Vacation plans are certainly well under way and hopefully they include the family dog or cat. Traveling with your pet is pleasurable if you are prepared.
Higgins and I are heading to California for a week, so a column on travel seems appropriate.
Too often, pet owners fear they will not find a motel that takes pets. I have not had that trouble. Motel 6, Red Roof Inns and several others always accept dogs. Motel directories will indicate if they allow dogs. If a motel will not accept pets, they usually can recommend one nearby.
Have a duffel type bag just for your pet's stuff. The basics come first: food, water and a bowl for each. Pack enough food for the duration of the trip or be certain that you can buy it along the way. You do not want to change foods while away from home. A couple cans of food help the finicky eater. Water is different everywhere. Take a couple of gallons with you and when you run out, buy water rather than give your pet strange water which can upset his stomach.
Pack the dog's or cat's bed or blanket, something that he is accustomed to. If your dog has a habit of sleeping on the bed, (imagine such a thing!) be sure to bring a sheet to cover the bed at the motel. Don't forget a couple of the pet's favorite toys, something to chew on and a stuffed animal.
A most important item for the duffel bag is the pet's health record, including the name and phone number of your veterinarian. Make sure all vaccinations are current. Ask your veterinarian about any special precautions you might need for your destination. If you will be traveling where it is humid and buzzing with mosquitoes, fleas or ticks, you might need extra vaccinations or a product like Frontline, which repels most unwanted little creatures. Don't forget any medication that the dog or cat might be taking. If the pet tends to get car sick, talk to your vet about something to prevent that.
A traveling pet should wear a secure collar with tags, including phone numbers of your home and also where you will be staying, or a cell phone number. This is when the microchip is invaluable. A harness might provide better security for a cat.
Pack a 4- to 6-foot leash for times when you need more control. Retractable Flexi leashes are great for exercising the dog at rest stops, motels and during the daily walks.
Always have a small towel in the duffel. If your dog swims, you might make that a large towel. Pack some shampoo in case the dog gets into something smelly. Don't forget his brush.
The new soft-sided kennels are great for car travel. They are lightweight and fit in most any car. When buying one, be sure it is large enough so that the dog can stand up. It is best to keep the dog in his kennel if you leave the motel room. A firm plastic crate is best for a cat, with room for him to move around a bit. Secure it with the seat belt. Get your pet accustomed to the kennel before departure. The kennel provides comfort and security for him when you leave for a few hours in an unfamiliar setting. Leave him with his toys and something to chew on. He will be much more relaxed in his own little house from home.
Most importantly, make certain that your pet is securely restrained in the car. Either he should be in a kennel that is strapped in or he should be in a seat belt. Never should a pet ride in the front seat of the car. Seat belts take a bit of getting used to but they do keep the pet where he is supposed to be. Riding in the back of a pickup is taboo, but many put the large kennels in the truck bed. Strap it down well and put some sort of sun screening over it to allow air to flow around and through but to block some of the heat.
Have a good supply of pick-up bags. The little fold top sandwich bags are great if you are feeding a high quality food and the stools are small. Have these handy behind the front seat of the car along with a jug of water, a bowl and a leash.
Two unrelated important reminders:
Always have at least two water bowls accessible to your pets at all times. It is so easy for a bowl to get knocked over -- and in this hot weather, not having water is extremely dangerous. Change the water once a day to keep it fresh and free of bugs.
My neighbor's dog was shaking her head. Turns out she had a sticker down in the ear canal. That can really be painful. These stickers are a real headache. Depending on the type of coat the dog has, some stickers seem to fall off while others just get a hold and work their way into the skin. Check the feet and the ears regularly.
Christy Powers is a columnist for the Payson Roundup. She can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or snail mail at HC1, Box 210, Strawberry, AZ 85544.