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Division of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources

Tips for traveling with your pets over the holidays

STILLWATER, Okla. – For many families, traveling is a big part of the holiday season. It takes some planning ahead to ensure everything goes smoothly.

For pet owners, whether traveling with your pet or boarding it while you are out of town, planning ahead is essential.

Dr. Elisabeth Giedt, director of Continuing Education, Extension and Community Engagement at the Center for Veterinary Health Sciences at Oklahoma State University, said if you plan to travel with your pet, following these tips will help make the trip less stressful for you and your pet.

“Many people may not realize it, but interstate and international travel regulations require your pet have a health certificate. Whether you’re traveling by car, train or air, be sure to check with your veterinarian about these regulations,” Giedt said. “Your veterinarian will have information about the regulations of all the states you may be traveling through.”

When it comes to traveling by car, drivers and passengers do not think twice about buckling up for safety measures. This same train of thought is needed for the safety of your pet.

Giedt said using a proper restraint such as a secure harness or carrier placed clear of the vehicle’s airbags, is a must. She also pointed out your pets should never be transported in the bed of a truck. Everyone knows dogs love to put their faces in the wind while riding in a vehicle, but keep in mind a bump in the road or an accident can cause the animal to be thrown from the vehicle.

“While pet owners realize their furry friends shouldn’t be left in a vehicle in the heat of the summer, reality is they should never be left in a vehicle in any weather,” she said. “If your holiday road trip requires an overnight stay at a hotel, call ahead and make a reservation at a place that is pet friendly. Life is much easier when you crate train your pets. When out of town at a hotel or visiting relatives, the crate becomes a home-away-from-home for your pet.”

For those traveling by air and who are considering taking their pets with them, consult your veterinarian first. Air travel can put some pets at risk, especially short-nosed dogs. 

“Our pets are important members of our family, so it’s important to know all of the rules and regulations of air travel before arriving at the airport,” she said. “Call the airline well in advance of your planned air travel to see what their restrictions may be regarding animal breed, as well as health, kennel and weather requirements.”

No matter what transportation method you choose for holiday travel, be sure to pack all essentials for your pet, just as you do for yourself. Include your pet’s food and any medications, as well as copies of medical records, first aid supplies and a couple of favorite toys.

Giedt said it always is a good idea to have a recent photograph of your pet available should the animal get lost during your travels. Take a picture of you with your pet to help confirm ownership.

“For those who may not have the option or desire to take their pet on a holiday trip, finding a reputable kennel is a must. For some owners, getting home care is even better since the pet sitter can look after the house, as well as your pets,” she said. “If that’s not an option, get recommendations from your pet-owner friends and family to see what area boarding kennel they use. If possible, visit the kennel before making a reservation for your pet. Ask to see the kennel’s license or certificate showing the kennel meets mandated standards.”

As your tour the facility, check to see if it looks and smells clean. Ask the staff questions about how they care for the animals and see if outdoor runs and exercise areas are protected from the wind, rain and snow. Something else to consider is if the kennel provides bedding or if you need to bring your own.

The kennel will most likely require your pet’s up-to-date veterinary records before allowing the animal to stay. The facility also may require the vaccine for canine kennel cough. Be sure to ask about bringing your pet’s own food. Some kennels offer a variety of services such as grooming, training and bathing, but keep in mind these services will come at a price.

“Traveling during the holidays can be stressful, but knowing your pet is being well taken care of can help ease your stress level of leaving your pet behind,” Giedt said


Trisha Gedon
Communications Specialist
Agricultural Communications Services|
Oklahoma State University
159 Agriculture North
Stillwater, OK  74078
405-744-3625 (phone)
405-744-5739 (fax)

Oklahoma State University - Stillwater, OK 74078