Sunday, February 2, 2014
Traveling with Your Guinea Pig
Recent surveys show that most pet owners consider their pet as part of the family. Along with this trend, cavies are traveling more with their owners than ever before. Before your vehicle leaves the driveway, here are a few tips that will make the trip safe for both you and your guinea pigs. Whether you are bringing your guinea pigs for a lengthy stay at the beach house or holiday cabin, remember that changes can be stressful for them. We personally don’t recommend traveling more than two hours with your guinea pigs unless absolutely necessary. Many rescues won’t let you adopt a cavy from them if you live outside of this range. The most common reason for travel is to see the veterinarian. In many areas you may be required to travel an hour or more to find a qualified exotic vet to give your guinea pigs the proper care. For this reason alone, it’s best to be prepared for your guinea pigs’ trip in the car. Allowing your cavies to simply rest on a seat in your vehicle is extremely dangerous; they will naturally want to explore. Not only can this be distracting to the driver, it can leave your pets vulnerable if you were to hit the brakes unexpectedly or happened to be in an auto accident. Just like children, your pets should be restrained in the back seat where they are safe from the dashboard air bag. Even on a short trip, it’s best to plan for the worst so you can both travel in safety and comfort. Another similar danger is to allow your pets to travel in a cage. It might seem kind on a trip to give them space to roam during your travel time, but your pets could be thrown around and seriously injured. If you must travel with a small cage, make sure the cage is properly secured. Do not use any heavy objects inside like a wooden house. Soft cozies and tunnels are a better option. Line the cage with blankets or towels instead of particle bedding. The best option for your guinea pigs is a well-ventilated pet carrier. Small cat carriers are often better options than most small pet carriers sold at pet stores which your guinea pigs can quickly outgrow. If your pets are new to a carrier, purchase it ahead of your trip and allow them to explore it and freely walk in and out. During the trip, make sure it is placed in an area of your vehicle that is not crowded so your guinea pigs get plenty of fresh air but not wind or direct sun. Line the carrier with blankets or towels. Secure the carrier to prevent it from being thrown. Never put any pet in the open bed of a pickup truck. “The best option for your guinea pigs is a well-ventilated pet carrier… During the trip, make sure it is placed in an area of your vehicle that is not crowded so your guinea pigs get plenty of fresh air but not wind or direct sun.” Do not leave your guinea pig unattended in the vehicle. The temperature and humidity in the car can change quickly and dramatically once you are gone; this risks serious, often fatal, health problems for your pet. In addition, pet owners can be prosecuted under anti-cruelty statutes that specifically forbid leaving a pet alone in a parked vehicle. Guinea pigs are most comfortable in temperatures between 65 and 80 degrees with approximately 50% humidity. Your guinea pigs can easily develop a respiratory infection if the environment is too extreme or constantly changing so try to keep the vehicle feeling comfortable and consistent for the length of your trip. If you are forced to take a longer drive, plan to take breaks where you can clean up after and visit with your pigs. It can be dangerous for your pets to eat while moving. Even when still, guinea pigs are known for choking on small pieces of food. On a longer trip, make regular stops so your pets may eat and drink. Remove any uneaten food before you continue your trip. Clean up any urine and bring extra blankets and towels to swap out the bedding so your guinea pigs are not lying in wetness. We often use puppy pee pads under the blankets when traveling. It’s convenient to pack an empty plastic bag to store the wet blankets and towels in. One topic to which you need to give serious thought is whether it’s best to travel with your guinea pigs together or separate. While it might be safer for them to each have their own carrier, it will be less stressful for them to be in the situation together. Often it depends on your situation and the personality of the pigs. If you find traveling with your guinea pigs might not be in your pets’ best interest there are options. Many local rescues offer a pet-sitting service with qualified caregivers for the price of a donation. Also check with your vet to see if they offer exotic pet housing. Another option is to look for a pet-sitter in your area but be certain they know how to properly care for your guinea pigs and have a contingency plan in place for emergencies. Some guinea pig owners find it’s best for them to teach a trusted family member, friend, or neighbor how to care for their pigs and let the pigs visit their home for a short time. Your guinea pigs may even enjoy being spoiled by a visit to grandma’s house. Whatever you decide, it’s best to take your guinea pigs to visit your vet before a lengthy stay away from home. A qualified exotic vet may be difficult to find at your destination. Travel with a copy of your pets’ health records. In the event of an emergency, it can be a matter or life or death. Always make sure that your pet-sitter has a copy of your pets’ medical records. With proper planning, you and your guinea pigs can travel in comfort and safety.