Life can be unpredictable and as our lives change, so does our pet’s lifestyle. Life changes such as moving, adding a pet to the household, divorce or having a baby can add huge amounts of stress to your pet’s life and can cause health issues and can be very frightening to your pet. Keep prepared for these life changes when possible. Read below on tips for how to keep your pet comfortable and safe.
- Make sure your pet is microchipped – Traveling can be dangerous and your pet always has the possibility of getting lost. By having a microchip, your pet is much more likely to be reunited with you. All shelters and veterinary clinics have scanners that are able to read the microchip number of your pet.
- Make sure your pet is vaccinated – While traveling, your pet will likely encounter other animals that may or may not be vaccinated. Keep your pet safe and make sure that they are vaccinated with core vaccines before travel. Core vaccines include rabies and distemper/parvo vaccine. Depending upon where you are traveling, your veterinarian may recommend more vaccines.
- Use parasite prevention – Beware that some climates are more likely to have different parasites than the area that you are traveling from. Also, pets will likely be exposed to various parasites by just being “on the road.” Some parasites can live in soil and sand and can be transmitted simply by walking on contaminated ground. Be prepared and make sure that your pet is current on an appropriate heartworm preventative and flea preventative. For recommendations on appropriate flea and heartworm preventative, contact your veterinarian.
- Avoid toxins – While traveling, if you take your pet walking, keep them away from unknown plants that may be toxic. Also, beware of other substances, such as vehicle anti-freeze, which are toxic to pets. Know your surroundings and know where your pet is at all times. Toxins exist everywhere and can be a potential hazard while traveling.
- Always be ready for an emergency – Ideally, your pet should travel with a health certificate. This certificate will provide current information about your pet’s vaccine status, age and breed, possibly include a picture of your pet and verify that your pet is healthy. If any issues should occur, this certificate will provide most, if not all, of the needed information. Also, it’s always a good idea to know where the closest veterinary emergency hospital is. And for those of us with smart phones, various applications are available for download that can easily search for emergency hospitals and even give you directions.
- Keep your pet in a carrier – Most airlines require that your pet be in a carrier at all times during travel. Your pet will be much safer if contained and reduces the chance of losing your pet. Even while traveling in the car, keep your pet in a carrier or seat belt them in. Pets are in just as much danger if in a car accident and would benefit from being seat belted. For dogs, check your local pet store for seat belt harnesses. Also, seat belting your pet or keeping it in a carrier keeps pets safe from accidental escapes.
- Check out PetFriendlyTravel.com before you travel for recommendations of hotels, airlines or restaurants .
- Bring a familiar food – Make sure to pack your pet’s normal food when you travel. Switching foods can upset your pet’s stomach and cause various digestive issues.
- Practice – Attempt a practice trip if you are able if your pet is not used to traveling. Some pets get motion sickness and would benefit from a prescribed medication from your veterinarian to keep their tummy calm.
- For pets that are extremely nervous, consult your veterinarian. There are several medications available that can be used as a sedative or a calming agent. Your vet will know what’s best for your pet, so schedule an appointment and find out the best solution.
- Keep your pet at home – If possible, leave your pet at home. While some dogs love to travel, most cats would prefer to stay home. Keep this in mind and try to alleviate as much stress as possible for your pet.
- Check the pet policy – A lot of pets are relinquished to shelters every year because housing policies do not allow pets. Make sure to check a potential new landlord’s pet policy before signing a contract. Some rentals have breed or weight restrictions for dogs and possibly a limit on the number of animals allowed. If moving into a condo, check with your HOA to find out if there are any type of restrictions.
- Prepare – Start to prepare your pet for moving a week or two ahead of time. Start by leaving out the crate or carrier. Make it seem comfortable and inviting by providing a cozy blanket and treats while your pet is crated. Also, before you start to pack, leave the boxes out to allow for your pet to get used to them. This will prepare your pets for new objects in the home and their new surroundings.
- Give them space – When you first arrive in your new home, give your cat some space of its own. If possible, designate one room for your cat that is filled with litter boxes, beds, toys and treats. Expand their environment gradually by adding small spaces at a time. Pet parents with nervous cats can add products such as Feliway to their pet’s environment. This simple plug-in diffuser or spray can be added to the environment or sprayed into the carrier.
Multiple pet households
- Adding a pet to the household – Adding a new pet to an already established household can be difficult. To ease the introduction progression, introduce new pets appropriately by letting them smell each other without having physical contact. Introduce the pets as slowly as needed to make each pet comfortable.
- Dogs and cats that bicker – Not all dogs and cats get along. For hunting breeds, the urge to chase cats can dominate their behavior. When facing this problem, look into dog training for methods on how to curb these behaviors. If the problems go deeper than chasing and seem more aggressive, schedule an appointment with your veterinarian.
- One pet dominates all the attention – New puppies and kittens, or elderly, sick pets can dominate a pet parent’s time. Remember to spend time with each of your pets every day. All pets require daily exercise and mental stimulation. Left without attention, some pets may acquire bad habits in order to gain any sort of attention. Remember to spread the love and keep all your pets happy.
Having a baby
- Introduce slowly – Babies have a different smell, set of actions and look very different from adults. Babies can be very loud when crying and be frightening for pets. For pets that have never been exposed to a baby before, this experience can be stressful. Keep introductions slow and calm. If able, bring home your new baby’s blanket before bringing home the baby. Present the blanket to your pet and let them smell the blanket while providing lots of praise.
- Offer special attention – A new baby adds lots of chaos to the home. A new routine and the presence of congratulatory visitors can lead to pet parents forgetting to give attention to their pet. Make sure to set aside time every day to give your pet special attention.
- Calm your pet – Another method to calm your pet once introducing a baby to the household is products such as Feliway or DAP. This plug-in diffuser contains pheromones which will help calm your pet.
- Schedule frequent visits – If one family member moves away from home and the pet, make frequent visits to make the pet more comfortable. Make the visits casual/uneventful. This will ensure that your pet does not get overly excited for visits or overly sad after goodbyes. To comfort the pet when a family member leaves, offer treats to make the experience more positive.
- Share custody – Just as having kids, some pet parents share custody of their pet after a divorce. If a pet splits time between both homes, try keeping the routine consistent in both homes. Always offer the same food and try to keep the same feeding times. If possible to travel with your pet’s bed, do so. When giving commands or doing training, make sure to keep it consistent. Confusion can create problems, so the more consistency the better for your and your pet. Although, this situation may work out well for a dog, it rarely works well for a cat. For cats, consider regular visits.
If your pet is having problems coping with any type of life style change, contact your veterinarian to schedule an appointment to discuss strategies to overcome your pets problems.