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Traveling in the COVID Variant Era: 7 Things to Know Before You Drive Home For Thanksgiving



Traveling in the COVID variant era is as confusing as it is scary with all the new guidelines and frightening statistics. At the time of writing, there have been over 44 million documented cases of COVID in the US and over 700,000 deaths due to COVID complications.

If a pandemic wasn't enough to make you nervous about traveling, add an anxious fur-baby to the mix, and you may want to cancel your trip and stay home. Don't give up on your Thanksgiving plans just yet, though. We'll walk you through ways to stay safe (and sane) while traveling with a dog during a pandemic.

Read on for tips regarding COVID prevention, canine car safety, and keeping your pet calm on road trips. Without further ado, here are the 7 things to know before you drive home for Thanksgiving.

Know the travel policies for your destination

Several states and municipalities are enforcing travel regulations for travelers coming from other areas — especially areas with high infection rates. Some states require mandatory quarantine or proof of a negative test before travelers can go out and about.

Keep in mind these regulations can change at any time depending on case rates and risks. Be prepared to adapt your travel plans depending on current and future regulations. Check the CDC travel planner page for travel guidelines and restrictions within the US. Simply type in the zip code or address of your destination for the latest updates on COVID regulations.

Know the symptoms of COVID and stay home if you have them

Monitor yourself for any signs of sickness in the days before your travel date. Stay home if you feel unwell, even if your symptoms feel mild or insignificant. Some of the most common symptoms of COVID include:

  • Inability to taste or smell
  • Achy muscles
  • Lethargy
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Stuffy or runny nose
  • Vomiting and diarrhea
  • Throat irritation
  • Shortness of breath

Keep in mind the above symptoms only make up a small portion of the possible symptoms of COVID. If you feel sick, the best plan of action is to quarantine and get tested. 

Know how to keep yourself safe from COVID variants

Below are a few things you can do to keep your pack safe from COVID variants.

Practice hand hygiene

You've probably heard it a million times, but we're going to say it again: wash your hands often. Hand hygiene is so important for reducing the spread of COVID and other viruses too.

Scrub your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Cleanse the entire surface of your hands, including under your nails and between your fingers. Contrary to popular belief, you don't actually need antibacterial soap to kill germs — regular hand soap works just as well. What's more, experts warn that the uptick in antibacterial soap use may cause bacteria to mutate and become antibiotic-resistant.

While hand sanitizer is a good option in a pinch, it doesn't replace hand washing. Hand sanitizer doesn't neutralize germs as well as soap and water, and it’s even less effective if your hands are covered in dirt or grime. When buying hand sanitizer, make sure it contains at least 60% alcohol. Sanitizers with an alcohol content lower than 60% will not sufficiently kill pathogens.

Be sure to practice hand hygiene after contact with high-touch surfaces like door handles, sink knobs, kiosks, debit card machines, and handrails.

Wear a mask

COVID is primarily transmitted by respiratory droplets released when an infected person breathes, talks, coughs, or sneezes.

Mask-wearing can help protect wearers and those around them from respiratory droplets in two ways. First, masks prevent large droplets from entering the lungs of the wearer. Secondly, mask fibers trap the wearer's respiratory droplets, reducing the number of droplets they release into the air.

Masks are safe for most individuals two years of age and older.

Masks aren't perfect, but there are some things you can do to increase their effectiveness. Below are some tips to consider when masking:

  • Use a mask that fits your face properly with no gaps.
  • Wear your mask correctly, positioning it over your nose and mouth.
  • Choose a KN95 disposable respirator or a cloth mask with two or more layers of fabric.
  •  Choose a mask with a nose wire to reduce air leakage.
  •  Wash your hands before putting your mask on and after taking it off.
  •  If you're using a cloth mask, wash it daily or if it becomes wet or soiled (whichever comes first).
  • Do not reuse disposable masks.

