What is needed to prepare for a journey?
If you take sensible precautions the chances of your dog becoming lost en route will be minimal, but be prepared for any eventuality. Make sure that your dog is fitted with a collar and a tag with your address and telephone number. A microchip implant is even more useful because it is a permanent form of identification. If the journey will be long, it's a good idea to have your dog checked by your vet to ensure it is healthy before it travels. Take plenty of fresh water, particularly when travelling in hot weather and make frequent stops to allow your dog to drink and exercise. If your journey is broken for any reason, make sure there is no risk of your dog overheating if left inside the car. Never leave your dog unattended in the car and remember the temperature inside a stationary vehicle can rise to deadly levels even on a warm day. Some dogs are a little anxious when first travelling, but eventually the noise and motion of the car will calm them and most usually fall asleep. If your dog suffers from motion sickness do not feed it within about an hour of the start of the journey. Motion sickness can be further reduced with considerate driving, including accelerating and braking smoothly.
Dogs may travel in the back seats of the car or, most commonly, in the rear of a hatchback or SUV. Ideally travelling cages should be fixed in the rear of the car so that the rear door or window can be left open for ventilation when parked without risk of your dog escaping. Be very careful when opening the car door in case your dog jumps out in excitement. Train your dog at home not to jump out of the car until told to do so. Small dogs and puppies should be transported in pet carriers. Wire or plastic crates are the best transporting devices, as these can be strapped to a seat or carried in the footwells. If your dog travels on the seat it should wear a safety harness that fixes to the car seat belts. This is not only for their protection but, in the event of an accident, reduces the risk of passengers being injured by the dog.
Contact the airline well in advance to find out its rules for transporting dogs. Dogs have to travel in the cargo hold in specially designed travelling crates. Make sure you arrive early for the flight as cargo is usually loaded first. The travelling box should be marked as containing a live animal with your contact details clearly displayed. Tape another piece of paper with these details to the inside of the box for extra safety. If your dog is going abroad contact your vet well before travelling to find out what vaccinations and health certificates it will need. It may take several months to complete necessary vaccinations, tests and paperwork before your dog is allowed to travel.
Is it a good idea to sedate my dog for the journey?
If your dog is a nervous traveller it may be a good idea to ask your vet for a sedative before going on a long car journey. Your vet will want to examine your dog first and may prescribe a drug that you can administer yourself (although it may have unpredictable effects). If you are given a sedative it should be administered according to the instructions of your veterinarian. Do not sedate your dog before a flight because if it is drowsy it will not be able to adjust its posture for sudden movements and can be thrown around the box on a bumpy flight. There is some evidence that sedatives can be dangerous for dogs travelling in the cargo hold.