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Consider pets' needs on holiday vacations
By Carrie Reeves
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- People should remember to consider the special needs of the family pet when going down the checklist and loading the car with presents, luggage and family members.
Whether taking your pet on vacation or boarding it, pack so that your pet may maintain its home environment.
"To avoid undue stress on your pet when traveling, keep the animal's environment close to that of home, and you both will have a better trip," said Dr. Thomas Lenarduzzi, assistant clinical veterinarian at Mississippi State University's College of Veterinary Medicine.
Lendarduzzi suggested several things pet owners can do before any vacation to prepare for pets. First, take your pet to the veterinarian and get a health certificate. This will assure airlines and hotel personnel that your pet is safe to travel and accommodate and will satisfy regulatory requirements for interstate or international movement of the pet.
"A health certificate is very important when traveling," Lendarduzzi said. "Most airlines and many hotels require the health certificate. Also, if your pet has an emergency medical problem, a copy of the pet's medical records will inform the attending veterinarian of vaccination and medical records."
Make sure your pet is properly identified in case it gets lost. Pets have a tendency to wander away, so owners want to make sure the pet has an identification plate or tag on its collar with the owner's name and a contact number. Have a trusteed person check this number often and contact the owner with the information.
If traveling by car, take a trial run first. On a short drive, pet owners will know if their pet is a good traveler or if motion sickness or nervousness will be a problem.
"Cats have a tendency to become nervous while in cars," Lenarduzzi said. "The safest way for a nervous pet may be using a pet carrier or medication to calm the pet. If your pet is not a good traveler, the best option may be to leave the pet in boarding or with a sitter."
Vacationers need to find hotels that accommodate pets and a vacation spot that is safe for pets.
When traveling, make sure that a pet's nutritional, environmental and maintenance needs are met. Animals need to maintain a steady diet to prevent accidents while away. Take an ample supply of the pet's regular food, treats and water from home. Bringing water is suggested because just like humans, pets may suffer from intestinal problems if their diet changes drastically overnight. If water supplies run low, mix the water from home with the "new" water to help pets adapt.
A pet's environmental needs are more difficult to identify. Lenarduzzi recommended keeping pets' meal, exercise and sleep schedules as close as possible to normal. Vacationers also should bring their pet's favorite toys and special sleeping blankets or pillows.
Finally, make sure the pet's maintenance needs are met. When on the road, stop every two hours for a short break and every four hours to let your pet stretch and run. Bring the pet's prescribed medication and vitamins. Make sure traveling cages are well ventilated and large enough for the pet to stand and turn around in. Remember litter boxes or pooper-scoopers.
"Some animals will only use one brand of litter, so a vacationer may want to take litter and a litter box from home to prevent your animal from having to be retrained for the litter box," Lendarduzzi said.
If owners decide not to take pets on the family vacation, make sure the pet is well taken care of. Board pets in a reputable and safe environment or have a trusted person feed and exercise the pet while owners are away.
"Be sure to give specific written instructions to a house sitter or boarding facility on how you want your pet taken care of," Lenarduzzi said.
For more information, contact: Dr. Thomas Lenarduzzi, (662) 325-3432