360 Pet Medical knows that pets bring meaning and memories to our lives—especially to our road trips. No book describes this better than Travels with Charley: In Search of America.’ Author John Steinbeck’s standard poodle Charley was his “ambassador” who spoke with strangers and learned about their lives. If, like Steinbeck and Charley, you plan to travel with your four-legged family members this summer, follow our planning tips for a stress-free trip.

Tip #1: Update your pet’s preventive care

On your trip, your pet will experience a new environment and different exposure risks. For example, if you will be hiking, your pet will be exposed to ticks, so ensure a good flea and tick prevention medication is on board, and consider Lyme disease vaccination. Your pet will meet other pets at rest stops, airports, hotels, and other locations, so consider a Bordetella vaccination, to help avoid kennel cough. Though they had a camper, Steinbeck boarded Charley in a few cities along the way, but you will need to make reservations and ask about boarding requirements to avoid hassles and delays.

Tip #2: With pet travel, expect the unexpected

Steinbeck didn’t expect Charley to react so severely to the bears in Yellowstone Park. Consider the new experiences the trip may bring, especially if taking your pet into the great outdoors. For example, a pet who encounters a snake for the first time is at a higher risk for a snakebite, so consider rattlesnake vaccination for your pet. Perhaps your pet will explore standing water and wildlife habitats, and a leptospirosis vaccination will be necessary. A vaccine takes two weeks following administration to build up protection for your pet, and many vaccines require boosters at three- to four-week intervals initially—so plan ahead.

Tip #3: Do your part for pet security

A trip out-of-town increases your pet’s security risk. You may have microchipped your pet when they were young, but have you checked the chip lately? Bring your pet to our clinic any time, and we will scan their microchip and ensure its functionality, and ensure your registration and contact information are up to date. Also, ensure your pet’s collar or harness with identification tags are well-fitted. Acclimate your pet to their carrier or crate, so they will not be stressed and try to escape. Keep a current pet photo on your phone.

Tip #4: Anticipate interstate and international pet travel requirements

Steinbeck describes his frustration when he could not take Charley across the Canadian border without the required vaccinations and paperwork. If you will be flying, check with the airline well in advance of your trip to comply with their requirements. If you plan to cross state lines, your pet will need a veterinary physical exam and a Certificate of Veterinary Inspection (i.e., health certificate [CVI]) issued close to your travel date. If you will be traveling outside the country, your pet will need an international CVI.  Because some countries and airlines require specific vaccination timelines, as well as rabies titers, advance planning is crucial to avoid quarantines and delays. 

Tip #5: Make a list and pack everything your pet needs

Steinbeck fondly declares “I am in love with Montana.” We love Montana, too, but running back to Montana during your vacation because you forgot an important item could ruin a trip. Take plenty of water and your pet’s regular food, and enough of your pet’s medication to cover the trip plus several extra days, in case of delays. Use our online pet pharmacy for convenient refills. If your pet has a history of motion sickness or travel anxiety, ask our veterinarian about medication that may help.  

Tip #6: Scope out veterinary contacts along the way

Two events along Steinbeck’s journey illustrate the need for finding veterinary contacts in advance. Poor Charley develops a urinary bladder or a prostate gland infection and requires a veterinary hospital stay, and Steinbeck discovers that Charley has a fear of heights. New experiences bring potential new problems, so before you travel with your pet, make a list of veterinary practices at several points along your trip, and at your destination.

Also, lower your chances of needing an urgent care veterinarian for pet trauma, by following the AVMA’s car travel guidelines. Secure your large dog’s harness to a seat belt, place small dogs and cats into carriers, and never

  • Transport pets loose in a truck bed
  • Let your pet hang their head out of the window
  • Leave pets loose inside a vehicle
  • Leave pets unattended in a vehicle

Tip #7: Pick a pet-friendly destination

Steinbeck called Charley a “mind-reading” dog, because his presence facilitated Steinbeck’s connection with others along the way. You can facilitate your pet’s stay by choosing pet-friendly hotels and rentals. Look for dog parks with special activities or play areas that you and your furry companion can enjoy. Pack the doggie life-vest, and head for the doggie beach. Most hiking trails and many canoe rentals welcome pets. A little research before your trip ensures connection and enjoyment for you, your pets, and the people you meet along the way.

Whether you travel with a standard poodle in 1962, or a goldendoodle in 2022, follow 360 Pet Medical’s tips to decrease summer vacation stress—call us well in advance of your trip for your pet’s physical exam and necessary vaccinations. Like Steinbeck and Charley, you’ll find everything you are searching for.