Preparing for the Journey

Before taking off on a travel adventure with your pet, you have some preparations to complete.  Preparing for the Journey will let you de-stress and focus on the fun of traveling with your pet by helping you collect and organize all of your pet’s necessities which includes your paperwork, food and medications to carriers, beds, and toys – ahead of time.

Kimba and kartu so cute vet

Necessary Details

Because some travel regulations require a medical certificate issued within ten days of travel, the first priority is to take your pet to your vet for a medical examination.    Visit www.aphis.usda.gov/ac for government pet travel rules within the United states.   In addition to collecting pet-maintenance supplies and vet records, you should review which pet papers are specifically required where you travel.

Make a Loss-Prevention Kit

Every pet should have a basic care and identification kit in case of loss or the necessity of others caring for them.  Make copies of important papers and care instructions, enclose them in a clear plastic zip-close bag, and attach that to your pet’s crate.  If you have one of my SHERPA Bag soft-sided carrier, run a border of clear packing tape around the sides of the plastic bag to attach it securely. For hard-sided crates that have a tape-resistant slick finish, abrade the area with fine sandpaper, wipe clean and then apply tape inside.  Inside the bag include: Copies of pedigree, license, health certificate, medical, and vaccination.  Contact information for your pet’s vet, kennel, and breeder.  Your cell phone number and another emergency contact’s phone number.  Photos of your pet labeled with their name.  Feeding instructions and prescriptions.  Special-care instructions for any allergies, ailments, or disabilities.

Permanent Pet ID

Although identification tags are important, in order to ensure that your pet will be returned to you if he is lost, it is best to have him marked with some form of permanent identification.  There are two types of permanent pet identification:

Pet Tattoos have for some time been effective in locating lost pets.  An identification number is tattooed in legible numbers on the smooth skin of your pet’s inner thigh.  If the animal is found and reported to a vet or shelter, their office can look up the number and obtain contact information for the owner.  The tattoo is constant, but the contact information can be updated as needed.  Because of the large area of bare skin required, this type of identification is most suited to larger mammals, such as dogs and cats.

The Microchip revolutionized the way owners protect their pets.  The chip is inserted under the skin between the shoulder blades.   Each chip is encoded with a unique and unalterable identification code that can be activated only when read by a scanner and each chip has an anti-migration cap that helps prevent movement of the chip within your pet’s body.  Most vets can inject a pet with a microchip during a routine exam.

A not-for-profit organization called Companion Animal Recovery (CAR) was founded in June 1995 by the American Kennel Club (AKC) and is dedicated to providing lifetime recovery services for animals that have been inserted with a microchip.  After a pet had a microchip inserted, the ID number can be enrolled with CAR, which maintains a worldwide enrollment database and a recovery service that works 24/7 all year long.  The AKC recommends the HomeAgain microchip which is marketed by the Schering-Plough Animal Health Corporation.  Shelters, rescue organizations, animal control officers, and veterinarians use scanners to identify lost pets.  When a pet is found, CAR is contacted.  Phone calls, faxes, and e-mail technology go into fast action to notify the owner.  As an incentive, many municipalities issue a lifetime license with a one-time charge to owners of microchipped pets.

The beauty of this system is that pets of most species (not just large mammals) can have a microchip inserted and be enrolled in CAR, and as with tattoos, your contact information can be easily changed or updated as needed.

Unique ID Tags to Make or Order

With a little ingenuity, and little or no cost, you can create temporary tags that will let anyone who finds your pet know where to return him.  If you are staying at a hotel or campground, fasten its business card to your pet’s collar by wrapping a strip of strong, waterproof clear tape around the collar and the card.  If no paperwork is handy, write out your contact information by hand and tape it to your pet’s collar.

You can make your own tags at many pet-shop franchises.  These tags are big enough for three or more lines of type (include your cell phone number and address where you are staying).  It is also a good idea to create one of these tags to alert people to any chronic diseases or problems.  You can find a service that already offers ready-made pet medical Alert Tags here .  There are many other places to find this service as well.  You can choose what information to put on the tag and it has the caduceus to signify it has medical information on it.

Label The Crate

Ensure that your pet’s travel bag has identification tags labeled with contact telephone numbers (cell numbers are recommended).  You may also want to include either the number of a friend or relative who lives outside your area, or phone numbers and contact information for your destination.  I also recommend adding a tag that has your pet’s picture and name.

If you have a large dog or exotic pet that must travel in a hard-sided crate, you can help attendants keep an eye on your pet’s crate by personalizing it with colorful spray paint.  Painting the pet’s name on the crate in large letters will invite attendants to say hello and reassure your pet by using his name.  You can also stencil on designs and signs.  For example, stencil “Do Not Open Without Owner’s Permission” to help protect against loss.

If you are short on time (or not a great painter), shop the web or your local pet store for easy-to-read, airline-approved pet-crate identification signs, rescue signs, and decals.  For around $10, these plastic signs come in a kit, along with airline-approved forms for emergency information and care and feeding instructions, and even food and water dishes that fasten to crate doors.  When shopping, don’t overlook “rescue” signs designed for home windows.  Post one of these in a hotel room, car, or RV window to alert those who enter in an emergency that there is a pet on board.

In addition to a carrier for each pet, make sure you have sturdy leashes and harnesses to ensure that your pets cannot slip loose and get lost.  Leashes, collars, and pet carriers should all have identification tags.  It’s a good idea to invest in an extra harness and leash- I prefer harnesses for both safety and security, as they are harder for a pet to slip out of.

If you Enjoyed this Article be sure to check out What to do if Your Pet Gets Lost or Sick.