Don't touch your face

Although respiratory droplets are the primary means of COVID transmission, it is possible to catch COVID by touching your eyes, mouth, or nose with contaminated hands. Refrain from touching your face, nose, mouth, or eyes, especially when out and about. If you must touch your face, use hand sanitizer or wash your hands first.

Get the COVID vaccine

The CDC recommends all eligible people get the COVID-19 vaccine. Currently, 56% of the US population are fully vaccinated. According to the CDC, getting the COVID vaccine reduces the chances of contracting the virus and can reduce the severity of infection in vaccinated individuals who contract COVID.

At the time of writing, there are three different COVID vaccines that are authorized for use in the US. These include:

  • Pfizer-BioNTech: currently FDA-approved for use in individuals 12 years old and up
  • Moderna: emergency-use authorized for individuals 18 years old and up
  • Johnson and Johnson: emergency-use authorized for individuals 18 years old and up

Know dogs can contract COVID too

Humans aren't the only mammals that can contract COVID — dogs and cats may also test positive for the virus. Most COVID infections in dogs result from close contact with pet parents who are also positive for the virus.

Like humans, pets that are positive for COVID should quarantine. Pet parents must be diligent about handwashing and mask-wearing around sick pets. Do not allow your COVID-positive dog to give you kisses, get in your face, or cuddle with you. Wear gloves or wash your hands after handling your pet's toys, dishes, or excrement.

Fortunately, most canine COVID infections are mild, and there are no documented COVID-related deaths in dogs.

Got more questions about your dog and COVID-19? Check out our COVID-19 resource center for pet parents.

Know that dog car seats can keep you and Fido safe

COVID isn't the only thing you should be concerned about when traveling with your dog during the holidays. Holiday travel is associated with an increase in traffic accidents, so be sure to practice car safety for your human and furry passengers. 

Always wear your seat belt and secure your Fido too. Dog car seats and safety harnesses are just as important for human passengers as they are for furry occupants. Canine car seats and safety restraints can reduce the risk of your dog being injured or ejected during a car crash. Even small dogs can become dangerous projectiles when in a crash, risking injury to anyone in their path.

Unsure of which car seat is right for your fur-baby? Check out this handy dog car seat guide.

Know how to keep your pet calm and comfortable on their journey

Car rides can be triggering to some dogs with anxiety, but there are some things you can do to keep your fur-baby calm on long journeys. If your dog gets nervous on road trips, try these tricks:

Create positive associations

Practice short car rides before taking a long trip with your dog. Make practice trips enjoyable, and create positive associations by taking your pup to fun destinations like the dog park or the pet store.

Try pheromone therapy

Some pet parents find success in using dog-appeasing pheromone (DAP) products to soothe their dogs on long car rides. DAP products release a scent similar to the pheromones lactating dogs release to calm their puppies. These calming aids are available in many forms, from DAP dog collars to plug-in diffusers.

Invest in an anxiety wrap

Many pet parents swear by using anxiety wraps to calm nervous dogs, though little scientific data is available on their effectiveness. Theoretically, these garments work much like a hug, gently compressing their body to comfort the dog and stimulate the release of endorphins.

Cover the windows

The visual stimuli from car windows can be anxiety-inducing for some dogs. If you suspect this is the case for your dog, try covering the passenger windows with blinds or blankets.

Try medication

Talk to your vet about your pet’s symptoms — they may be able to prescribe your pet anti-anxiety meds or sedatives to help keep them calm in the car. Never give your dog medication (even over-the-counter meds) without first discussing it with your vet. Medication should be a last resort for dealing with car ride anxiety in dogs.

Know that there's always a risk

COVID, especially the Delta variant, is highly contagious. Even if you do everything by the book, there is still a chance you could contract COVID while traveling. Carefully weigh the risks and benefits for everyone involved when planning to travel for the holidays.

Traveling can put dogs at a higher risk of contracting infections like COVID. If you're planning to go home for the holidays, consider insuring your pet first. Protect your wallet from unexpected vet bills and start comparing pet insurance plans today.

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