Written by Dr. Holly Mims, DVM, Veterinary Specialty Care
Did you know that safely walking your dog and traveling with them are directly correlated? Initially when asked to write this blog, I was unsure how to connect the topics and struggled to find a starting point. Needing help, I decided to ask the experts, our technicians Erin and Charlie, as they are not only in charge of walking patients outside but are also the first to greet pets from owners coming into the clinic. I was amazed at what they came up with!
Right off the bat they both said, “no retractable leashes”! I assumed this was due to the fact that pets on retractable leashes always seem to circle around your feet, creating a tripping hazard for people. While this is one of the reasons that retractable leashes are not ideal, Charlie shared that they are dangerous from the standpoint of loss of control of your pet, which could result in a serious injury or even fatality. While working an ER shift earlier this week Charlie witnessed a fatality, when a dog that had been on a retractable leash ran out into the street and was hit by a car. Another common incident that the ER sees is a dog attack/bite. This can happen when a friendly dog on a retractable leash runs over to an unknown dog or when an aggressive dog is on a retractable leash and the leash malfunctions. In all scenarios, there is a false sense of security with these leashes; therefore, care should be executed when using them.
Additional concerns when walking pets include temperature and situational awareness. Living in South Carolina, the weather can get hot! Ideal times for walking pets in the warmer months are earlier in the day and in the evening. Unfortunately, wildlife tends to be more active during these times as well so making sure that your pet will not bolt if they hear noises and keeping them on leash to avoid exposure to wildlife if on trails is advised. Additional reasons to keep your pet on leash when walking are to avoid exposure to trash, foreign material, mushrooms and contaminated water that they might ingest.
The benefits of walking your pet are endless! Walking is a healthy form of exercise (for both you and your pet) and promotes joint health and mobility. It also strengthens the bond between you and your pet and, in most cases, helps to promote relationships with others. How often has a stranger commented “how cute is your dog?” or “what is his/her name?!” Getting out and walking increases the chance of speaking with neighbors and in some cases helps initiate conversations to make new friends!
Now to tie it into traveling safely with your pet! Perhaps one of the great stresses when traveling on airplanes with pets is the scenario of having them locked in a crate for hours, not being able to walk outside. I did a little research and found a website that has an interactive map listing the airports in each state that have designated pet walking areas. You can visit www.petfriendlytravel.com for more information. Contacting airlines about regulations as well as being aware of length of travel and the time of year (weather conditions) is important in planning a flight. Temperatures can vary depending on where your pet will be held during and in between flights. Make sure that there are plans for designated feeding/watering times, required medications to be given and walks if able.
Other important things to remember when traveling with pets include updating microchip information in the event that you are separated, having a copy of current health/vaccination records and preparing in advance to have all required medications with refills on hand. Check all carriers and leashes prior to heading out on a trip to be sure they are secure. For car trips, I recommend seat belts or harnesses that are attached to seat belts for dogs and that cats be secured in carriers. It is NEVER safe for you or your pet to have your pet freely able to move around the car.