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ROAD & TRAVEL Pet Travel: What to Know Before You Go

Pets Travel Safety: Simple Preparation Keeps Pets Safe

Travel is never risk-proof; throw a dog or cat into the mix and odds of difficulty increase by leaps and bounds. If you're a pet owner who's packing their pet, there are certain things that you need to be aware of before you head for the airport.

The Pre-Trip Veterinary Examination
Before any trip, have your veterinarian examine your pet to ensure that he or she is in good health. A veterinary examination is a requisite for obtaining the legal documents required for many forms of travel. In addition to the examination, your veterinarian may vaccinate your pet against rabies, distemper, infectious hepatitis, leptospirosis, Bordetella, and Lyme disease, and test for heartworm and prescribe appropriate medication.

After examining your pet, your veterinarian may prescribe a sedative or tranquilizer and recommend a trial run so you can observe the effects of the prescribed dosage. Do not give your pet any drug not prescribed or given to you by your veterinarian.

What You'll Need
When traveling with your pet, it is always advisable to keep a health certificate (a document from your veterinarian certifying that your pet is in good health) and medical records close at hand. If you and your pet will be traveling across state lines, you must obtain from your veterinarian a recent health certificate and a certificate of rabies vaccination.

Although pets may travel freely throughout the United States as long as they have proper documentation, Hawaii requires a 30- or 120-day quarantine for all dogs and cats. Hawaii's quarantine regulations vary by species, so check prior to travel.

If you and your pet are traveling from the United States to Canada, you must carry a certificate issued by a veterinarian that clearly identifies the animal and certifies that the dog or cat has been vaccinated against rabies during the preceding 36-month period. Different Canadian provinces may have different requirements. Be sure to contact the government of the province you plan to visit.

If you and your pet are traveling to Mexico, you must carry a health certificate prepared by your veterinarian within two weeks of the day you cross the border. The certificate must include a description of your pet, the lot number of the rabies vaccine used, indication of distemper vaccination, and a veterinarian's statement that the animal is free from infectious or contagious disease. This certificate must be stamped by an office of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The fee for the stamp is $16.50.

Regardless of what country you and your pet are traveling to, be sure to learn the animal quarantine policies long before you pack your bags. You may be able to find out a country's legal requirements through your veterinarian (who may refer you to other resources) or on the Internet or by contacting the embassy for that country. Traveling with your pet to another country requires some research by you, the caregiver, but it's worth it to ensure a smooth trip for your pet, with no last-minute surprises.

For easiest travel preparation, use a service like Pet Summary ( to organize all of your pet's most recent information. Should anything happen to your dog or cat, you'll want to be able to provide the most accurate information. Annual and lifetime subscriptions for Pet Summary start at $15 with discounts offered for multiple pets.

(Sources: Humane Society of the United States)