Photo by DaPuglet

Along with people, more pets will travel during the holiday season than any other time of year. This year, it may be especially important to leave a little extra time to navigate through the airport. While TSA will continue to operate during the government shutdown, TSA agents may be a little less accommodating than usual since they’ll be working without getting a paycheck until the shutdown is over. Even still, the pet travel policies and procedures aren’t really substantively different during the holidays. It’s just a little busier than usual.

More than flying with a pet, however, the holidays also bring their own season-specific challenges for pet travel. Thus, we wanted to offer some pet travel tips for the holiday season.

Pets in Other People’s Home

Other family members may have pets of their own. And while you and the family member may swear that each pet is a sweetheart and loves other animals, there’s no way to know for sure how two unfamiliar pets will react to one another. Yes, chances are everything will be fine, and the two animals may be best friends by the end of the holiday, but it’s still a good idea to have a backup plan to separate the animals in a worst-case scenario.

Pets at Holiday Parties

Certain holiday decorations can be a red flag. Christmas trees and candles that can be tipped over. Light strings with cords that can be chewed through. Tinsel and other decorations that can mimic food. More to this point, one of the most common things at holiday parties is sweets and chocolate. Even many random food items—onions, grapes, turkey skin—can be mildly toxic or deadly dangerous for dogs. Also, pets can simply get overstressed. Shortly after being introduced to a new environment, a crush of people come over filling this new environment and overwhelming the pet with stimulus.

Schedule a Visit with the Vet

If your pet is sick, things that wouldn’t ordinarily stress your pet out may do so and cause them to act in unusual, potentially aggressive ways. Moreover, when pets (and cats especially) are first showing signs of illness, they may attempt to hide their distress from you. In this early stage, a vet may be able to detect these subtle signs even when pet owners can’t. They may catch a problem just in time before you make a big mistake by traveling with a sick pet. They may also be able to recommend pet meds for less serious conditions that will, nevertheless, help with the demands of traveling.

Leaving Pets at Home

Finally, not everybody takes the beloved pets with them when traveling for the holidays. Whether it’s a self-reliant cat or whether you have a dog-sitter, leaving pets at home is understandably one of the most common solutions for pets during the holidays. As much as they may miss you and you may miss them, it’s often the best, least stressful option.

That said, there are certain things you’re going to want to look at around the house before leaving town. Is the trash can secure? Is there a waterproof sheet lining you can put over the mattress? As with other people’s homes, do you have your own holiday decorations that are troublesome to leave unattended for extended periods of time? Are there toys that will help keep your pet entertained while you’re gone, especially ones that emit light, noise, or movement?

Preparing for holiday travel is chaotic. And yet, once you get to the airport and to your destination, one of the first things you’re going to start worrying about is your pets. Ideally, we recommend going around and looking at the house through the lens of trying to temporarily pet-proof your home. This way, you’ll have fewer messes for your pet-sitter or for yourself when you get home.

No matter how, where, or with whom you’re traveling, Dogs on Planes would like to wish you safe travels and a happy holiday!