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pet travel

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By Matthew Kearns, DVM

Dr. Matthew Kearns

The last day of school has passed and summer is here. What better time to take advantage of travel with the family? And family for many of us includes four legged members. 

Nowadays more and more hotels and rentals are pet friendly and, with a quick search on the internet, it can be easy to find establishments that accept pets. Camping is also a popular vacation choice and many campgrounds will accept pets. 

Check with your veterinarian that your dog or cat is up to date on their vaccines, as well as discuss any additional vaccines against diseases that your pet may be at risk for when traveling (especially at campsites). Make sure you know where the nearest local veterinary emergency clinic or, in more rural areas, which veterinary clinic may offer emergency services.

What about travel itself? Some pets make excellent travel companions, while others don’t and become agitated in the car. Dogs or cats that become just mildly agitated in the car can get by with a more holistic approach.

One way to soothe our pet’s anxiety is to use scents. Lavender is an excellent way to calm dogs during travel induced excitement (one study used a lavender scented oil that could be sprayed on a blanket), whereas for cats a synthetic facial pheromone (scent hormone) is more effective. 

Some pets are just too wound up to use any aromatherapy or pheromones and need medication. Certain sedatives or tranquilizers can be used for short to medium length trips, whereas medications such as selected serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) or antidepressants are needed for really high-strung pets to take both during travel and a stay in an unfamiliar environment. 

If you feel something like an SSRI or an antidepressant is warranted make sure to start well enough before leaving on vacation. Most of these medications have a four week induction period (meaning they are not truly at therapeutic levels for at least four weeks) and need to be weaned off after returning from vacation. Some pets also require pre medication bloodwork (to make sure our pet’s organs can safely tolerate the medication long term) so make an appointment well in advance of your vacation to see your veterinarian.  

Antihistamines can be used for motion sickness but have been proven to make terrible sedatives for travel so check with your veterinarian before considering “self-medicating.” In conclusion, making our pets traveling guests can really enhance a vacation.  Just travel safe.     

Dr. Kearns practices veterinary medicine from his Port Jefferson office and is pictured with his son Matthew and his dog Jasmine.