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The Ultimate Guide to Travelling Safely with your Pet by Car, Airplane, Train or Ship

Pets can bring love, fun, games and affection into your life, but they can also bring some problems as well. This is particularly true when it comes to travelling. It isn’t always easy to travel with a pet and most of the time, it’s easier to find a cat hotel or kennel so that your furry friend can wait for you at home.

But if you must take your pet with you, there are things you can do to make it easier on both of you…

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Photo by Mel Elías on Unsplash

Air Travel

Travelling by plane can be difficult and stressful for humans and it’s even worse for animals. Most of the time, your pet will have to fly in the cargo hold, and it isn’t uncommon for animals to die or get injured along the way due to temperature fluctuations, rough handling and poor ventilation. That’s why you need to seriously think about your options before you travel with your pet in Australia. If you have a pet with a ‘pushed in face’ like a pug or a Persian cat, then flying is even more dangerous. These animals have shorter nasal passages which make them even more likely to suffer as a result of flying.

In Australia, your pet can’t travel in the cabin with you unless it’s a companion animal. The hold is pressurised, so unless there are extraordinary circumstances, your pet should have a safe and comfortable trip. There are very strict rules about pet travel on airplanes, and each airline has slightly different rules.

Some of the most common restriction are:

  • Your pet must be in a safe and secure container according to airline specifications.
  • The container must be roomy enough so your pet can move around but not so big that it’s a danger to them.
  • Only dogs and cats in good health can fly.
  • Aggressive animals aren’t permitted on board.
  • Your pet must be over 8 weeks old.
  • Most airlines have a weight limit around 65kgs for pets and their containers.
  •    Some airlines will not allow sedated pets to travel and this isn’t recommended anyway for health reasons.

How to Ensure a Happy Flight

There are things you can do before and after your flight to ensure that your pet arrives at its destination happy and healthy. These include:

  • Take your pet for a vet appointment beforehand to ensure they’re healthy enough to fly.
  • A month before the flight, bring your pet’s travel container home and encourage them to sleep in there to reduce stress on the day.
  • Don’t feed your pet for 6 hours before the flight.
  • Take them for a walk or run before the flight to tire them out so they’ll sleep.     
  • Don’t sedate your pet without vet consent and check with your airline to make sure they allow this.
  • Choose flights that will help your pet avoid temperature extremes, for example try not to fly in the middle of the day in summer.
  • Choose direct flights where possible.
  • Make sure your pet has a collar that won’t get caught on the door of their container and is microchipped.
  • Don’t travel with a pet who has a ‘pushed in’ face.

Travelling by Car

For some animals, travelling by car is a fun adventure and for others it’s a nightmare. Most pets will have to travel in the car at some stage, whether it’s to a vet’s appointment or on a trip, so it’s usually best to start getting your pet used to the car when they’re very young. This will help you avoid problems in the long term and pet travel sickness.

If you haven’t done this and you know you have a trip coming up, you can introduce your pet to travelling in the car for short trips ahead of time. This will also alert you to any problems you might have. For example, some dogs and cats hate the car and will howl constantly. Other animals get carsick and end up vomiting. And it’s better if you learn about these types of problems on a quick trip down to the shops rather than in the middle of a long journey.

Having a Happy Car Trip

Cats should always travel in a safe, secure cat travel carrier for your safety and theirs. However, did you know that this is the safest option for dogs as well? You can buy dogs belts and other travel accessories, but these only stop the dog from roaming the car, they don’t protect them from injury in an accident. Your pet’s carrier should be anchored to the vehicle using a seat belt or other safety device, or if you’re travelling via bike, make sure the pet bike trailer is secured with the aid of a coupler.

Photo by Cat Mapper (Max Ogden) on Unsplash

Here’s what else you should know about car travel:

  • Take lots of breaks unless you want your car to end up smelling bad.
  • Never leave your pet alone in the car, even if you think you’ll be ‘right back’, because heat exhaustion is a serious problem in Australia and it’s deadly.
  • Don’t let your pet in the front seat because the airbags will kill them if you get in an accident.
  • Don’t let your pet stick their head out of the window as they can get hurt.
  • Never let your pet ride in the back of your truck!

Travelling by Ship

Unless your pet is a companion animal, you probably won’t be able to take them on a cruise with you. Only a few cruise lines allow this and most of them will insist that your pet is confined to a kennel onboard. So, if you’re going on a cruise, it’s probably better if your pet stays at home.

Travelling by Train

You can always travel with a companion animal on trains in Australia. However, for animals that are pets there are different rules. If you want to take your pet on a train trip in your local area you will need to check with the rules of your state and city. Some cities will permit small animals on trains in a crate and dogs if they’re on a lead and muzzled, but you need to do your research beforehand.

For longer trips, you will have to check with your rail carrier about their rules for travelling with pets. Some rail lines will allow pets in crates on the trains and some don’t, so inquire before you book your ticket.

If you follow these guidelines, and do some research beforehand, you will have a safe and happy trip with your pet. And you’ll both arrive at the other end healthy and ready to explore your new location!

About the author  

Dr Sam Kovac BVSC (merit), chartered member of the Australian Veterinary Assoc. Member, Royal College of Vet Surgeons, UK is the founder of Southern Cross Vet.

 

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