Pets and travel: So many dilemmas

March 24, 2018
Kristi Reimer Fender, News Channel Director

Kristi Reimer is editor of dvm360 magazine and news channel director for dvm360.com. Before taking over

To leave behind? To take along? The best solution is rarely clear.

This afternoon my husband, son and I will be loading up our suitcases, along with the kitten, and heading to my parents' house for a weekend with family. We've never traveled with Lucy before, so we're not sure how this is going to go. But I hate leaving her behind, even with our nephew housesitting, based on past experiences in which she seemed neurotically forlorn even after we returned. (Alvin the dog, on the other hand, seems perfectly happy to buddy up with the nephew-my suspicion is that extra treats are involved.)

Travel when you're a pet owner presents numerous difficulties. Boarding is expensive and not suited to every pet. Finding a pet sitter you trust is a challenge and also potentially expensive. Having someone stop by a time or two to dump food in the bowl is just not fair to the poor pet.

Which is why I suspect many folks, like us, simply take the pet along-it's a family member, after all. But this isn't an easy road either. If you go far, there are risks of acquiring diseases (see here and here). Pets with breathing problems can die on airplanes, as was tragically the case on a recent United flight. And car rides can be hours of pure terror for some animals (not to mention the puking). As we embark on travel season, it's a good time for pet owners (including this one) to think through exactly what the best thing is for their four-footed friends-and for veterinarians to stand ready with wisdom and guidance.