Traveling Safely with Your Pets This Summer

We recently conducted a facebook poll asking “What is your favorite summertime activity to share with your pet?“…”Chillin’ in front of the A/C” was the #1 response. And with the hot and humid weather we have been having for most of the recent summer I can’t say I disagree!  One of the other popular answers was “Camping and Traveling” so I thought maybe we could review some hints for camping and traveling safely with our pets this summer.

First off…you want to make sure that your pet’s Vaccines and Parasite Prevention are up to date.  Many of our favorite vacation destinations give us a phenomenal opportunity to connect with nature, but with these venues come an increased risk of infections and parasite exposure for us and our pets. The presence of wildlife and other traveling pets makes it more likely that we will come into contact with hidden dangers we don’t always encounter in our own back yards.

At minimum you will want to ensure that your pet’s “Core Vaccines” are current.  For dogs, these include Distemper/Hepatitis/Parvo and Rabies.  For cats (although it doesn’t seem as popular for people to travel with their cats?), these include Feline Distemper/Upper Respiratory Complex, Feline Leukemia and Rabies.  Depending on your specific destination, additional vaccine protection may be warranted (Lyme Disease, Leptospirosis and Bordetella).

Parasite prevention is NOT just about Heartworms and Fleas.  Most people are conditioned to worry (and rightfully so) about Heartworm Disease because of its fatal potential and Fleas because of the obvious discomfort they cause to our pets.  But we must also think about Intestinal Parasites (particularly Roundworms, Hookworms and Whipworms).  Without adequate protection, our pets could pick up any one of these parasites simply by exploring the Great Outdoors.  It is also very important to not forget about Tick Prevention.  Now, of course, there is the “Ick Factor” when it comes to ticks…there are not many things more disturbing than seeing an engorged tick attached to one of our beloved pets.  But, there is also a concern from a health standpoint.  We are seeing an increase in the number of Tick Borne Diseases in our canine patients (Lyme Disease, Ehrlichisosis, Anaplasmosis and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever).  Signs of these disease are often very vague and non-specific–making diagnosis a challenge.  Additionally, you should try to avoid letting your pets drink from standing water sources. Leptospirosis, Giardia, Clostridium and Campylobacter infections are just a few of the risks lurking there.

While preparing for your departure, it would be a good idea to consider constructing a First Aid Kit for your pet. Items included in this First Aid Kit may help you deal with some of the unexpected injuries or illnesses you may encounter.  Some simple supplies to deal with Wound Care are a good place to start.  Products to flush and disinfect a wound (Nolvasan or Chlorhexadine Solutions for example), Triple Antibiotic Ointment/Cream with or without Cortisone, Gauze Sponges and bandage material (VetWrap is ideal because it sticks to itself but not to your pet’s skin and fur making both applying AND removing the bandage material a breeze!).  Antihistamines to address allergic reactions and bee stings/bug bites are always a good idea to have on hand.  Usually generic Benadryl (Diphenhydramine) is the easiest and most effective option, but be sure to obtain a dose from your Veterinarian.  An NSAID (Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug) for injuries and inflammation should be included. It is very important to obtain a dose from your Veterinarian for an appropriate medication for your specific pet…one size does NOT fit all.  It may be as simple as an over-the-counter aspirin product or it might be a prescription drug designed specifically for dogs/cats.  Never, never, NEVER give Tylenol (Acetaminophen), Ibuprofen or Aleve as they are potentially very toxic to our pets.  If your pet is prone to having a “sensitive stomach” you may want to have some appropriate medications handy.  If your pet is taking a chronic medication, be sure that you have an adequate supply of these medications to make it through your entire vacation (count and re-count those pills!).  If your pet is going to be spending some time swimming and cooling off in the water, it will be a good idea to have an Ear Flushing Solution with a drying agent wit you to help minimize the risk of developing an ear infection.

When traveling with your pet you should always carry a copy of his/her Rabies Certificate and Health Records with you.  If you have made the very affordable investment of having your pet micro-chipped, be sure to have the ID# and telephone number for the monitoring company available in case you and your pet get separated.  Try to plan ahead and locate a local Emergency Clinic (if available) so you are not left flipping through the yellow pages or doing a frantic Google Search in the midst of an emergency.  If there is not an Emergency Clinic in the area you are traveling to, try to locate a Day Practice that will be willing to assist you if an emergency should arise.  And as added protection, be sure to have contact information for your regular Veterinarian back home.

While there are some increased risks when camping and traveling with your pet…a little advanced planning can help to ensure that your vacation is an enjoyable and safe time for ALL of your family members.  For more in depth
information, visit the American Veterinary Medical Association’s “Disease Precautions for Outdoor Enthusiasts and Their Companion Animals” at http://www.avma.org/public_health/outdoor_enthusiasts/outdoor_enthusiasts_precautions.asp .

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