Sharon Billings, CVT
Senior Veterinary Information Specialist
Do you have travel plans for a summer vacation? Do those plans include a brief stop or a long stay at someone else’s home? Are you considering bringing your four-legged family member along? Most likely, your own home has been “pet-proofed” for a long time (congratulations!) but if your travels take you to another person’s home, there may be some potential dangers there for your pet. So before you and Fido or Fluffy hop in the car, you’ll want to take some steps to make sure the visit is a safe one for your furry one.
Check the chip!
A functioning, registered microchip: don’t leave home without it! The only thing worse than having your pet go missing is having your pet go missing in an unfamiliar location. Make “check the chip” a part of your pet’s annual checkup – your veterinarian can scan the chip to make sure it is still readable / functioning. That’s half of the equation. The other half is to ensure your pet’s microchip is registered with the microchip company and your contact information they have on file for you is up-to-date (have you moved or obtained a new phone number recently?). Contacting your pet’s microchip company via phone or website regularly will ensure your “safety net” is securely in place. Also, any pet owner can find out where their pet is enrolled by checking the microchip ID number at petmicrochiplookup.org. If the pet is not enrolled, it is important to do so with a trusted pet recovery service like AKC Reunite. For only $17.50 you can enroll your pet’s microchip for with no annual renewal fees for as long as you own your pet.
An ounce of prevention!
Of course, preventing an escape in the first place is even better than a happy reunion! It’s so easy for a pet to slip away once the car doors are opened and the greetings are taking place. Keep your pet safe and secure, either on a leash or in a carrier, until safely inside the home you are visiting.
A sudden diet change can trigger an unhappy tummy. If your visit will span a meal time, bring your pet’s food (and any medications). Also, bring along favorite toys so there is something safe to play with and if you’re planning to spend the night, some bedding that smells and feels familiar will be appreciated!
Once you and your pet have arrived safely at your host’s home there are a few things you’ll want to consider for safety’s sake.
Kids and pets – They go together like peanut butter and jelly, right? Well, yes, but some kids are not pet savvy and vice versa! Be sure introductions between resident kids and your pet are gradual and supervised so that no one is unintentionally frightened or injured. And remember, too, kids may want to share their snacks and some foods such as grapes and raisins are definitely off-limits for your pet!
Yard and Garden
Unfamiliar surroundings, people, and noises can “spook” an unsuspecting dog who may “bolt” when outdoors. A frightened dog can squeeze through even the smallest of gaps in a fence! So, for back yard barbeques or even just potty breaks, it’s best to keep your dog on leash even if the home has a fenced yard.
Around the House
As you may remember from your own experience when you first brought your pet home, a typical household seems to have a zillion potential toxins that must be secured and out of your pet’s reach. A few of the more common temptations that may be within easy reach in your host’s home are listed below:
- Flowers & plants: Houseplants, floral arrangements, shrubs, trees, and garden plants hold potential dangers for pets. When ingested, many can cause GI upset but some can be quite toxic.
- Cigarettes: Whether your host uses traditional or electronic cigarettes, both utilize nicotine which can cause significant problems when ingested by your pet.
- Xylitol: This sweetener is found in many products including gum, candy, and many food items. When ingested by pets it can cause hypoglycemia and liver failure.
- Drugs & supplements: Many people are accustomed to keeping pill bottles and daily medication containers within easy reach. Many over-the-counter and prescription medications carry significant toxicity risks for pets. Also, if you’ve brought your own pet’s medication, keep it in a safe place. Although yummy-flavored chewable medications are oh-so-helpful and are safe at prescribed dosing, problems may occur if your pet gets into a supply of the tempting tidbits.
- Lotions, creams, eye drops, nasal sprays: We tend to overlook or dismiss topical products and assume they’re more safe but this isn’t always the case! Many of these can cause significant issues if your pet gains access to them.
- Household cleaners, pesticides: As with plants, in many cases GI upset may occur with exposure but some can be quite dangerous, for example toilet bowl cleaners and drain cleaners which can cause corrosive injury.
Better Safe Than Sorry!
So, with all these potential dangers, you’re probably wondering how in the world you can prevent a disaster during your visit. Rather than trying to “pet-proof” the entire home, it might be helpful to think in terms of providing a safe zone for your furry one – an area of the home where your pet can relax and roam freely yet safely. A few suggestions: Don’t count on closed doors alone. Although simply closing a bathroom / bedroom / kitchen door may be helpful, it’s really easy to slip up and leave a door open (and some pets can manage to open doors). Consider some other “barriers”. For a small dog or a cat, a very large dog kennel can be used so that the pet can still be “part of the action” while safely contained. For small dogs, a baby playpen may also serve this purpose but bear in mind those walls might be climbed or jumped. An extra-long leash with one end secured (under a sofa or table leg, for example) can allow a dog some freedom while keeping some areas out of bounds. Strategically-placed baby gates can also be very useful.
With just a bit of planning and preparation you can take a lot of the stress and danger out of traveling and visiting away from home with your furry family member!