Some dogs and very few cats love a good road trip but most pets experience some degree of anxiety when traveling. Whether you’ll be taking your pet with you or not; we’ve got some tips to help reduce holiday travel stress for both you and your pet.

Taking Your Pet With You

Crossing state lines – Vaccination and documentation requirements vary from state-to-state, so it’s important to know what the state you will be traveling to requires. It’s also important to remember that different regions pose different risks for your pet. For example, states in the deep South have a higher occurrence of heartworms than say, Alaska. The key is to talk with your veterinarian and ensure your pet is protected before you hit the road.

Packing – In addition to taking your pet’s vaccination records (easy to do with the Pet Desk app) you’ll need to make sure you take enough food for your trip. Keeping your dog on their current diet throughout the trip will help reduce the occurrence of stress colitis (diarrhea). Take your pet’s medication(s) as well and keep them in the original container from your veterinarian’s office. If your pet has a comfort item (a special blanket or toy) make sure to bring it as well.

Keep the destination in mind – Some hotels are pet friendly as long as your pet is on the reservation so it’s important to know before you make your travel arrangements. If you will be staying with friends or relatives, make sure it’s ok to bring your pet with you. Your dog who has never been around small children may find them really stressful to be with.

Boarding or Hiring a Pet Sitter

Choosing the right facility – Nowadays there are a wide variety of boarding facilities and amenities to choose from. Ask your veterinarian for recommendations and tour the facility ahead of time. Write out a list of questions before you go and make sure staff addresses each of your concerns. Be sure to ask which vaccinations the facility requires and what their protocol is for an urgent or emergent incident. Many boarding facilities will allow your pet to stay for a trail run; either overnight or for the day. Make this a positive experience for your pet by using an upbeat tone of voice and lots of rewards when your pet exhibits desired behaviors. Take your pet’s needs into consideration. If your pet is older, anxious or has health concerns; a noisy high capacity facility is probably not the right fit.

Plan ahead – Make your reservations early, especially if you will be boarding during the holidays or summer months. While you’re at it, schedule an appointment with your vet to make sure all his or her vaccinations are current and get refills of any medications your pet might be on.

What to pack – Again bringing your own food will help reduce the occurrence of stress colitis. Be sure to pack all of his or her medications in their original containers as well. Bringing something from home that’s a comfort item or smells like you can help pets feel less anxious about their stay. Unless your pet has a special comfort toy/blanket leave toys, treats and bedding at home. Most facilities will not leave treats or toys in kennels while dogs are unsupervised as these can become choking or obstruction hazards.

Pet sitter – Some dogs do not travel well and boarding can be very stressful. Services such as and can help you find a pet-sitter. One of the best ways is to ask your veterinarian if they can recommend someone. Regardless of how you find a pet-sitter; it’s important to keep in mind that this person is an employee and you will be trusting them with your pet! Make sure to clearly define your expectations including conduct, responsibilities and compensation ahead of time and in writing. Examples of questions to ask during the interview:

  • What do you love about being a pet-sitter & what parts of the job do you loathe?
  • Can you provide references?
  • Are you bonded & insured?
  • How would you handle a pet emergency?
  • What services are included in your rate & what services cost extra?
  • How can we stay in touch while I’m away?

You should spend some time getting to know this person and watch them interact with your pet. Make sure you leave them information about your pet’s veterinarian, medical concerns and your emergency hospital’s phone number and address.

Some pets will experience significant anxiety regardless of whether you travel with them, board them or hire a pet-sitter. There are some nutraceuticals that can help provide some relief such as Purina Pro Plan Calming Care Probiotic. Adaptil is a synthetic pheromone which has a calming effect on dogs. For dogs who suffer moderate to severe anxiety, your veterinarian can prescribe a medication to help him or her through stressful situations. You can find more tips on traveling with your pet at the ASPCA website.

Have questions?

The team at Oakbrook Animal Hospital is here to help!