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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How Brexit and U.S. Government Actions Affect Pet Travel

In 2016, the United Kingdom shocked the world by voting to withdraw from the European Union. As with the dissolution of most unions, the transition to full sovereignty has not been easy. The European Union has noted that the “Agreement,” the terms under which the United Kingdom will withdraw, should set a withdrawal date of March 30, 2019 at the latest. While we won’t go into it, know that Prime Minister Theresa May has had a difficult time satisfying all parties. One U.K./E.U. perk that may be caught in the crossfire? Inter-country pet travel.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), which dictates the United Kingdom’s pet travel rules and initiatives, has advised pet owners planning to travel to Northern Ireland or the European Union after Brexit to visit the vet now.

Traveling to Northern Ireland

Currently, there are no checks on pets travelling between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. However, Brexit negotiations are likely to impose a hard border between the nations, meaning all pets traveling between should have passports. Depending on the deal struck by P.M. May and E.U. officials, the specifics of this border crossing are likely to change, possibly instituting stronger, E.U.-imposed sanctions. For now, though, get ahead by securing your pet passport immediately.

Traveling to the European Union

To bring a pet from the United Kingdom to the European Union, pet parents must obtain pet passports that show up-to-date rabies shots. Additionally, there must be a three-week waiting period before Fido or Fluffy is cleared to travel. Currently, U.K. pets do not require microchips to travel to the E.U. Unsurprisingly, this is likely to change.

In a no-deal Brexit, U.K. pets would be treated the same as those coming from an “unlisted country” into the European Union. This means animals must be microchipped, have a rabies vaccination, and have a blood test to check the efficacy of the vaccination within three months before travel. Only after these steps can a veterinarian sign a veterinary health certificate, which has a 10-day lifespan. There is also the possibility that animals are subject to quarantine once arriving at the destination.

UK Chief Veterinary Officer Christine Middlemiss told the BBC that all pet owners who wish to travel immediately after Brexit “consult with their vet as soon as they can.” This is the best way to ensure pets have the correct health protection documented and in place for all possible Brexit scenarios.

U.S. Government Shutdowns: What You Need to Know

United State government shutdowns are a common occurrence in the 21st century, with three in just the past year. In November of 2018, the Democratic party regained majority in the House of Representatives, meaning elected officials will need to make a greater push toward bipartisan legislation to get congressional approval when necessary. Without bipartisan initiatives, we predict squabbles over government funding will continue to temporarily shut down the government. Unfortunately, this will affect those traveling with pets.

In the most recent shutdown (December 2018 to January 2019), TSA workers continued to work through the temporary closure. Air-traffic controllers are considered to be essential, and airlines are privately run, which means, on the surface, nothing will change for passengers. Unsurprisingly, what should happen in theory doesn’t necessarily translate to practice.

In a government shutdown, TSA agents continue to work without pay. In most cases, when the government is re-opened, Congress votes to pay government agents for the time they spent working during the shutdown. However, this is not always a guarantee. Plus, for most Americans, going without one paycheck can mean the difference between financial comfort and catastrophe. This anger and frustration, understandably, often leak into workplace conduct for TSA agents.

In a government shutdown, expect longer lines, longer waiting times, and a bit less efficiency. Though you’ll still be able to bring Fido and/or Fluffy aboard the plane, adjust your travel time table. Rather than arriving two hours before your flight, show up even earlier to ensure you get through security. And before heading out, stake out all possible secured animal relief areas to ensure you have a place for your pet to relax before the flight.



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Incorporating Pets into Popular New Year’s Resolutions

Making an annual list of New Year’s resolutions is a tradition as old as New Year’s itself. Unsurprisingly, shirking the responsibilities of a New Year’s resolution is just as venerable – and popular. A study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychology found that just six months into the year, fewer than half – around 46 percent – of resolvers were keeping to their January pledge. Though that’s a better track record for those who don’t make resolutions, it’s still abysmal.

Luckily, there is hope for those of us who want to stick to these promises. If you have a furry friend, incorporating them into your resolution is a great strategy for fulfilling your goal. In some cases, such as resolving to exercise more, the application is obvious. In others, it may take a bit of creativity. Below, we have listed the five most popular New Year’s resolutions alongside strategic ways to bring Fido or Fluffy into the fold.

Eat Heathier

According to a YouGov poll, more than a third (37 percent) of Americans resolved to eat healthier in the new year. The good news? Bringing Fido and Fluffy into this resolution is easier than you think. While eating more produce and fewer processed foods are easy strategies for getting healthier, portion control and meal management are just as important. If your pet eats on a schedule, try eating your meals at the same time. This will force you to think more about meal prep, keep you on a regiment, and curb mindless snacking. Plus, you might forge a stronger relationship with your furry friend in the process.

