Tips to Safely Prepare for Family Summer Travel with Your Pet

Medical Contributor:

Dr. Eve Pugh

May 17, 2021

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Summer is just around the corner, which means it’s time to start thinking about how to travel with your pet. If you enjoy taking family vacations that include the furry members of the family too, it’s important to learn which hazards and risks to watch out for when you’re on the go with your pet.

Below, you’ll find information about some of the most common potential pet-related hazards associated with travel. Keep these in mind and you’ll be well on your way to ensuring a healthier, happier, safer experience for you and your pet this coming summer.

Vehicle Accidents

Of course it is always possible to have a vehicle accident with or without your pet in the car, but the distraction of a pet can make this risk somewhat higher. It’s important to have another capable adult or older teen in the vehicle with you to deal with the pet while you drive.

Additionally, always keep your pet secured and do not let her wander around the vehicle. Pets should be in carriers or crates if they’re small enough, and larger pets should be secured with a pet seatbelt and harness.


Traveling with a pet during the summer months sometimes leads to heatstroke in animals that are left alone in a vehicle for any length of time or left outside, especially if there is no shade available. You should never leave your pet unattended in a vehicle, especially during the summer.

Signs of heatstroke include increased drooling, lethargy, weakness, loss of consciousness, and seizures. Pets may quickly die from this condition if left untreated, so you should take your pet to the nearest emergency vet right away if she is showing any signs of heatstroke.

Rest Stop Concerns

When you travel with your pet, you will likely be stopping at some rest stops along the way. It’s important to pay extra attention to your furry friend during these stops, as rest stops can be confusing and sometimes scary to pets who are unfamiliar with their surroundings.

Pets may become afraid or confused and try to run away and return home. Pets may also be more aggressive due to their nerves and could get into fights with other animals at the rest stop. Additionally, rest stops tend to have garbage or food items on the ground which pets may sometimes choose to eat if they aren’t watched carefully.

To ensure their safety during these stops, have their leash attached before letting them get out of the car. Parking as far from the highway as possible is a good idea as well. Also parking where there are fewer cars can be helpful when maneuvering your pet out of the car so you can have a good handle on them.

Increased Stress

Most pets will have some increased stress levels when traveling, even if they’re used to traveling with you. Many pets can get over this stress easily enough when the family settles into their destination, but some pets may be much more stressed and anxious than others by their travels.

Taking a short day trip with your pet prior to a full vacation can give you an idea of how well your furry friend will tolerate traveling. If your pet is showing signs of significant stress, such as hiding or becoming much more aggressive than usual, consider leaving her at home with a trusted friend, family member, or pet sitter next time. She may not be cut out for family vacations, and that’s okay!

Plane Travel Risks

Traveling with a pet by plane is challenging and poses many risks. Pets who are allowed to be brought into the cabin with you may become motion sick or overwhelmed by their surroundings, and they may urinate, defecate, or vomit while on the plane. Bring wee-wee pads that can be changed easily and a small plastic garbage bag to put soiled materials in. This will keep your pet and the other travelers on the plane comfortable and odor free!

On the other hand, pets who are kept in the cargo hold may become motion sick as well. They may also be exposed to very high or very low temperatures, and they may be jostled around more in the cargo hold. Pets should not travel in the cargo hold during very warm temperatures for their safety.

Ingesting Toxins

Pets may ingest toxins, foreign objects, and other poisonous substances they shouldn’t eat anywhere at any time. However, when you travel with your pet, there may be a greater risk of this occurring, especially if you walk your pet with you in unfamiliar places.

If you take your pet into a crowded area, there’s a good chance you’ll encounter items on the ground that your pet should not eat. Some pets may quickly swallow these items, which can be very dangerous. You should always make sure to locate the nearest emergency vet just in case something like this happens with your pet while traveling.

Call VEG if You Encounter Any of These Hazards When Traveling with Your Pet in the Summer

This list doesn’t cover all of the potential risks in traveling with your pet during the summer, but it can give you a good starting point for learning more. If you have any more questions or concerns about vacationing with your furry friend, be sure to speak to your vet to have these addressed before you leave.

Make sure your pet is up to date on vaccinations and has flea and tick prevention on board. Have copies of these records with you, especially for air travel. Contact your airline to make sure you have all the appropriate documentation from your veterinarian.

Take time to plan accordingly for any pet emergencies you may encounter. Find out where the emergency vets are at your destination and at your stops along the way, and bring along a pet first aid kit. You might even want to learn pet CPR to protect your pet while you travel, too.

With 43+ locations nationwide, VEG has staffs of compassionate and experienced emergency veterinarians at each one of our emergency animal hospitals. When you call VEG, you speak directly with an emergency vet who can provide you with advice on what to do should you come across an emergency when traveling with your pet. Our hospitals are either open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, or open overnight during the week and 24 hours on the weekends. No matter what time of day, VEG is here for you and your pet.