With the holiday season approaching, it is time to decide whether to take your pets with you or to leave them at home. Here are some tips to help you make the right decision.
By Ricardo Ribas
Taking your pet on holiday can turn out to be a very stressful experience for both your furry friend and your family, so it is essential to start planning it well in advance. Before deciding whether to take your furry friend on a trip, make sure you consult your vet to check their health condition and to advise you what is the best way to proceed. For instance, elderly, pregnant and very young animals as well as the ones with underlying health conditions, may require extra care and may be advised against going on longer trips. Bear in mind that some animals get very stressed whist travelling so it is important to take into account both the distance and the mode of transport before deciding whether to take them. Finally, remember to check the weather conditions at your destination to avoid exposing the animals to very hot temperatures and ensure the access to animal-friendly accommodations, restaurants and other attractions such as beaches, etc.
DECISION TAKEN: THE ANIMAL WILL STAY!!
If you decide against taking your pets on holidays, make sure you plan in advance where to leave them. Like humans, each animal has a different personality and can react differently to the same situation. It is important to remember that a separation of the animal from its owner usually causes some degree of anxiety. Some animals respond well to separation, particularly if they stay with acquaintances and in familiar surroundings, whilst others may exhibit behavioural changes such as stopping eating, lethargy, sadness or even aggression. In order to minimize their anxiety, it is important that the you start adapting the animal to the place and the person who will be taking care of them during your absence. Ideally, leave your pet at your home and invite a friend or a family member to stay at your house, but if this is difficult, there are several kennels, hotels or animal sitters that are happy to take care of your pet during your absence. It is important to visit the facility well in advance to examine if it is good enough for your animal. Be aware of the hygiene, size, light, exercise area, food, veterinary assistance, employees, as well as the risk of your animal being infected by any potential diseases. Also remember that many places require an advanced reservation so plan well in advance. If you leave the animal at one of these places, it is a recommended that you bring some of the animal’s toys, as well as their bed or basket and a piece of the owner’s clothing with their scent so that the animal feels more comfortable. Make sure you instruct the carer about the animal’s habits as well as their food requirements. Finally, leave your contact details as well as your vet’s for any eventualities and ask for regular updates whilst you are away.
Never in any circumstances abandon your pet. An animal left without any human protection will feel lonely which can lead to extreme anxiety and psychological disturbances.
THE ANIMAL TRAVELS WITH YOU…
If you decide to take your animal on holidays, it is important to plan the trip well in advance and to choose the safest and most comfortable way of transportation, making the animal’s experience as comfortable as possible.
Travelling by car is usually the best option, but some precautions should be taken. Other easy options include train or boats/ferry where owners are usually allowed to take their pets with them, often with a charge attached to it. It is important to make sure owners prepare their animals for the long trip ahead by taking them for short test drives. During the trip, always carry cold water for the animal and never leave your animal inside the car, on its own, specially in hot weather. Make sure you stop regularly to allow for short exercises and keep in mind that some animals get very stressed on a trip, so avoid feeding them too much beforehand to prevent them from vomiting or having diarrhoea.
Travelling by air requires a lot of planning and should only be considered if there are no other alternatives. If travelling abroad, remember that each country has its own legislation regarding animal arrivals so check in advance with your airline, your vet and the country destination for the specific requirements and regulations. Animals often require to be microchipped and to show their documents confirming they are fit and healthy to travel and to enter the country. Some countries also required a pet-passport and a proof of vaccinations and in some instances quarantine measures may apply. It is also highly recommended to have a pet insurance covering trips abroad in case the animal gets sick whilst in a different country.
Always contact your airline well in advance, making sure you reserve a place for your pet and that you understand the animal transportation conditions. Each airline has its own policies and some flights may not be licensed to carry animals, whilst others may only accept a certain number of animals per flight. In some instances airlines may allow you to take small pets with you inside the plane under the seat, but often animals are required to go in the hold under the plane, generally in pressurised conditions similar to the ones in the cabin. If in the hold, the animal will need to be carried inside a special container or box with an adequate size to allow the animal to sit, stand and rotate inside. Assistance and guide dogs are usually allowed in the cabin and can travel for free, but make sure you inform and confirm this with your airline.
Ahead of your flight, make sure you prepare everything for the animal’s comfort and safety, such as:
• Place an identification tag in the animal collar as well as in the container displaying your name, address at destination and your phone number.
• If the animal is travelling in the hold, make sure the details on their tickets are the same as the ones on your ticket and that the tag attached to the container is correct.
• Feed the animal earlier in the day and make sure they are relieved before putting them in the container. For animals that get very stressed during the trip and often vomit, consider withholding food for a minimum of 2-4 hours before the flight. Ask the vet for some medication to prevent it from happening.
• Make sure you include food and water packs within the container particularly for long flights
• Exercise the animals before the trip to tire them. The use of tranquilizers should be avoided because they affect the way dogs and cats control their body temperature.
• Place their blankets and toys inside the transport container.
• Make sure a container has a secure closure, but that allows for opening in an emergency.
Independent of the way you travel with your pet, always remember to take with you:
• Animal documentation such as the health documents and the vaccination certificates.
• The pet passport if you are travelling abroad
• A lead as well as a collar containing the complete identification.
• The animal’s bed or basket
• Bottle of cold water for the trip
• The animal’s toys, food, plates, poo bags and muzzle (if necessary).
Extra care in the summer:
• Like us, animals can suffer sunstroke, dehydration and sunburn – often on their pads – so walking in the street during peak hours should be avoided.
• Parasites such as fleas and ticks are more common in hot months, so make sure you deworm your animal to avoid discomfort and the possibility of catching infections.
• The beach must also be avoided if possible. Dogs can be vehicles of a worm called Ancylostoma caninum, which spreads through their faeces and can penetrate human skin, causing itching. If you take your dog to the beach, don’t forget to deworm him/her beforehand. Also be careful when taking your dog to the sea as water often penetrates the animal’s ears and can lead to infections, particularly in those animals with droopy ears. Cotton can be used to avoid water from entering. If you decide to take your dog to the beach, protect him/her from the sun to avoid sunburn and always carry a bottle of fresh water. Finally, remember to keep your pet on a lead to prevent them from escaping, becoming lost or bothering others.
Enjoy your holidays and love your pet in all seasons!!!
Veterinary doctor, doctorate in veterinary sciences and researcher in the area of oncology in London
1. Bring your pet to the UK: step by step. Gov.uk. https://www.gov.uk/bring-your-pet-to-uk. Accessed June 2020
2. Travelling abroad with dogs. Blue Cross for Pets. https://www.bluecross.org.uk/pet-advice/travelling-abroad-dogs. Accessed June 2020
3. Delaney Ross. How to fly with a pet on a plane. National Geographic. https://www.nationalgeographic.com/travel/features/how-to-fly-with-pet-on-airplane/. Accessed July 2020.
4. Travelling with Your Dog on a Plane. Purina. https://www.purina.co.uk/dogs/behaviour-and-training/travelling-with-your-dog/taking-your-dog-on-the-plane. Accessed July 2020.
The material, ideas and recommendations discussed on this article are for informational purposes only. For more information consult a vet or a professional in the area. Whilst every effort is made to make sure the article is accurate at the time of publication, I take no liability for any new developments on the subject as well as any errors or omissions.