The Ultimate Guide on How to Travel with Your Pet
Traveling with your pet dog or cat could be a tricky situation for even experienced pet-parents. Whether it be a vacation or a job demanding you to relocate – nationally or internationally – the thought of having your furball as a travel companion is both exciting and intimidating. While the process does involve a lot of prep and considerations, it is not entirely impossible to travel with your pet. Whatever be the mode you choose – air, rail or road – we did all the groundwork for you. Here’s the ultimate guide to everything you need to know about traveling with your pet!
First up, why should you travel with your pet?
When it comes to leisure-trips and vacations, having your pet dog or cat by your side will only add to your experience. And given how simple it is to do so today, and the abundance of pet-friendly properties you could pick from, there is no reason why you would leave your furry best friend home alone while you enjoy your break. While there are many, there are two big reasons why you should take your dawgie with you on your next trip.
- Dogs are Pack Animals: Dogs love adventures, especially with their family. Your dog would absolutely love accompanying you on your expedition, provided you make adequate arrangements for him to adapt and adjust to this new temporary change in environment.
- Separation Drawbacks: Some dogs tend to develop anxieties about being away from their parents for a long time. Let alone feeling your absence, you can never be completely assured about the treatment your beloved will receive at an acquaintance’s or a pet boarding. Tiffs with fellow dogs, low quality food and the indiscipline in a pet boarding may leave your dog with drastic behavioral and dietary transformations you will have no clue about.
Having to relocate to a new city or country due to life decisions could leave you in a fix about what you should do about your furbaby. Well, there aren’t many options you could pick from. You could either take your pet with you on your new journey or part ways with him. We know the latter isn’t something one would want to do. While abandoning a family member is an impossible choice, taking them along is not. Given a few basic compliances are met, taking your furry companion along on your forward journey is quite simple and painless.
Airplanes are the most popular and yet the most controversial mode of transport for pets. From pets being misplaced or lost to deaths in transit, air travel with pets could be daunting. To ensure your pet has a safe journey while you travel stress-free too, you must make sure the following things are in place:
- Fitness: Before you work on the other details, the first and most basic need to travel with your pet is to check whether he is fit for air travel. If he is too young or weak, sick or just vaccinated, air travel may be a bad idea. Certain breeds with short muzzles like pugs, face difficulty breathing at higher altitudes and in cargo holds. Take an unbiased opinion or consult your vet to check if your pet is fit for travel by air. A letter by your vet stating your pet is fit to travel is a plus.
- Plan Ahead: It’s never too soon to start planning your travel with your dog or cat. Especially if you’re planning to travel internationally. There’s a list of conditions you must meet in order to be able to transport your pet internationally. We have the common ones listed below, but it’s always a good idea to begin your research and preparations as soon as you know you will need to travel.
- Choice of Airline: Here’s where you need to do your research. Check for any accidents or past incidents the airline had that involved pets. This will help you choose the best and have an idea whether you could put your pet in their hands and rest easy.
- Motion Sickness: If you know your pet is prone to motion sickness (you could find out by taking him on a couple of long drives), avoid feeding your pet immediately before the flight. Keep him well-hydrated. A tired pet is always a bonus, so you could let him have a lot of physical activity on the day of the journey.
- Certificates: Along with a health certificate, and a letter from your vet approving your pet of being fit to fly, you will also need to carry certificates of Rabies and all other vaccinations.
Domestic Air Travel with Your Pet in India
In-Cabin: The minimum age for having your pet in the cabin with you varies between 8 to 12 weeks. Airlines like Air India* and Vistara* let your pet with you in the pressurized and temperature controlled cabin area of the aircraft. For in-cabin travel, your pet needs to be in a soft-ventilated bag or kennel. The kennel size should not exceed 18” x 18” x 12”. A maximum of 2 pets are permitted per flight so you may have to intimate your airline at the time of your booking or 72 hours in advance (whichever is earlier).
