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Home for Christmas: Traveling with Pets

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The holidays are when people travel more than any other time of year, and many are taking their pets with them. Here a few tips for traveling with pets and things to consider before you hop on the road or head to the airport to make the trip easier for yourself and your animals. 

Considerations for Traveling with Pets This Holiday Season

Booking an Appointment

Plan ahead! A health certificate is good for 10 days on the way out of the state and 30 days on the way back, so schedule your appointment accordingly. If you’re driving to the lower 48, you must make both border crossings within that 10-day window, so schedule your exam only a day or two before leaving. You may also need time to try out any sedatives or other medications before your trip. Most veterinarians are booking out a few weeks at a time right now, especially if they are slowed with curbside service. Book your appointment well in advance so that you aren’t left in a position of having to walk-in last minute and maybe wait hours for the necessary paperwork. 

Health Certificates

If you are getting on an airplane or crossing a border (national, not state), you will need a health certificate. Your pet must be up-to-date on rabies vaccinations to secure a health certificate (and to board a plane or cross borders). Be prepared with your animals’ original rabies certificate if they are currently up to date. If you don’t have the certificate on-hand, no sweat; just give your vet’s office a heads up when you book the appointment so they can call your regular veterinarian to get a copy. If your pet is not current on rabies or you don’t have a copy, and your vet’s office is closed so that it cannot be proven they are up-to-date, your pet will be required to get a booster vaccination. 


Some animals, both dogs and cats, can become severely anxious with travel, especially if they are not used to being crated. Ask your vet about sedation options when you bring your pet in for the health certificate. There are many options for sedatives available. I strongly recommend that you try the medication at home to see how it affects your pet prior to traveling. If it’s not enough, too much, or has undesirable side effects, it’s better to know now than to find out on the road or at the airport.  


Some pets do not travel well, in the car or on planes and may become physically ill. There are several medications available to prevent nausea and vomiting, some lasting up to 24 hours. All you have to do is ask. 

Flea/Tick/Heartworm Prevention

Think about where you are traveling and the hazards of that location. For example, fleas are fairly uncommon in Alaska, thanks to our lovely long white winters. However, farther south (so pretty much everywhere else), fleas don’t die in the winter. Prevention is easier and less skin-crawling than trying to resolve an infestation, so make sure your pets have the necessary preventatives. The same holds true for ticks and mosquitos. Your vet has a small arsenal of preventatives to protect your pets; you need just ask or allow your vet to prescribe these protectants for you before traveling with your pets. It is better to start them a few days before your trip to ensure adequate protection when it’s paws on the ground. 


If you are going south for the holidays, consider the area and ask your vet about vaccines recommended for that area. For instance, in the midwest and quite a few other areas, vets recommend a leptospirosis or Lymes disease vaccine booster.

Life today is more complicated than it used to be, especially in 2020, when humans require more testing and containment for travel than their pets. We can’t help you with the viral testing on your end, but we can help with vaccinations, preventatives, medications, and paperwork to get your animals home for the holidays with you.

Tier 1 Veterinary Medical Center in Palmer is Alaska’s only comprehensive animal hospital. We are available by appointment, in addition to accepting emergencies and walk-ins. With CT, MRI, and Ultrasound available on-site, our facility provides advanced treatment options for your pet. Contact us today to schedule an appointment.

Dr. Sean McPeck

A 2010 Graduate of Colorado State College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, Dr. Sean McPeck developed his leadership as a Sniper Team Leader and Veterinarian with the US Army Special Operations, 75th Ranger Regiment.

Dr. McPeck has multiple combat deployments, totaling almost 2 years in combat theaters of operation.

He is the recipient of the Combat Action Badge, and is Ranger, Sniper, and Airborne qualified. While serving as an officer in Special Operations, Dr. McPeck was repeatedly recognized for his Honor, Integrity, Courage and Selfless Service in the name of the United States. He was recognized with not one, but two, Meritorious Service Medals.

Under his leadership, Dr. McPeck worked with Working Dog handlers, and canine units, to detain and seize enemy combatants. The canines that Dr. McPeck worked with are credited with savings thousands of United States soldiers deployed in combat areas.

Dr. McPeck authored The RCAP, Ranger Canine Athletic Program, which was the 1st comprehensive Military canine conditioning program.

His specific training and certification classes for Dog handlers to be proficient in Canine Tactical- Combat Casualty Care, and knowledge of current medical equipment and procedures, which led to the successful life saving interventions by handlers in real world operations.

Dr. SaraRose McPeck graduated from Mississippi State College of Veterinary Medicine in 2010. A Massachusetts native who attended Becker College for her undergrad, Dr. McPeck has lived and worked around the country and even the world. She served four years in the United States Army as a Veterinary Officer, during which she was stationed in Fort Benning, Georgia, and completed a 12-month tour in Afghanistan.

Her time serving in the Army provided her the experience as the primary veterinarian for over 350 Military Working Dogs, in which she provided all emergency, trauma, surgical, critical, and primary care. In addition to caring for animals, she trained, mentored, and led six Non-Commissioned Officers and twelve junior enlisted Soldiers, giving her not only impressive veterinary experience but also exceptional interpersonal and leadership skills.

As a Veterinary Corp Officer, she received a variety of awards, including a Bronze Star, a NATO Medal, a GWOT Medal, two Army Accommodation Medals, among many others. She gained experiences in which she exemplified impressive leadership skills and the ability to adapt to both clinical and combat support situations. Her years of experience serving our country and in veterinary medicine have equipped her with the knowledge and skills to provide exceptional care to our patients.