The holidays are quickly approaching, which means it’s almost time to pack up the whole family—pets included—and get out of Chicago. If you’re hitting the road with your furry family members, we’ve gathered some tips to consider before and during the trip.
Whether you’re leaving town for a weekend or a month, be sure your dog and cat tags are up to date with a current cell phone number. You’ll also want to be sure your pets have a clean bill of health and all of their shots
are up to date, according to WebMD. If your dogs have the Chicago Dog-Friendly Area tag, that means they’re current on rabies, distemper, hepatitis, para-influenza, parvovirus and bordatella vaccinations, and have been examined in the past year for diseases, including an examination of a stool specimen for internal parasites.
The American Kennel Club recommends keeping your pet’s records on hand during travel—at the very least, program your vet’s name and number into your phone, so you can contact them if necessary.
The holidays can be stressful on pets, with a change in routine and tasty food and excitement all around—before your trip, speak with family members you’ll be visiting and be sure they can accommodate pets. If other pets will be staying in the house, consider whether your furry family members will get along with others.
To combat pet carsickness, the American Kennel Club says your pet should travel on an empty stomach (with plenty of water). When it’s time to load up the car, wait to pack in your pets until the last minute, and according to The Humane Society, you should keep them to the back seat in carrier or a harness attached to the car’s seat belt for safety reasons.
Even though most dogs love to poke their heads and paws outside the window, keep them indoors for the car ride. The ASPCA says riding this way could cause ear damage or expose your pet to lung infections.
While on the road, plan for pit stops every 2-3 hours. There are seven Illnois Tollway oases, where you can find food options, bathrooms and fenced areas for pets. The American Veterinary Medical Association advises pet owners to make frequent stops for bathroom and exercise breaks. For cats, be sure to pack a portable litter box for them to explore while parked.
If you plan on taking a personal break, don’t leave your dog alone in a car without proper precautions. If the engine is off, the temperature in the car can get too cold, according to the American Kennel Club. Instead, have someone stay with your pet and provide water—hydration is key while traveling.
The Humane Society recommends that you do not transport your pet by air unless you absolutely have to. They also say air travel is particularly dangerous for animals with “pushed in” faces, such as bulldogs, pugs, and Persian cats. These animals’ short nasal passages leave them especially vulnerable to oxygen deprivation and heat stroke. Should you have a pet with a build like this, be especially cautious.
Consider other alternatives to traveling by plane, and if you plan to bring your pet on vacation, driving is usually a better option. If you can’t travel by car, your pet will probably be healthier and happier if you leave it behind under the care of a pet sitter or boarding kennel, according to the Humane Society.
If you must fly your pooch out or into Chicago’s O’Hare airport this holiday season, you may want to splurge on their ticket. United just opened a first-class style kennel at O’Hare for dogs too big to fly in the cabin. O’Hare’s new kennel boasts 28 clean, ventilated and temperature-controlled enclosures, pet-safe vans that will get dogs to their flights, and staffers who will exercise your pet even provide grooming upon your request.
Pre- and post-flight, you and your pooch will be happy to know that there are two large patches of grass you’ll want to note. The lawn is at the baggage claim level across from Terminal 2, surrounding the airport Hilton.
If you plan on taking the El or CTA bus to and from the airport, the carrier must be small enough to be “carried by one individual” and it “must be constructed in a manner that ensures protection of both the animal and customer” (which gracefully suggests both a zipper and ventilation panels).
It wouldn’t be the holidays without your entire family around, and that includes your pup. Yep, quality time with family means spending the season with the whole gang, even the four-legged ones that sometimes take a sip from the toilet bowl.