Travelling With Pets

It is fair to say that 2020 has been a year like no other. With numerous changes to our way of life, the implications of COVID-19 have been pervasive with a sudden halt to international travel being one such example. Whilst some people are still lamenting their forgone European summer or Balinese birthday celebration, others are taking the opportunity to pack up the car and explore the offerings of their own backyard. As a consequence, the pets once relegated to the confines of a boarding facility or neighbour’s house are now being carefully considered in people’s holiday plans. Having done a number of road trips with our dog Albus pre baby and most recently a northern NSW caravanning adventure with both Albus and our (human!) baby Hendrix in tow (it was a lot!), I am well versed in what to do (and cautionary tales) to ensure your holiday with your furry friend is memorable for all the right reasons!

My first tip is to consider the locations you are planning to travel to. Ask your vet whether they know of any local dangers in the areas and what you might need to do to prepare. Things like ticks, infectious disease, parasites and snakebite will all see your family fun quickly dissipate as you spend your holiday in the veterinary emergency room. Also beware of dog friendly beaches where people fish. Sometimes hooks with bait still attached are left behind which can result in your unsuspecting pooch becoming painfully snared. This happened to Albus once on holiday and he ended up with a barbed hook through his leg and another through his tongue! Lucky his mum is a vet and some fishermen nearby had some pliers but it certainly wasn’t ideal! Another consideration is whether you will be spending time in National Parks as in Australia dogs are usually prohibited. Whilst it can be frustrating, it is to protect our native wildlife and also your dog (in case there has been baiting for foxes) so make sure you abide by the rules to avoid a hefty fine or think about leaving your doggo at home.

Another important consideration is how your dog behaves with others. Since having Hendrix, Albus is now the self-appointed protector of the family when he is on the lead. This has resulted in him barking at any dog or person he deems a threat whilst I shout over the top ‘sorry, he IS actually friendly’! This became particularly problematic on our recent caravan adventure with him barking and growling at every sound throughout the night, likely making us fairly unpopular in the caravan park. My point is, think about whether your dog ‘plays well with others’ and book your accommodation accordingly!

For many people holidays are synonymous with creature comforts so it is not unreasonable to think your pet may appreciate the same. I always recommend taking your pup’s bed if possible so they have somewhere familiar and comfortable to sleep.

I also advise packing their food as you may not be able to source it where you are going. Whilst there is always the temptation to ‘relax’ the diet on holidays, remember you can end up with more than you bargain for with both an upset tummy and an upset dog!

On our last adventure we ran out of Albus’ K9 Natural and in a sleepy beach town in Northern NSW had to settle for supermarket kibble… the results weren’t pretty!

Lastly, whilst the temptation of taking your four-legged friend with you might be immense, you should really consider whether it is the right choice. Just like humans, many dogs suffer from carsickness so heading out on the open road may not be that appealing to them. The good news is there are effective medications available from your vet to prevent this which may help keep your road trip dreams alive. However if your pooch relies on these to prevent them from reacquainting both you and your car with their lunch, I would recommend planning a trip involving as few car rides as possible! Finally a note to all the feline fans out there – cats usually don’t travel well or do well in new places so unless you have an exceptionally adventurous cat, I would recommend restricting travelling to pets of the canine variety.

Hopefully these tips will help people enjoy their new found opportunity to holiday with their furry family member. While it does take a little more planning, we certainly love including Albus in our plans and due to his permanent case of FOMO, we know he loves it too!

Written by Dr. Josie Gollan