Cold Weather Pet Travel: Do You Need an Acclimation Certificate?

Many people travel with their pets this time of year, often for spring break. This is often no big deal for cats and smaller dogs, but for larger pets that must travel in the cargo hold, it can be a big problem. When the temperatures dip below 45 degrees Fahrenheit, some dogs will be ineligible for travel, while other dogs will require additional documentation in the form of an airline acclimation certificate.

An acclimation certificate consists of a veterinarian certifying that the animal traveling in cargo can adapt to temperatures below 45 degrees. How much lower? The USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service states that veterinarian should indicate on the acclimation certificate the range of temperatures that is safe for the individual animal to travel in. This certificate should also include an upper range. However, most airlines prohibit pet cargo travel when the temperature is above 84 degrees, no matter what the certificate says.

To fully understand the implications for pet travel, the policy for most airlines is that animals are prohibited from traveling when the forecasted temperature is below 45 degrees at either the departure or destination airport. But if the actual temperatures unexpectedly drop below 45 degrees, this type of pet travel may still be prohibited.

The commonsense pet owner may also wonder why these temperature restrictions are in place when the external temperature at cruising altitude is always freezing. Even the cargo holds of airplanes are pressurized and temperature controlled. It’s the temperatures on the ground and the possibility of prolonged delays that create these pet travel guidelines and restrictions.

Federal regulations state that dogs and cats are not to be subjected to surrounding temperatures below 45 degrees for over four consecutive hours while within animal holding quarters of airport terminals. These regulations also restrict contact with these colder temperatures to 45 minutes or less while moving the pet between the airplane and the animal holding vicinity. The airport staff is obligated to protect animals from mixtures of temperature, humidity, and time that could have a negative effect on the animal’s health. Thus, without this acclimation certification, most airlines are unwilling to assume the liability that comes with unexpected delays and unforeseen circumstances.

Will Your Pet Get Approved for an Acclimation Certificate?

The veterinarian will consider all the health factors and characteristics of your pet when conducting an examination and issuing a health certificate. Generally speaking, however, if your pet is known as a cold-weather breed and a reasonably healthy adult, there’s no reason to think a veterinarian would refuse to issue this travel documentation. If you’re wondering about the professional veterinary guidelines for making these determinations and issuing acclimation certificates, we recommend this resource from the American Veterinary Medical Association.

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Choosing a Pet-Friendly Hotel

As more and more people are choosing to travel with their pets, many hotels are embracing a pet-friendly option for travel. Choosing the right pet-friendly hotel to stay at is an important factor that should be considered before you embark on a journey with your pet. Consider the following tips before choosing a pet-friendly hotel.

  • Pet-friendly isn’t always what it sounds like. Although the term “pet-friendly” seems upfront, it can be just about anything but. Pet-friendly can mean anything from “We accept all pets” to “We will only accept non-shedding pets or pets less than 10lbs”. To find out exactly what pet-friendly means at any particular hotel, the only way to know for sure is to contact them directly. Even then, we’ve heard stories of hotels telling people one thing and then claiming another policy upon arrival. More often than not, this works in the pet traveler’s favor.
  • Know the unwritten rules. Some hotels are more lenient than their written policies allow, especially if you’re willing to vouch that your pet won’t create a nuisance or damage the room. The most common example is leash policies. Some hotels require that your pet is on a leash at all times. If this does not sound appealing to you, make sure to check beforehand if the hotel enforces this policy.
  • Price. Pet fees vary from hotel to hotel. Some hotels charge no fees whatsoever while other hotels may require you to put down a pet deposit, which may or may not be refundable, and/or pet cleaning fee. At this same time, these pet fees may come with complimentary pet amenities. Maybe they offer free grooming or doggy daycare for business travelers.  
  • Location and Restrictions. Is there an area where you can exercise and walk your dog on the hotel grounds that is away from other guests or busy streets? Is there adequate room for you to enter and exit the building? Some hotels place room restrictions on people who are traveling with pets. Such restrictions may include limiting pets to a certain floor or area of the hotel. However, it is important to note that some hotels may be flexible with this if they are trying to fill rooms.
  • Read the Reviews and Recognize the Scene: Like any product or service, you should look to take advantage of online ratings and reviews from trusted sources. They’re not always easy to find, but we especially recommend looking for forums with past guests and verified accounts. TripAdvisor is a decent place to start. When we visit these sites, we’re looking at the comments to gain a sense of the culture and attitudes of the guests attracted to that pet-friendly hotel. How quiet are other people’s pets? How quiet do people expect your pet to be? How clean and odor-free are the hotel’s pet-friendly rooms? Are there dedicated rooms and floors for pets and pet owners? Do people generally say that the hotel lives up to its policies?

There may not be a silver bullet solution to finding a pet-friendly hotel that fits every occasion and every travelers’ pet. Nevertheless, with a little research and a short list of priorities in what you’re looking for from a pet-friendly hotel, most people can find a viable solution that meets their destination and itinerary as well as their pet travel needs.

