

Be aware that in some areas, due to COVID, dog parks have been closed to adhere to social distancing. Finding a place to let your pet exercise should not be left to chance. Ask airport employees in advance where the nearest run is so you can get to it quickly.

Summing it up 

Keep in mind that areas may have established strict rules in deference to safety concerns relating to the spread of COVID-19. If you have questions about your destination country, you may want to contact their embassy.

No matter how you are traveling, or where you and your pet are traveling to, call ahead and make sure you can accommodate laws that have been established to keep everyone safer during the pandemic.

With the proper preparation, you can enjoy safe and worry-free pet travel and COVID-19 will not pose surprises for you.


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