Doctor's Review: Medicine on the Move

October 24, 2021
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Happy Tails

These days, a four-legged travel companion can
be the most hassle-free aspect of your trip

For pet owners, vacations are a double-edged sword. Getting away from it all usually means leaving one member of the family behind, only to be faced with the dog's reproachful look or the cat nestled inside a suitcase, hoping to be taken along. Rather than feel guilty about leaving furry friends at home, more and more people are including their four-legged companions in their vacation plans. And now, the travel industry is starting to catch on.

There's a whole network of pet-friendly lodgings across Canada and the US, playing host to Pomeranians, parrots, Persians and potbelly pigs. Pets are welcome everywhere. The Sutton Place Hotel in Vancouver, which, in accordance with its $95 VIP Program (Very Important Pets) serves seared tuna with caviar to cats and T-bone steak with vegetables and rice to dogs. And there's the full-fledged canine resorts like Camp Gone To The Dogs in Vermont, where pooches and their owners can frolic together in the great outdoors.

With a few tips, travelling with your dog or other household animal can be fun for everyone involved, whether it be an upscale weekend getaway or camping in the wilds.

Before hitting the road with your pet, make sure he's in good health. In addition to a medical check-up, this means assessing whether your pet is mentally fit to travel. For instance, does he enjoy the car? Does he like exploring new sights and sounds or is he timid in unknown environments? Is he easygoing and obedient? A weekend of adventure may not be fun for a real creature of habit. And remember, your dog or cat is going to need attention during your vacation -- and will probably be the focus of most activities -- so an itinerary of shopping and eating out isn't appropriate.

Take a trip to the veterinarian and get all his rabies shots and other vaccinations. If you're crossing the border into the States, you'll receive a health certificate that lasts 10 days. Also ask for an updated rabies tag for your dog's collar, which he should wear along with ID indicating your name, phone number and info on where you'll be staying.

You may consider getting your pooch vaccinated against Lyme disease, especially if you plan on travelling in the eastern provinces or states. A flea preventative or repellent is also useful (out of courtesy for dog-friendly lodgings), for your pet's comfort and your peace of mind. While at the vet, inquire about veterinarians near your destination since you can avoid a lot of headaches if the need arises later.

A travel kit for dogs should include a supply of food, treats, dishes, a can opener (if needed), paper towels, health records and any medication he requires. It's also a good idea to bring a bottle of water from home as animals' stomachs can be sensitive to change. You may also want to throw in a room deodorizer and a favourite blanket or washable toy. Be sure to bring a leash and a stake to tie it in place; this way, he won't be lost forever if he decides to go for a run at a truck stop or campsite. That said, it's wise to bring along a current photo of your little guy just in case he disappears. And, of course, remember the pooper scooper and plastic bags.

Specialty travel products for pets, like canine first-aid kits and car restraints, have really taken off in the last few years. Check pet stores or web sites like www. for fun and useful items. It's also worth investing in a carrier case that meets airline regulations, just in case you decide to bring your pet along on the plane. A carrier should be big enough to allow the animal to comfortably stand, turn around and lie down. You can acclimatize your pet to the cage by using positive reinforcement; encourage him to eat in it, get him to spend time in it and take him somewhere enjoyable during the weeks leading up to the trip -- other than the vet's office!

The first rule of thumb is don't give your animal lots of food or water before you head out. Instead, stop every two to three hours for drinks and walks, and throw a few treats his way while you're on the road. Avoid letting your dog hang his head out of the window; although it seems like an enjoyable stance, it can cause inflamed ears and sore eyes from airborne dust. Besides, you want your dog in top form when you arrive at your destination. Of course, it's safer if both dogs and cats travel in a carrier case, so make sure it's set up in a way that it won't slide around in the back of the car.

Keep the vehicle cool and well ventilated. Never leave your pet alone in a parked car, even in the shade with the window down a crack. Vehicles can warm up quickly on a hot day, leading to heat stroke, brain damage and even death. When you stop for a breather, attach the dog to a stake that's out of the way of traffic.

Plane travel isn't recommended for pets. You've heard horror stories of lost luggage, just imagine what can happen to your pet when he's travelling cargo, which he'll have to do if he's not small enough to fit in a carrier case under your seat. The ASPCA reported that out of an estimated 500,000 animals carried by airlines each year, as many as 5000 of them don't make it to their destinations safely due to poor conditions in the cargo hold or mishandling by airline staff. Requirements differ from company to company and over the summer many American airlines refused to take animals at all.

When you arrive at a "pets accepted" accommodation, think of your pet as an ambassador for the animal world. One bad experience can ruin relations with the lodging's administration and lead to changes in policy.


Basic "petiquette" demands that you keep your dog on a leash at all times unless otherwise indicated. Pet owners sometimes forget that other people may be afraid of their good-natured pooch. Ask for any rules concerning pets at the front desk: are dogs even allowed in the lobby? Try not to leave doggie alone in your room, as he may bark or cause damage when left in strange surroundings. Keep him in the pet carrier if you go out for short periods, and hang a Do Not Disturb sign on the door so that the chamber maid doesn't get a fright. Finally, always offer to pay for any damages.