Pets are carried for an extra charge and are not included in the free baggage allowance. Vistara charges Rs. 5000 per pet as a handling charge and Rs. 300 per kg (weight of pet + weight of carrier + weight of food). Aggressive pets, short-muzzled and cross-bred breeds, pregnant pets and their suckling offsprings are not allowed on board. All in-flight boardings are subject to the approval of the commander of the flight
Cargo: Shipping your pet through Cargo is a cheaper alternative. While crating your pet may take some strong-willed pet parenting, doing so will only help ensure your pet has a less strenuous journey. You need to crate your pet in an IATA approved crate. The crate needs to have enough space to allow your pet to lie down, stand and turn comfortably. It needs to be well-ventilated, made of non-chewable material and have soft edges, also be escape and leak-proof. Buying a crate well in advance will help you get your pet used to it. Make sure you label the crate well, including the pet’s name, owner, address, flight itinerary, nature of the pet, and owner’s contact details for emergency purposes.
International Air Travel with Your Pet from India
- Is my dog breed banned?
Many countries have a set list of dog breeds they do not allow to enter the country as those breeds are deemed by them as ‘violent’ and hence dangerous. In their defense, they say it is so to avoid injuries and conflicts. The banned dog breeds differ from country to country and is a major concern you need to address before planning your trip. If you happen to travel to a country where your dog breed is banned, they may send your dog back at your expense or worse, euthanize him. Most of the banned dog breeds are large dogs. Some commonly banned breeds across countries are Pitbulls, Rottweilers and Dogo Argentinos.
- Is it a rabies-free or rabies-controlled country?
Certain countries including, but not limited to England, France, Spain, Italy are listed as Rabies-Controlled countries. While others like Australia, Japan, Singapore, New Zealand are Rabies-Free. You may have a difficult time moving your dog from a rabies-controlled to a rabies-free country. However, the process gets a lot less burdensome if you’re traveling from a rabies-free to a rabies-controlled country. India is on the High-Rabies list and accounts for almost one-third of total human rabies deaths worldwide.
- Do I need to microchip my pet? What are the vaccination requirements?
Most countries require you to microchip your pet with a 15 digit, non-encrypted microchip. If you are from a high-rabies or rabies-controlled country you will need to vaccinate your dog for rabies 30 days prior to entering a rabies-free country. If you’ve just got your dog microchipped you may have to get him vaccinated again.
There are countries that require more vaccinations than rabies. Australia needs your pet to be vaccinated for Parainfluenza, Bordetella, Canine Influenza and treated for Brucellosis, Ehrlichia Canis, Leishmaniasis, and Leptospirosis. Distemper vaccinations are mandatory in the UK, Spain, France, Italy, and Germany. It’s always in your best interest to read about the specific vaccination requirements of your destination country.
- Do I need a health certificate?
All countries need you to bring along a vet’s health certificate for your pet. But each one’s requirement is a little different. You may want to contact your destination country’s embassy to obtain copies of all necessary paperwork, it will usually be a bilingual health certificate. If you’re traveling to Canada or the US, the veterinarian endorsing the certificate must be USDA or CFIA accredited.
- Is quarantine mandatory?
A quarantine process requires you to leave your pet with the state facilities under observation. During this period the authorities study your pet for signs and symptoms of any diseases. Once deemed fit, your pet reaches you and is free to enjoy his new home country!
You may be able to skip the scary quarantine process if you’re traveling from a rabies-free country with a microchipped and duly vaccinated pet, and carrying a health certificate from a certified vet. But certain countries with stricter regulations may demand a quarantine for your pet from anywhere between seven days to six months (thanks, Japan!). You can contact your country’s embassy to know about the quarantine requirements there.
- Other miscellaneous requirements
While you research about the specific requirements of your destination country you may come across the need for an import permit and blood titer tests. France, Australia, the Bahamas and some more need you to have an import permit. Your pet may have to undergo a blood titer test if you’re traveling from a rabies-controlled or high-rabies country like India. These two, however, are not always mandatory.
- Airline specifications
Just like domestic travel your dog may or may not be allowed into the cabin with you depending on his size. A large dog may have to travel in the cargo hold. Call your airline to ensure you know how your pet would be traveling.
Certain International Airports do not allow importing exotic pets, while some have specified hours for the process. You may have to do your research to ensure you’re landing at a pet-import-friendly airport within the mentioned hours.
The Indian Railways has put down specific guidelines on traveling with dogs, the same generally applies when you’re traveling with other domestic pets. There are two ways you can travel with your pet by trains; in your coach or in the brake van (luggage hold).
