Pet Travel Safety

What to know

  • Plan ahead of time if including pets in your travel plans.
  • Microchip your pet and make sure your contact information is updated.
  • Make sure your pet's vaccinations are up to date.
  • Check regulations and required documentation for your destination before traveling.
Traveling with a cat - Tabby cat looking anxiously from a pet carrier next to a suitcase.

Preparing for travel with pets

Owning a pet can increase opportunities to exercise, get outside, and explore new places. You may want to take your pet with you when you travel to new places. Traveling can sometimes be stressful, both for you and your pets. Preparation can help prevent stress and keep you and your pets safe and healthy.

Before traveling, properly identify your pet in case you get separated during your trip. Make sure your pet is microchipped for identification and keep your contact and pet information updated.

Keeping pets safe in the car

Having a smooth and safe road trip with your pet requires preparation and planning, especially if driving long distances.

  • To prepare your pet, take them on a series of short drives and gradually increase the amount of time spent in the car.
  • Before traveling across state lines, check the requirements for bringing pets along.
  • If your pet is riding on the seat, keep them in the back seat in a harness attached to the seat buckle to prevent injury. Allowing pets to roam around the car or ride with their head outside the window can be dangerous.
  • If your pet is kept in their crate, check that your pet can stand, sit, lie down, and turn around while inside the crate. Also, make sure the crate is well ventilated. Secure the crate so it won't slide or shift when the car stops.
  • Bring plenty of water, food, a bowl, leash, waste bags, grooming supplies, medication and first-aid, and any travel documents including proof of rabies vaccination. Feed your pet 3 to 4 hours before leaving on your trip to prevent car sickness or vomiting.
  • Make frequent stops to allow dogs to go to the bathroom and stretch their legs.
  • Never leave your pet alone in a parked vehicle. On hot days, temperatures can rise quickly within minutes and can cause death. In cold weather, animals left in cars can freeze to death.

Keeping pets safe on airplanes

Traveling with pets by plane takes careful preparation and planning and could also be costly. If you must bring your pet on a flight, here are suggestions to keep your pet safe:

Weeks before your trip

  • Book a direct flight when possible to decrease the chances of your pet being separated from you during extreme weather or layovers.
  • Check your pet's vaccinations to make sure they are up to date. Get a health certificate from your veterinarian dated within 10 days of your departure. For international travel, additional planning and healthcare requirements may be needed. Research the requirements for pets for your destination country as well as for the United States. When returning to the United States from abroad, your dog must meet all US entry requirements upon return.
  • For animals stowed in the plane's cargo area, purchase a US Department of Agriculture-approved shipping crate. The crate must be large enough for your pet to stand, sit, and turn around in comfortably.

Before heading to the airport

  • Line the cargo crate with some type of bedding—shredded paper or towels—to absorb potential accidents. Place a small dish of water in the crate. Check the crate door is securely closed but not locked, so airline staff can open it in case of an emergency.
  • Your pet's crate should have proper identification if shipped as cargo. Mark "live animal" on the crate, and include your name, cell phone, and destination phone number.

At the airport

Before departure or after arrival, give your dog a potty break before securing it in the crate for travel.

On the plane

pet in a carrier under an airplane seat
Keep pets in carriers and follow airline policies when bringing them on planes.

If hand-carried, never place your pet in an overhead bin. Pets must be secured in their crates below the seat in front of you in accordance with airline policies.

International travel with pets‎

There are several requirements for traveling abroad with pets.

Prevent injury and illness when traveling

Woman hiking with her dog on a mountain forest path
Keep pets on a leash when traveling to prevent illness and injury.

Practice safe and healthy habits to prevent your pet from getting sick or hurt on trips. Some diseases pets may be at risk for while traveling include rabies, leptospirosis, campylobacteriosis, and diseases spread by mosquitoes, fleas, and ticks like Lyme disease and West Nile virus. Some of these diseases can spread between people and animals.

  • Always supervise pets while traveling and on adventures.
  • Keep your pet in a carrier or on a leash.
  • Don't allow pets to interact with other animals, especially street dogs, stray animals or wild animals.
  • Don't let pets swim in, play in, or drink stagnant water or water that looks discolored, smells bad, has foam, scum, algal mats, or paint-like streaks on the surface, or has dead fish or other animals washed up on its shore or beach. Some bodies of water contain harmful algal blooms that can make people and pets sick.
  • Check pets for ticks after outdoor outings and talk to your veterinarian about use of a regular preventive treatment for fleas, ticks, and parasites.

First aid when traveling

Keep basic first-aid supplies for your pet in your car. You can use a travel-sized first-aid kit for your pet on flights.

  • Keep the phone numbers of your veterinarian, the National Animal Poison Control Center of the ASPCA (1-888-426-4435), and a 24-hour emergency veterinary hospital in the area where you will be visiting, easily accessible.
  • Perform a daily health check on your pet when away from home to assess their physical and behavioral changes. If you have concerns about your pet, contact your veterinarian or a local veterinarian.
  • Always remember: follow up any first aid administered to your pet with immediate veterinary care. First-aid care is not a substitute for veterinary care, but it may save your pet's life until veterinary treatment is available.