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Pet travel: How to take your pet on vacation

©iStockphoto.com/Lukasphoto Image by: ©iStockphoto.com/Lukasphoto Author: Canadian Living

Pets

Pet travel: How to take your pet on vacation

Last year's vacation at an Ontario resort was a slice of doggy heaven for Ace and Ozzy. Ace, a spirited Chihuahua, and Ozzy, an adventurous Australian shepherd, spent their days splashing in the lake, pinecone-pouncing and playing fetch with their human companions, Jayne and Mike Woods.

At the end of each day the pooches collapsed in front of a roaring fire and, after a barrage of cuddles with Jayne and Mike, fell into a deep sleep, clearly contented with their holiday.

A vacation for the entire family
The pleasure of that trip together seems to be mutual; Jayne and Mike say their vacations just wouldn't be the same without their pooches in tow. They aren't alone. The couple is among a growing contingent of people who are choosing to vacation with their pets.

Pets on the rise
Pam Fischer, who co-owns Lake Edge Cottages in Lakefield, Ont., with her husband, Peter, has seen a dramatic increase in pet-toting guests since she began marketing her resort as pet-friendly five years ago.

In 2002, 37 per cent of guests brought pets, and by 2004, that number had grown to 75 per cent – mostly dogs and some cats. Luckily for families who travel, an increasing number of accommodations, from hotels to bed and breakfasts, are becoming more friendly toward animals.

But why do people want to vacation with their pet? For one thing, many consider pets a part of the family, which means if they travel they want Fido along.

Pets are also good companions: they don't complain, they're always up for a stroll, they help us make friends, and they're cuddly and comfortable to have around.

What's more, if the circumstances are right they'll love the vacation, too. If you want your pet to enjoy a holiday as much as Ace and Ozzy do, here's what you have to know.

Bring the poodle, leave the python
Not all animals are cut out for the road. For some, boarding, or having an animal sitter, is the best option. Which pets travel well and which don't?

• Dogs tend to be the most easygoing travellers, while cats can be more anxious. Much depends, however, on the pet's personality traits.

• Leave birds, reptiles and caged animals such as hamsters at home. They are frail and do not travel well.

• Never travel with very young animals (such as puppies and kittens under five months), pregnant, old, sick or injured pets, or those that have biting and barking problems.

Find pet-friendly places and spaces.
How and where you spend your time will make a difference to your pet's happiness. If you plan to be out on the town a lot doing things that are not pet-appropriate (visiting museums, amusement parks or local restaurants, for instance), unless the hotel you're staying at offers animal sitting, it may be best to leave your pet at home with a pet-sitter or at a boarding kennel, says Angela Wu, founder of The Pet Friendly Canada Directory in Calgary, a pet travel and accommodation information resource. But if you prefer activities such as hiking, picnicking or visiting parks, bringing your pet can work well.

Not all accommodations will allow pets, so call ahead and ask if animals are welcome. Many places will allow small pets but nix large ones. At some you can leave pets unattended for short periods of time, while others will tell you to crate your critter if you leave him alone. For safety reasons, some places will not service your room if your pet
is unattended.

How your family likes to travel will also affect your pet, says Scott Beddall, director of operations of Pets Can Stay Canada in Victoria, a travel-planning service and information resource for travellers with pets.

If you like to camp in the wild but your pampered pup prefers a short stroll through a city park, keep him at home. If you all like the pampered life, trips to hotels that accept pets are a good option. Some deluxe hotel chains and resorts toss dogs a bone and more, such as a plush dog bed, food and water bowls, and a doggy check-in package with a toy and treats.

Check it out: Takeyourpet.com, pawsitivepets.com, petfriendly.ca, petscanstay.ca, petswelcome.com, pettravel.com, dogfriendlydirectory.com

• Call your destination accommodation and ask if they accept pets. If you're renting directly from a property owner (for instance, a private cottage or vacation home), call the owner to find out if pets are welcome and whether the environment is amenable to them.

• Check out tourism association guides.

En route
Getting to your destination sometimes isn't "half the fun" for your pet. Find out what you need to know before you go and how to ease the stress for your animal companion along the way.

• Transportation by car is easiest, assuming your pet is comfortable travelling this way. You can keep an
eye on your pet and ensure she's safe and happy, and you can make lots of
pit stops.

• Ask your vet for advice about the best motion-sickness medication and how to administer it.

• Bring a toy, a container of water, treats and food (if necessary), and
poop bags.

• Don't let your dog hang his head out the window. Dogs can get debris in their eyes or otherwise hurt themselves.

• Use the air conditioner if it's hot, since dogs and cats cannot cool off as easily as humans.

• A pet is generally not allowed to travel with you on a bus or train in Canada, except in cargo. The one exception is if your animal is a guide
or service dog accompanying a disabled traveller.

• Due to the discomforts associated with air travel -- such as anxiety, cold temperatures in the cargo section and risk of a pet getting lost -- many people prefer not to travel with their furried friends unless they are small enough to travel in a carrier kennel that fits under the seat.

• Let your pet explore the carrier before your trip.

• If your pet is travelling in cargo, check with the airline for policies. Requirements can differ depending on which country you are travelling to, so contact the country's embassy for importation regulations.

• Sedation is not usually recommended, but if you need to use it, do a test run at home first. Ask your vet for advice about products and dosage.

Rx for the road
Pets, like people, can get sick. These tips will help prevent health problems.

• If your pet is on medication, make sure you bring enough.

• Bring enough of her own food. If you change food, she may get diarrhea. Bring a four-litre bottle of water from home, then slowly wean her on to the water at your destination.

• Get the proper vaccines (according to which country you are visiting) and be sure your health documentation is accessible (and not packed in a suitcase), especially when crossing borders and flying.

• Due to stress and excitement, vomiting and diarrhea can be common -- within reason. If you have concerns, go to a vet.

• If your pet gets lost while on vacation, contact the local animal control organization.

• Consider getting pet insurance (there is no trip-only insurance available). Plans typically cover the cost (or portion of the cost) of treatment for accident and illness. Plans do vary. Check out petcareinsurance.com.

Pets as guests
Remember your manners when it comes to your pet and you'll always be invited back.

• Ask if it's OK before you take your pet to someone else's place.

• Respect the rules of the house regarding pets. Not everyone wants an animal to sleep on the bed, for instance.

• Be mindful of others; some people do not want dogs barking, running around or jumping up on them or their furniture.

• Be a keen cleaner: dust and vacuum after your dog indoors, as well as scoop when you're outside.

• Bring your own dog towels and wipe off her dirty paws and wet fur before you let her back inside.

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Pet travel: How to take your pet on vacation

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