In-Coach: You can take your dog along with you in the coach if you have a closed-door cabin or coupe in the First AC Class (we recommend booking 2 to 4 seats for a higher probability of being allotted one). You should also ideally make a visit to your respective station officer before booking your tickets in order to have a verbal confirmation and more in-depth details of the process.
You need to send a written application to the Parcel Office two days prior to your journey, requesting to be allotted a cabin or coupe. After this, you should receive an SMS confirming the booking of your cabin. While at the station, visit the station master before departure to get his signature and confirmation. You may then have to visit the Parcel Office at the station again to fill out a form with basic details of your pet (name, weight, owner, destination station, contact information, etc). After this, you need to make the payment for your pet’s ticket which will include a base price (Rs. 10 per dog*) and a fare per kg. And you’re all set!
You can carry your pet with you in the First Class AC Coaches only. Pets are NOT allowed in the Second Class AC, AC Sleeper Coaches, AC Chair Car or Sleeper Class of the Indian Railways. Remember, if you are sharing the cabin with another passenger, his consent to have your pet in the coach is needed or he may be shifted to the brake van! (No, not the co-passenger, although we really wish!)
Brake Van: While not as preferable as having your pet with you in the coach, you could choose to have him in the brake van if all else fails. The brake van is a portion in the luggage compartment at the end of the train. The compartment is usually poorly ventilated. The maximum weight to have your pet booked in the van is 30 kgs. To get your dog booked, you have to visit the Parcel Booking Office before your departure. You can get your dog weighed there and fill a form of details. You then need to take this form and your tickets to the assigned window where you finish your payment. The clerk gives you a board with details that you need to attach to your dog’s collar.
The guard at the brake van will then give you a dog-box for your dog and the final receipt that you need to display when you deboard to collect your pet. You should intimate him of your destination but since guards keep changing through the journey, you should take great care of this final receipt.
Here’s the official list of rules for carrying your pet on the train by the Indian Railways.
If you’ve decided on how you are to carry your pet by train, here are few tips to ensure a smooth journey:
- Consult your vet to check if your pet is ready for the stress a train journey may exude. On his confirmation, obtain a health certificate to carry along for safety sake.
- You are the one solely responsible for your dog’s food while on the train. If you’ve admitted him to the brake van, you may have to do quick laps between the van and your compartment to feed him. Note: Brake vans are usually not connected to the rest of the train, you may only be able to check on your dog when the train halts at a station.
- Have your pet’s collar on and carry a leash and muzzle for when required.
- Make sure your dog has peed and pooped before the journey commences since you may or may not be able to get off the train for it later.
- Do not overfeed your pet right before or during the journey. It will increase chances of motion sickness or wanting to pee/poop. Ensure you have enough fresh water to keep him hydrated.
- You may have your dog do some playing around or a long walk before the journey so he is tired and rests while traveling. Carry some fun toys and a few treats to keep him engaged.
- Consciously ensure that your pet is not being a nuisance to fellow passengers to have a peaceful journey for them and yourself.
- Do not leave your dog unattended in under any circumstance.
A road trip with the ones you love is always an amazing and sometimes a life-changing experience and there is absolutely no reason why you shouldn’t take one with your furry friend. You may even prefer taking the road over handing your dog to the railway or airline services. You get to have your pet under your supervision at all times and stop for pee/poop breaks whenever needed. You could also halt for a break, some fun activity, a small walk, the sunset or an early morning chai. But before you set out on your one epic drive, here is what you need to consider.
- Check for Motion Sickness or Anxiety
Before you set out on a long trip, take your dog on shorter test rides. Start with 15-minute rides, then thirty and up to an hour. If your dog shows signs of uneasiness or feels ill, it may be just a matter of a few more short trips to get your dog conditioned to the motion. If your dog refuses to settle the feeling even after some rides, consult your vet for motion sickness medication. If he does not feel sick but instead gets worked up or anxious, you may try rewarding him with treats at the end of each trip. You could also try some calming music to help your dog relax. In case that doesn’t seem to help, you may consult your vet for sedatives or supplements to help your dog get through a long journey.
- Have your canine’s information with you at all times
Keep your dog’s medical records, including vaccination cards, health certificates, medications, microchip number, medical insurance details handy. It’s always good to have your vet on speed dial. Research about vets and animal medical facilities on the route in case of any emergencies.