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How to Avoid Pet Adoption Scams

We’re going to discuss several things you can do to avoid pet adoption scams, but many of these tips can be boiled down to one golden rule that, when followed, will immeasurably help the decision-making process: Be patient! We know it’s hard. Once you’ve got your mind set on adding a new furry friend to the house, it’s hard not to get inpatient, even to the point of being rash. Rather than click on and jump at the first online ad that shows the kind of puppy you’re looking for, it’s imperative that you do your due diligence in taking a hard look at who you’re contacting and whether or not they are, in fact, a reputable breeder or adoption center. There are a lot of slick schemes and convincing sounding explanations, but unless and until you can actually verify the legitimacy of the breeder or adoption center, don’t make any payments.

Recent News and Information about Pet Adoption Scams

Online pet adoption scams have been a problem for years and don’t seem like they’re going away anytime soon. A couple years ago, the Better Business Bureau issued a report that claimed online and international-based pet adoption scams are much more widespread than initially believed. The report that detailed some of the specific strategies and tactics used by scammers. Many of these operations are based out of Cameroon, but also hire workers in the U.S. to pick up wire payments. Many of these online scams will reel people in with the promise of “free” puppies available with a heart-wrenching story attached. Then, the scammer asks for a simple delivery fee or donation to help an adoption center that turns out not to exist.

Earlier this month, the Oregon branch of the FBI gave advice on its Tech Tuesday segment about how to build a digital defense against pet adoption scams in the midst of ongoing schemes to dupe people who are simply trying to find the perfect pet. Among the many tips they offer, the two that stuck out to us is to never pay with a wire transfer or gift card, and if you’re chatting with someone online, watch out for odd phrasing that may indicate the person is not an English-born speaker.

How to Report or Research the Latest Scams

Needless to say, pet adoption scammers are in a perpetual game of cat-and-mouse with the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center and other online enforcement entities. Schemes have gotten more elaborate but also more refined. More than just tried-and-true methods for avoiding adoption scams, it doesn’t hurt to know what the latest tactics have been. In addition to general advice and resources, the International Pet and Animal Transportation Association (IPATA) provides an online space for people to report pet adoption scams that have happened to them. You can view a list of these scams to be on the lookout in general or to see if a questionable contact is deploying one of these scams.

How to Find a Reputable Breeder

Remember our golden rule for avoiding adoption scams? Check out the first tip that the American Kennel Club (AKC) gives for finding a responsible breeder: “Don’t be put off if a breeder isn’t immediately responsive. Hobby breeders often have full-time jobs and they don’t always have available puppies. Be selective. Find a responsible breeder who is knowledgeable and make sure you’re comfortable with them.”

Other notable tips include recognizing that it’s normal for reputable breeders to inquire about the nature of the pet care you can provide the dog or even sign a contract saying that is the dog is not properly cared for, it can be reclaimed by the breeder. Also, while it has no official regulatory authority, the AKC conducts thousands of inspections each year and keeps tabs on which breeders are following responsible practices. If you have questions about whether a specific breeder is in good standing, the American Kennel Club encourages you to contact them at 919-233-9767 or info@akc.org.

Armed with even basic knowledge of these online pet adoption scams, you can still find a great companion animal online while avoiding these scams. Dog breeding can be cyclical and seasonal, so even if you can’t find the perfect puppy this week, keep looking and you’re bound to find a great pet from a reputable source.

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The Dangers of Solo Pet Travel: Dogs & Cats Need Companions, Too

Did you hear about Fluffy, the cat who was found last week half-buried in a snow bank and half-frozen-to-death? With melted and re-frozen snow-ice caked into her matted fur, she was brought into the Animal Clinic of Kalispell. Unresponsive and with a body temperature too low to register by the clinic’s thermometer, Fluffy was carefully cleaned and de-iced, before being initially warmed by towels, cage warmers, and IV fluids.

Photos from Animal Clinic of Kalispell

She began growling within an hour and was then taken to an emergency clinic where her body temperature was raised in a controlled environment. Miraculously, she was able to go home that same night with her owners, who believe something traumatic happened to prevent the cat from returning home.   

Even if Fluffy wasn’t trying to get Las Vegas for the weekend, this fortunate cat, nevertheless, demonstrates the dangers of solo pet travel. Pets need a travel companion every bit as much as their human owners, and often times more so!

After all….it’s a dangerous business, Fluffy, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.

Now, we all know the nostalgia factor of adorable pet animals trying to brave the rugged interior of the western United States….but even Sassy knew enough to not let Chance and Shadow try to traverse the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range alone. Whether there’s a deep freeze or not, solo pet travel is not a good idea. If you know a pet who’s thinking about striking out on their own, show them this story. Like small dogs, the best way for outdoor cats to travel long-distances is on a plane.

And, seriously, we’re glad and relieved to hear that Fluffy has made a full recovery is back at home and back to her usual crabby self…even if she’s not sure whether or not she’ll still be roaming western Montana’s beautiful countryside.

