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What Does My Dog Think of Traveling?

By: Dr. Amanda Landis-Hanna
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As you may have noticed from my Facebook and Twitter feeds, I travel quite a bit for work.  As the Director of Veterinary Medicine for Voyce Pro, I often attend veterinary conferences so that I can learn about cutting-edge trends in veterinary medicine.  Additionally, I help spread with word about Voyce Pro, along with our veterinary technicians and Enrollment teams.  All of that adds up to quite a bit of travel!  Sophie normally stays at home with the rest of my family when I travel for work.  I keep an eye on her by tracking her Voyce Pro data daily (and nudging my husband when Sophie’s data shows that he is not fulfilling his dog-daddy-duties).

But what about when my whole family travels?  What is a furbaby to do?  Why, travel along of course!  Recently, my whole crew went on a trip to visit family in Meadville, Pennsylvania.  We didn’t want to leave Sophie, so she came along for the flight (my husband and I are both licensed pilots).  Sophie gets her own space, though I sometimes think she would rather ride in my lap.

I have traveled with dogs all my life.  I have been lucky because most of my dogs traveled well.  In fact, my rescues Sam and Gus drove cross-country with me twice! But I know lots of dogs (many of them patients) that do not travel well.  Some dogs vomit, suffering from motion sickness.  There is a prescription medication, Cerenia (maropitant) that is highly effective at controlling nausea and motion sickness. 

Sophie travels well.  She is excited about every step of the process: packing, car rides, loading into the airplane, sniffing all the new smells wherever we go.   Many dogs feel the same way, but the number of changes and adjustments may overwhelm some dogs.  Traveling may induce anxiety in dogs, just as it can induce anxiety in humans.  If your dog appears to get stressed about travel, please discuss it with your veterinarian.  Anti-anxiety medications can be very helpful, and may cause minimum sedation.  If you travel frequently, you can also work with a trainer on counter-conditioning anxiety that may be triggered by travel.  Essentially, you can take frequent, short, relaxed trips, with lots of positive reinforcement, to help build your dog’s confidence around travel.  Sophie’s biggest stress when we travel is wondering if I remembered to pack her food!

If you travel commercially with your dog, be aware you may need to perform a few steps to make the trip enjoyable for everyone.  Dogs traveling across state lines or traveling internationally will need a health certificate written by a veterinarian.  This certificate indicates they are healthy enough to withstand travel, and will not spread contagious diseases.  Veterinarians who have been credentialed by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) may write health certificates.  These certificates often have special timing associated with them, especially if you are traveling internationally, so check details with the airline and international consulate.  You will also want to make sure you have a complete copy of your dog’s health records, in case of an emergency.  As an easy alternative, you can upload all of that information into your dogs VOYCE record, so it can travel with you conveniently.

Assistant and working dogs are usually allowed to travel with their handlers or partners.  Some assistant dogs are trained to help reduce their human’s anxiety due to traveling!  Non-working dogs may be allowed to travel with their families as well, depending on their size, and the method of transportation.  Many commercial airlines permit dogs to fly, but large and giant breed dogs often have to travel in the cargo hold.  Trains, buses and boats each have independent regulations, so be sure to check well in advance of planned travel.  Dog-friendly hotels are becoming increasingly common, and often a Dog Concierge is available as well!

So, if you travel often, don’t immediately assume you will have to leave your pet behind.  Today you have a wide range of options available, both for you, and your pet.  Many dogs really just want to stay with their family, and the hassles of travel don’t seem to bother them much.  In fact, a nice snuggle from your dog can help ease any road rage or travel tension that may be hanging on!  But if travel stresses your pet, a dog sitter or boarding facility may be a better option for her.

What does Sophie think about travel?  Her VOYCE data shows that travel doesn’t stress her much.  Her resting heart rate and resting respiratory rate data remain stable wherever we are.  If we are camping and away from wifi, her data is still collected and syncs when we get home, which can be both reassuring and intriguing!  As long as I remember her dog food, she seems to enjoy being along for the ride!  So wherever your summer plans take you (and your dog), have fun and be safe!

Do you travel with your dog?  Share your favorite dog travel photos with us on social media at @mydogsvoyce on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook!

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Posted on Aug 17, 2015 by VOYCE Behavior & Training
Vets & Experts