- Harness or Crate
Driving with a lose dog is very dangerous. If you happen to accidentally hit the breaks it may injure your dog, or his movement or activities may distract you while driving. Having your dog secured is the best way to ensure both, him and you are safe while driving. One way to do so is a seat harness. Specifically designed to secure your dog in the car, these harnesses are more than just regular hiking harnesses. You may want to look for one that has padded canvas and has strength-rated hardware for the buckles.
Another option is to have your dog in a crate. The market has many available options of crates that can be attached to your back seat by seat belts. You can find one that has enough space for your dog to be comfortable. Having a dog crate-trained is always a plus while traveling. A crate-trained dog finds it easier to adjust to new hotel rooms and spaces than those who aren’t.
Do not forget to carry your dog’s collar, leash, and ID tag. Other essentials include enough food, doggy waste bags, treats, toys, and a water bowl.
Safety Tips while Driving
- NEVER have the dog seated on the driver’s lap
If talking over the phone or texting while driving could be distracting, a living, moving being on your lap – whose movements are unpredictable – is a recipe for disaster. When you have your dog seated on your lap while you drive, you have an obstacle between you and the steering wheel and if your dog squeezes down between your legs for any reason, you now have an obstacle between you and the brakes. Doing so is extremely irresponsible and dangerous, and we strongly advise against it.
- No leaning out of the window
While you may feel great about letting your dog feel the wind on his face as you drive away, you need to watch out to never let your dog lean out the window. Keep shoulders and paws inside the car at all times. You risk a passing vehicle injuring your pet. Also, if your dog is not restrained he may even lose balance and even fall out the car, should you have to put the brakes suddenly or at steep turns.
- Temperature check at intervals
Temperature control may be an issue while on drives. If it’s too hot outside, ensure there’s enough cool air reaching your dog in the back seat and there’s plenty of air circulation to keep him comfortable. Make sure you check the temperature often.
Pet-friendly Hotel & Resorts
Where you stay on your vacation is a very important decision to make. More so when you have your dawgie accompanying you. There are many pet-friendly hotels & resorts all over India, and you can definitely find one at your destination. Every hotel though comes with its own set of rules and policies regarding pets.
Other than the expected extra fee for bringing a pet along, some rules may include a limited number of pets per room; usually 1-2. You will be expected to have your dog on a leash or in a carrier while outside the room. There could also be certain areas of the hotel where your dog may be prohibited. The hotel management also usually has the right to deem a dog disruptive. Should this happen in your absence, they hold the right to call animal control for removal of your pet. You may be charged extra in case your dawgie damages anything on the property.
In order to avoid future conflicts call the hotels you are considering ahead of time to inquire about their pet policies and pick the one that sounds the most reasonable to you. You could also inquire if the hotel provides a day-care facility for pets in case you plan to go for activities your dawgie can’t accompany you to.
Quick things you can do to make your stay easier include:
- Bringing chews so they are less likely to chew up the room. Bring along toys and treats so he stays occupied.
- You could carry a familiar sheet or blanket for the bed or couch to make it feel a little like home. Carry along a few bottles of water from home or mineral water. The mineral content in water differs from place to place and your pet may find it difficult to adjust immediately.
- Travel causes all sorts of anxiety in dogs, hence, do not expect at-home behavior. Do not leave your dog unattended during his anxious phase either.
- Try to book a room on the ground floor so reaching the toilets is easier and does not involve a stressful elevator trip for your dog.
Relocating your dog
If the entire process of moving with your dog sounds like too much of a hassle, you can always choose to get your pet relocated instead. That would mean you take up the services from a pet-relocation provider and they take up the task to bring your pet to your destination city. They look after the requirements of both the cities, take care of the shipping as well as quarantine, if any is needed. In India, you can find companies that provide such services domestically as well as internationally. You could also consider this option for longer travel or if your pet does not fit into the airline policies due to his breed, stubbed snout or weight.
Whatever may be the mode you pick, a trip with your best buddy will offer you the most fulfilling travel experience ever. Planned and executed correctly, traveling with your pet dog or cat could be really simple and fun. You’ll both surely return with a phone full of Instagram-worthy pictures and golden memories to cherish for life. So what are you waiting for? Pull your favorite booking site up and start planning your next trip already. Just make sure you watch what he eats, and safe travels!
Got pictures from your last trip with your pooch? Share them in the comments below!
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