Rules that apply at home also apply afar, like always cleaning up after your dog. Try to head out of view of the hotel at bathroom time and pick up other dog messes in the immediate area; maintaining a good impression clears the way for future pet guests. Make sure your dog has done his business before entering shared outdoor areas like festivals or picnic grounds. And be aware of local restrictions: the province of PEI, for instance, doesn't allow dogs on public beaches between April 1 and October 15.

You may be surprised to know that many major hotels will let guests bring their dogs. Be prepared for a limited choice of rooms in some establishments -- you may be relegated to the smoking section or the first floor -- while others will go the extra mile. The Coast chain in western Canada (tel: 800-663-1144), for example, has extra dishes, sleeping cushions, chew toys and dog food on-hand for four-legged guests. (There's an extra charge for dogs of about $20 per night.) Other chains like the Marriott (tel: 800-777-0185) cater to people with pets, but policies vary from location to location. Their Residence Inn in Whistler, BC, has an outdoor playground for dogs and there's a network of dogsitters in town who will walk your pooch while you ski.

A number of mid-range motels, like The Holiday Inn or Howard Johnson's, will accept pets, but again, call ahead about restrictions. In addition, many upscale resorts, such as the Chateau Montebello near Ottawa and Auberge Gray Rocks in the Laurentians, also accommodate pets.

Good resources on pet-positive destinations include Vacationing With Your Pet! by Eileen Barish, Travel With Or Without Pets by M.E. Nelson and Fodor's On the Road With Your Pet. Even when consulting an up-to-date guidebook, you should call ahead to make sure fur-friendly policies are still in place or you may find yourself in the dog house.

The hustle and bustle of New York City may not seem welcoming to your pooch, but a number of its lodgings do cater to pets in true cosmopolitan style. At the ultra-chic Soho Grand Hotel on West Broadway, bellboys carry dog treats, there's a dog room-service menu that caters to canines and doggie daycare is provided. Expect to pay about $350 per night for unrivalled views, custom-designed rooms, a fitness centre, concierge service and more (tel: 800-965-3000).

While in the Big Apple, art-loving and well-behaved canines can visit the William Secord Gallery on East 76th Street (, which specializes in 19th-century dog paintings. The Dog Lovers Bookshop (9 West 31st Street; tel: 212-594-3601) sells new and used books about, you guessed it, dogs. You may also want to embark on one of the Dog Friendly Walking Tours of New York City (tel: 914-633-7397). Learn historical facts about funky neighbourhoods like Greenwich Village and the Lower East Side, or head across the Brooklyn Bridge at dusk. The New York Dog Spa & Hotel (145 West 18th Street; tel: 212-243-1199) provides daycare (without the cages) for about $25 per day, from 7am until 10pm.

There's nothing a dog loves more than a romp in the great outdoors and these getaways offer both privacy and loads of nature. You'll find luxury in the backwoods at Sunny Point Cottages Inn (, about two hours north of Toronto. They offer cross-country skiing on private trails, a heated wax room, mid-winter saunas or whirlpools and cozy nights in front of a glass-front woodburning stove. In summer, check out the tennis courts, canoes, kayaks and hiking trails. Cottages are dog-friendly, fully equipped and secluded, including your private road, private dock and personal BBQ -- so bring an extra steak.

Take in the mountain air at the Four Peaks Adirondack Camps and Guest Barns (, in New York state, about one-and-a-half hours from Montreal. This 80-hectare wilderness setting has as its centrepiece a stone house built in 1829. The resident dog is quick to assure visitors that it's the perfect place for a pet-friendly outdoor vacation: 32 kilometres of dog-friendly hiking and skiing trails in meadows and woods, swimming in the AuSable River and relaxing in front of the fireplace of your lodging. The back-country camps preserve the style of living of the 19th century with authentic old-fashioned touches, including privies.

For the true dog lover, there are a couple of pooch-oriented destinations easily accessible to Canadians. Camp Ruffin' It (tel: 604-439-8450) is located in the heart of the Fraser Canyon, about two-and-a-half hours from Vancouver. Situated on a serene lake surrounded by hectares of untouched wilderness, this getaway features activities that work on agility, tracking sense, campfire howl-a-longs and workshops presented by some of BC's top handlers and trainers. Weekend packages are offered from June through September.

Also popular with dogs and their owners is Vermont's Camp Gone to the Dogs (tel: 802-387-5673) in Vermont, which promises a "tail-wagging good time." Dog enthusiast Honey Loring has been running the camp to rave reviews for the last 10 years. Sessions, which run from mid-June to early October, feature lectures, grooming demos, guided nature walks and lots of doggie activities, including a chance to brush up on obedience training.


This article was accurate when it was published. Please confirm rates and details directly with the companies in question.


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