The number of dogs, cats and other critters on the family vacation is growing, with almost 40 percent of American pet owners traveling with pets each year. That statistic aligns with the humanization of pets, and the travel trend is resulting in innovative products that make it easier to “hit the road” with a dog or cat.

Many pet parents would never leave kitty at home with a sitter service or put a dog in a kennel while enjoying a beach vacation, camping excursion or visit with grandma. But to keep pets safe and healthy during travel and reduce trip stress requires planning and patience. Research and a list checked in advance of a trip will help ensure humans and pets are ready to go.

The first step is to be sure a pet is healthy enough for travel. An aging dog with hip pain may not be a great hiking partner, while a cat with urinary tract problems will undoubtedly leave its mark wherever it goes. A checkup at the veterinarian can determine a pet’s fitness for travel.

Next, make sure a pet’s temperament is suited for travel. Take a dog, cat or other pet on short car rides to monitor stress levels and reactions. A screaming, hissing cat throwing his weight against a cat carrier will ruin even a short trip, while an agitated dog unrestrained in a car can be dangerous. Pets may become used to being in a vehicle the more often they are passengers, so gradually lengthening the drives may help.

Checklist for Traveling with Pets

__ Microchip and ID Tag. Be sure these are up to date with your current contact information. For extra assurance, add your destination, trip dates and cell number on your pet’s collar and carrier. Keeping a photo of your pet on your phone or in your luggage is a good idea for emergencies.

__Harness or Restraints. Dogs can enjoy the back seat of a car with a safety belt, car seat, harness or restraint. Look for systems that fit existing seat belt buckles or baby seat connections.

__ Crate or Carrier. Invest in a travel crate. Be sure any crate or carrier is well ventilated and large enough for the pet to stand and turn. Secure the crate so it does not slide, slam or tumble over.

__ Medications and Supplements. If your pet takes medication and/or supplements, be sure to have enough for the trip and beyond. Consider supplements with CBD to lessen a pet’s anxiety. Try CBD products at home prior to traveling to monitor reactions and determine dosage and timing.

__ Food, Water and Bowls. Pack plenty of food and cold water. Travel bowls, including travel versions that collapse, are handy for roadside stops and in-car snacks.

__ Poop Bags or Litter, Pan and Scooper. Be ready to clean up after your dog or scoop cat poop. An air freshener is recommended if you set up a cat box in a vehicle. Pet wipes, towels and garbage bags should also be in a pet’s pack.

__ Bedding and Toys. Bring along a pet’s favorite blanket, pillow and toys.

__ Leash and Collar: Bring along a back-up leash and collar in the event one breaks.

__ Vaccination Paperwork: In case of an emergency or if stopped by an authority, it is good to have records handy, such as proof of rabies vaccination.

__First Aid Kit: Include pet supplies in your car’s first aid kit.

Reminders and Tips

  • Walk a dog or play with a cat to tire them a bit before a road trip. The exertion can encourage napping in the car.
  • Never leave an animal in a car on a hot day, even for a few minutes. In fact, it’s now illegal in some states to leave animals in hot cars.
  • Never put a dog in the back of a pickup truck. Animals in the back of pickup trucks are in danger from debris, winds and falls. About 100,000 dogs die each year from jumping from a vehicle or being unrestrained during an accident.
  • A dog should never stick its head outside a car window. While dogs love sniffing fresh air, their eyes are exposed to dirt, rocks and dust and wind can cause ear irritation and damage. Dogs have even come down with lung infections from riding with their heads out of car windows.
  • Rest stops are a good place to walk a dog and allow it to relieve itself. Stretching and exercising for pets and humans are essential on long drives.

For more information on traveling with a pet, visit the American Association of Veterinarian’s Website:

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