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Updated Rules for Emotional Support Animals (ESAs) on Planes

Photo courtesy of Animal Planet

Emotional support animals are a specific type of service animal that provide emotional support for a documented mental health condition. Unfortunately, these animals have gotten something of a bad rep over the years which has been fostered by people playing it fast and loose with their psychological distress and emotional support animal documentation. This, in turn, has led to a lot of misconceptions as well as shifting rules for flying with an emotional support animal. More recently, there have been plenty of news editorials, like this one in the Chicago Tribune, discussing  the proper balance of accommodating passengers and their emotional support animals on planes. In this context, we wanted to talk about updated rules as well as the basic facts about traveling with emotional support animals on planes.

Are We Going to See More or Fewer ESAs on Planes?

This is a complicated question with multiple influences working in opposing directions. As Psychology Today points out, for example, the forms and procedures for documenting an emotional support animal has gotten a lot more stringent in the last year or two. The biggest change is the person must be under the direct care of the mental health professional who’s authorizing the need for an emotional support animal. 

On the other hand, there is a greater awareness than ever of mental health struggle. The need to be “under the care” of a mental health professional to get authorization for an ESA may serve as just the excuse that people need to talk to a therapist. This also means that, moving forward, the overwhelming majority of emotional support animals on planes are legitimate service animals. Just to say it, even though a person has no visible disability or mental health struggle, they may have a legitimate need to travel with their emotional support animal.

Not All Emotional Support Animals can Fly

Almost any animal can serve as an emotional support animal, but not all ESAs can fly on planes. Here’s a great story about how an alligator is helping a Pennsylvania man who’s struggling with depression Horses are one of the most common types of emotional support animals, and you’re not going to see them on a plane anytime soon. Moreover, the airlines have recently put new restrictions on the species that can fly on planes as ESAs including miniature pigs and certain types of birds and rodents. That said, the basic rules for dogs and cats haven’t really changed, and these remain, far and away, the most popular types of ESAs that can also fly on planes.  

Air Access Carrier Act

If, more than the basic facts, you’re looking to parse some of the official legalese surrounding ESAs, know that the Air Access Carrier Act is the primary law governing the rules and definitions for these emotional support animals. While this Air Access Carrier Act was originally passed in 1986, we recommend consulting the most recent guidance that was issued in 2005.

You can also visit our general knowledge guide for traveling with a service animal, including emotional support animals.

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How to Tell if Your Dog has an Eye Infection

You don’t need to be a veterinarian to catch the early warning signs that your pet is experiencing issues with their eyes. In fact, like almost health conditions, the golden rule is to know your pet and be mindful of behavior that seems out of character. They don’t want to play or go for a walk with as much enthusiasm as usual. Unlike humans, pets cannot tell you where or how it hurts. At least not directly. Likewise, they are unable to recognize that signaling their distress is actually what’s best for them. Instead, they’re instinctively trying to hide their weakness from potential predators as well as their own clan. One of the most common problems that causes discomfort in pets is the eyes. This is especially true for many smaller dog breeds who make for popular travel companions. Low to the ground and many with a flat-faced profile, their eyes are more exposed than most to various contaminants.

Symptoms

So, along with being mindful of unusual behavior, how can you tell if your dog has an eye infection? Typically, you’ll notice secondary symptoms.

  • Redness
  • Swelling
  • Discharge around eyes, especially if smelly
  • Squinting or holding eyes closed
  • Continually blinking
  • Pawing at the eye
  • Light sensitivity

Types of Eye Infections

There is a long list of potential eye conditions and infections that your pet may have. We provide this list not to unduly freak you out, but rather to reassure you that most eye infections are curable. You’ll likely need to visit the vet and probably even give your pet some type of oral or topical treatment, but most of these eye conditions are curable, or at least treatable. You can read more about these common eye infections here, but this simple list will provide some context for the types of eye infections your pet may have.

  • Pink Eye/Conjunctivitis
  • Dry Eye
  • Corneal Infection or Ulcer
  • Genetic abnormality
  • Allergies
  • Bacterial, viral, or fungal infection
  • Glaucoma
  • Irritants and abrasions
  • Undetected trauma
  • Tear duct problems
  • Tumors
  • Toxins and vitamin deficiencies

Veterinary Tests for Eye Infections

There are antibiotic ophthalmic ointment treatments that work for most bacterial-based eye infections, but the treatment is different for viral and fungal infections. Plus, it’s not always apparent at first if it’s an infection at all, an allergic reaction, or other eye condition. Depending on the breed, symptoms, and circumstances, your vet may be able to make a preliminary diagnosis. Beyond the visual examination, there are a number of tests that can be run to make an affirmative diagnosis and ensure your pet is getting the best treatment possible.

  • Schirmer Tear Test measures the eye’s tear production.
  • A tonometer will measure intraocular pressure (IOP) and look for signs of glaucoma
  • Dilating drops to examine the back of the eye, including the retina, optic nerve and tapetum, a layer of tissue that reflects light and improves night vision.
  • Corneal staining to reveal ulcers or other surface breaks.
  • Bacterial culture
  • Allergy tests

For additional information and guidance about dog eye infections, we suggest this online resource from the American Kennel Club.

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