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Planes, Trains, Cars, &Ships: How to Travel Safely With Your Pet

Planes, Trains, Cars, &Ships: How to Travel Safely With Your Pet
December 20, 2020

It might sound like fun to bring your pet on vacation or to visit family, but it can be stressful for both you and Fluffy or Fido.

Some animals don’t mind traveling, but many do. Pets, like people, are individuals. So it’s important to make sure your pet is fit to travel. Some animals can’t handle travel due to age, illness, injury or personality. Consult with your veterinarian for an expert opinion if you’re not sure your furry companion will travel well.

You’ll make sure your pet has a collar and tags, all their accessories, food, etc., but there are important things to consider in order to keep them safe depending on your mode of travel. Here are some tips.

If You’re Traveling by Car

Dogs: In a Crate and Anchored

Because dog restraints or seat belts haven't been shown to protect dogs during a crash, the safest way for your dog to travel in the car is in a crate that has been anchored to the vehicle using a seat belt or other secure means.

Cats: In a Carrier

Cat’s usually hate being in the car, so keep them in a carrier and restrain the carrier in the car so that they don't bounce around and get hurt. Secure a seat belt around the front of the carrier.

No Pets in the Front Seat

If an airbag deploys while your pet is in the passenger seat—even in a crate—they could get hurt.

Keep Heads Inside the Car

Dogs and cats should always be kept safely inside the car. Pets who stick their heads out the window can be injured by debris or sicken by having cold air forced into their lungs. And never, ever transport a pet in the open bed of a pickup truck.

Make Lots of Pit Stops

Stop frequently to allow your pet to exercise and do their business. Make sure your pet doesn’t leave the car without a collar, ID tag and leash.

Never Leave Your Pet Alone in Your Car

A quick stop may feel like no time at all, but it's too long to leave your pet alone in a car. Heat is a serious hazard; when it's 72 degrees Fahrenheit outside, the inside of your car can heat up to 116 degrees within an hour.

On an 85-degree day, even with the windows slightly open, the temperature inside your car can reach 102 degrees in only 10 minutes. In just 30 minutes, you could return to a 120-degree car

And don’t forget about cars that are stolen with a pet in them.

Traveling by Plane

Air travel can be risky for pets, especially for flat-faced animals such as bulldogs, pugs and Persian cats. So if you decide to fly with your pet, choose the cabin when possible.

Most airlines will allow you to have a cat or small dog in the cabin, but there are limits to the number of animals allowed, so call the airline far in advance. There are also size and carrier requirements you must know about.

The regulations can be overwhelming, so if you’re confused, there are companies that can help you navigate the process.

If your pet is flying in the cabin, you should ask the airline the following questions:

  • Can you take your cat or small dog in the cabin with you?
  • Do you have any special pet health and immunization requirements?
  • Is a specific type of carrier required?

If you can't take your pet in the cabin, does the airline have any restrictions on transporting your pet in the cargo hold?

Be Careful When Going Through Security

You have two options when going through security: Be sure your pet is securely harnessed so it’s contained, or request a special secondary screening that won't require you to take them out of their carrier.

Know the Dangers of the Cargo Hold

We’ve all read those horror stories about animals being lost, injured or killed on commercial flights. Cargo holds suffer from excessively hot or cold temperatures and poor ventilation, and baggage handlers can be rough.

U.S. airlines are required to report all companion animal incidents that happen in the cargo hold, so study the performance record of the airline before choosing to fly your pet that way.

If your pet must travel in the cargo hold, increase the chances of your pet arriving safely by following these tips:

  • Use direct flights.
  • Travel on the same flight as your pet whenever possible.
  • Don't ever ship flat-faced animals in the hold.
  • Add a travel label to the carrier on which you've written your name, permanent address and telephone number, final destination, and where you can be reached when the flight arrives.
  • Don’t give your pet tranquilizers unless they’re prescribed by your vet. Also, make sure it’s known to anyone in possession of the medicine that they’re for air travel.
  • If possible, put ice cubes in the water tray attached to the inside of your pet's crate or kennel. And don’t feed them for four to six hours before the flight.
  • Try not to fly with your pet during busy travel times such as holidays and the summer.

If You’re Going on a Cruise

Pets aren’t welcome on most cruise lines unless they are assistance dogs. When you’re planning your trip, contact the cruise line in advance to learn its policies and which ships have kennels.

Using a ship’s kennel isn’t advised, but if you must use it, make sure it’s protected from wind and water and be sure to check on your pet frequently.

Riding the Rails?

Amtrak’s current policy says, “Dogs and cats up to 20 pounds (combined weight of pet and carrier) are welcome on trips up to seven hours on most routes”. However, “travel with pets in Canada is not available on Adirondack, Maple Leaf and Amtrak Cascades; not available on Auto Train, Keystone Service, Pennsylvanian, San Joaquins, Capitol Corridor Pacific Surfliner or Thruway Connecting Services.”

It also has a service animal policy that doesn’t include support animals, search-and-rescue, or police dogs.

Keep Your Travel Companion Healthy and Happy

Before you travel, make sure your pet is healthy, up on any required vaccinations and fit for travel.


Keeping up with routine veterinary care visits is arguably the most important part of responsible pet ownership. Routine veterinary checkups can provide insight into any changes in your pet’s health and give you an opportunity to ask any questions you may have about your dog and their current life stage.

If you are unsure of when your pet’s last vet visit was, don’t have a current vaccination record or have questions about your pet’s health, don’t hesitate to contact us at Academy Animal Hospital. We’re committed to keeping Greenwood-area pets healthy and happy.