Exercise More

As with the resolution to eat healthier, 37 percent of Americans resolved to exercise more in the new year. Bringing Fido into this personal promise is easy, and you don’t need an expensive membership to a fancy gym to do it. Start by spending more time walking your pup outside. Wake up a bit earlier and head out for a 2-3-mile walk before work. If that’s not feasible, try for an afternoon or evening jaunt. As you gain cardiovascular strength (and you will, even from just walking), start bringing Fido out for runs instead of walks. In just a few weeks, you and your furry friend will be in better shape, sleeping better, and you’ll likely have a closer relationship than you do now. All it takes is a few minutes every day!

Save Money

Another popular New Year’s resolution, around 36 percent of Americans resolved to save money in the coming calendar year. While saving requires a lot of personal motivation, it also requires some creativity. Where in your weekly spending can you afford to cut down? If it’s the expensive gym membership, opt for long runs with Fido on nice days. If it’s emergency spending, invest in pet insurance, which will almost always pay off in the long run. Need to cut some money out of your grocery spending? Figure out which foods are safe for Fido and Fluffy to eat and make nutritious meals for them out of your own scraps.

Focus on Self-Care

As the world gets faster and more intense, many of us are struggling to find time for ourselves. This can be especially true for pet owners, who often spend their free time caring for Fido and Fluffy. Unsurprisingly, almost a quarter (24 percent) of all Americans resolved to spend more time focusing on self-care. The easiest way to better incorporate self-care into your life is to combine the practice with actual responsibilities, like taking care of your pets. Is your self-care practice most effective when you’re outside? Bring Fido along for a potty break or buy your cat a walking harness. Does self-care mean more socialization? Find a dog-friendly bar or coffee shop in your neighborhood and bring your pet along. The possibilities are endless.

Make New Friends

A relative newcomer to the popular New Year’s resolutions list, more than 15 percent of Americans resolved to make new friends in 2019. This is unsurprising; as work-life balances tip out of control and more interactions move to the Internet, people are beginning to feel isolated. Luckily, if you have a pet, you have a built-in ice breaker. Dog parks are some of the best places for impromptu social interaction. Go out of your way to say hi to fellow dog parents at the park – you may be surprised by how easily conversation comes. If you live in a dog-friendly area, dog-friendly bars are also great for breaking the ice and making new friends.

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January 2nd is National Pet Travel Safety Day

This date is an odd choice for National Pet Travel Safety Day. More and more people are traveling with their pets during Thanksgiving and Christmas, but the holiday travel season is already over for the most part, to say nothing of the lurking dangers with Halloween pet costumes. Late spring and early summer, meanwhile, is another peak for pet travel, as moving season creates the need for one-time, potentially long-distance pet travel. In wintertime, people are more focused on hunkering down with a warm cup of something and managing their work commute in the snow. Most of us are content to let our pets greet us back home.

Still, there’s never a bad time to emphasize pet travel safety, and winter offers its own unique travel challenges especially if you’re going to be on the road for any significant length of time and live in an area prone to snowstorms. When an accident is only a single patch of black ice away, it’s especially important to think about using best practices when driving with a pet. Don’t let them sit in your lap. Use a safety harness. For truck beds, think about putting your pet in a secured kennel or at least a tether that’s long enough to let your pet lay down but short enough to prevent tangling/choking.

Airline and Airport Pet Travel Safety Awareness

Pet travel on planes really depends on the size of the animal. So long as you have a heated car trip to the airport, there’s not much difference for smaller pets that are allowed to fly in the cabin of the plane with their owners. Larger pets that need to travel in the cargo hold may have to deal with weather delays for the sake of safety. While the cargo hold of a plane is temperature-controlled, this occurs in flight. While on the ground and waiting for takeoff, pets will have to deal with outdoor temperatures and thus most airlines prohibit some animals from cargo travel in temperatures below 45 degrees Fahrenheit and all animals in temperatures below 20 degrees Fahrenheit. Cold-weather pets need to have an acclimation certificate from a vet to travel in temperatures below 45 degrees.

Whether traveling by plane, train, car, or foot, you want to be mindful of your surroundings and the signals your pet uses to communicate danger and/or distress. No mode of transportation is ever 100% safe, but by not taking your pet’s safety for granted, you can further minimize the chances that your and your pet will get hurt. And to those people who have enjoyed an extended holiday break with family and are now planning to travel back home, we can help with your airline and airport travel plans, as well as carriers and other travel supplies for your new pet.

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