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Essentials for Hitting the Road with Your Dog

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Planning a vacation or relocating with pet family members? You are not alone. During the past three years, more than 29 million U.S. adults have taken a road trip of 50 miles or more with an animal companion, the Travel Industry Association reports.

Packing for your own needs can be confusing. What will the weather be like? Where will we stay? You also need to plan for your pet's safety and comfort.

Here are some expert tips for hitting the road.

Before the trip

  • Consult your vet. Make sure your dog is physically and mentally equipped to handle the journey, particularly if it's long. Identify medications in the event of carsickness, diarrhea, or anxiety in your dog. Ask about the risks of fleas, heartworm, Lyme disease, giardia, and ticks in your planned travel zone.
  • It's essential for dogs to wear a safety belt, harness, tether, or other protective accessory while riding in a vehicle. Short walks with the harness will get dogs accustomed to wearing it. End each walk with a treat.
  • Gather relevant medical information on your dog such as a health certificate and list of vaccinations. Obtain recommendations for animal hospitals and veterinarians along the way.
  • Assemble a first-aid kit or buy one -- available at pet stores, vet offices and on the Web.
  • Make sure dogs have a current tag, microchip, or both. Make sure you have your pet's rabies tag and license numbers written down. Take along a photo in case they get lost so it will be easier to find them.

What should I pack?

BringYourPet.com is one of many Web sites offering current listings of pet-friendly accommodations. This site suggests bringing along some of the following on your journey:

  • Leash and extra collar
  • Old sheet or blanket for under the carrier for easier cleanup
  • Sheets to cover furniture where you intend to stay
  • Your pet's own bedding
  • Two gallons of drinking water from home
  • Food and water bowl set
  • Treats
  • Toys or chew items
  • Brush or comb and lint remover
  • Waste-removal bags
  • Old towels, disinfectant spray, and trash bags for accidents
  • Flashlight for late-night walks

Bring enough of your dog's favorite food. You may not be able to find the same brand on the road.

Pet travel market expands

Two-thirds of pet owners travel with their pets these days, according to Packaged Facts, a marketing research firm. With the overall pet supply market projected to surpass $11 billion in revenues by 2009, look for an increasing number of convenient products to make traveling with pets more enjoyable.

According to the Travel Industry Association, dogs are the most common pet passengers at 78 percent. Cats are a distant second at 15 percent; with small animals, such as ferrets and rabbits, at 3 percent; and birds at 2 percent. Favored modes of transport are, not surprisingly, cars and trucks, 76 percent.

Music soothes the savage beast

Consider packing some of your dog's favorite CDs. It has been scientifically proven that some music relaxes dogs, and a selection of music specifically for dogs, including "Through a Dog's Ear - Music to Calm Your Dog in the Car,'' is available on Amazon.com.

Canine audiophiles seem to prefer this relaxing collection over Ray Charles' "Hit the Road, Jack.''

Credit: Reveiwed by Amy I. Attas, V.M.D.
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