And for many of us, that means travelling to reconnect with friends and family.
So, what does that mean for the four-legged members of our family? Here are some tips and suggestions to ensure out fur-friends have Happy Holidays too.
The Jet-Setter Pet
Planes, Trains and Automobiles
Security – travel safe!
For small dogs and cats, a crate can be their best travel-friend.
For commercial travel, a crate means small pets may be allowed to ride along with their people.
In a car, a crate can be seat-belted safely in place. This prevents the pet from becoming a flying projectile in the event of an accident. Just as important, the crate keeps the pet from jostling or distracting the driver. (I swore off loose pets in cars after I had my roommate’s cat decide that while I was passing a truck on the highway was a great time to get between my feet and the pedals…)
Crates work best when the crate has been in use at home as the pet’s hidey hole or bedroom. If the pet is accustomed to the crate, it is a home away from home. If he has never been in it before now, it is nothing but a scary box!
For larger dogs traveling in the car, look for a harness with seatbelt safety rating. Note that not all harnesses are designed for pet safety! Many of them are only meant to keep the pet from moving around and disturbing the driver – they will not keep the dog safe in a crash. Before buying a harness, read its specifications carefully to see if it is safety-rated! See this link to learn what can happen with these harnesses in a crash: Harness Safety: Crash Test Doggies
Motion Sickness – the bane of many a traveller – 4-legged or otherwise!
Anti-nausea medication can make everyone more comfortable – both the queasy pet and the humans who have to clean up.
Pets without any heart disease can take the over-the-counter nausea medication, dimenhydrinate (eg Gravol). Because this medication can drop blood pressure, only use it on the recommendation of your veterinarian. Dimenhydrinate does tend to cause drowsiness, which is not necessarily a bad thing on a long journey.
There is now a medication specifically for pets, that suppresses nausea without causing sleepiness. It actually acts right on the centre of the brain that controls nausea, “dialling back” the nausea response whatever the cause. It is called Cerenia, is available from your veterinarian, and lasts for a full 24 hours after it’s given.
Feeding: any parent who has traveled with a child knows: don’t load up tummies right before a car or plane ride. The same goes for pets.
Food takes 2-3 hours to exit the stomach under normal circumstances, so a good rule of thumb in not to feed for a minimum of 2 hours before travel, to ensure nothing is there in the stomach to come right back up. If your departure time does not make that practical, then feed a small meal, about 1/3 normal size, and then give small amounts to eat at frequent intervals on breaks.
Breaks – however inclined you might be to do a marathon drive, consider your pet: take breaks!
Be sure to use a leash or harness when taking a breather – we don’t want any highway runaways! Yes, this includes cats.
Offer water on the break. Dry winter air, the warmth of the car, and, especially, any nervous panting, can all contribute to dehydration.
Give your pet a chance to eliminate! For dogs, just being out on the ground on a leash is generally enough to encourage a bathroom break. For cats, we are looking at cleanliness and privacy as key factors. A litter pan that you can seal up will make everyone in the car happier; consider a rectangular cake pan with a clip-on lid. For privacy, you could bring the canopy from covered litter box to place over the pan.
There are a lot of Pet-friendly hotels around that make a great option for furry travellers. A crate is key to a happy hotel stay. For a crate-adapted pet, the crate is a haven of homey familiarity in a strange place. The crate is also insurance against any “oopsies” of pet accidents or destructive behaviour.
But here’s this biggest happy-stay factor: do not leave your pet alone! A pet left alone will suffer and fret; as well as being an unpleasant experience for your pet, its crying may disturb other patrons. If your travel means you will being going to places or events you can not bring your pet along to, then leave your pet at home!
Boarding facility – your pet’s own vacation
A boarding kennel should be a fun experience for your pet. Visit the facility before you decide to leave your pet there – you want to assess its cleanliness, the friendliness of the staff to their animal charges, and the comfort of the “rooms”.
A good boarding kennel should be a great social opportunity: they should offer group walks for the dogs, and play areas that match up dogs of similar types and temperaments.
Note: the ongoing excitement of being around a new and stimulating group of doggy friends can cause changes in the gut environment; this disrupts the bacterial population, and can result a bloody diarrhea. Dogs with “kennel diarrhea” are not generally sick; their energy and appetite stay OK. Probiotics, or “good gut bacteria” can help prevent this by keeping the gut bacteria in balance.
“Boutique Boarding” – this takes place in the home of the person looking after the pet.
For their stay, the pet becomes part of the sitter’s family. This is great for pets that are used to a lot of one-on-one time
A sitter can come and stay in your home; this means extra convenience, as your plants are watered and your mail taken in.
For cats or caged pets, a sitter may come on a drop-in basis once or twice a day. Be sure to choose a sitter that will stay and spend some “loving time” with your pet!
Here in York Region, I can recommend York Professional Pet Sitting for Boutique Boarding or pet sitting – they do take that extra care! You can check them out at York Professional Pet Sitting
Whether they are travelling with you, staying behind without you, or just being subjected to crowds and fuss at your holiday events, your pets are likely to face some stress this holiday season.
Help is at hand!
Pheromones are scent-hormones that act directly on the brain. We have products available that are synthetic analogues of natural calming pheromones produced by pets: Feliway is the cat-calming pheromone, and Adaptil is the dog-calming pheromone. These are available as sprays, that you can spritz into a crate, plug-ins to infuse a house or hotel room with soothing effect, or, for dogs, scent-impregnated collars to keep that scent coming close to the nose.
Another product I like is a milk-derived calming agent called Bio-calm. Whereas a lot of medications and supplements take a week or two of use to build up effect, this one can be used when needed. It has its calming effect in about an hour, and does not cause drowsiness.