More and more we see dogs shifting roles from “watch guard” to “part of the family”, meaning that holidays are now, more than ever, being planned with pets in mind. Great news for dogs around the country, but this does mean that a little more planning and preparation is needed, to ensure your hounds are travel ready.
“Dogs travel relatively well, especially those that have become accustomed to the car from their younger ages,” says Barry Hundley, Executive Director of the Pet Food Industry Association of Southern Africa (PFI). “And for those that are less familiar with road tripping, there are certain steps that owners can take to make the trip more manageable.”
Dogs thrive on routine, and while your trip will disrupt this, travelling with all the “comforts of home” will assist in adjusting to the new situation. Be sure to pack his favourite blanket, toys and his own feeding dishes. “Top of the list of things to pack is your dog’s regular food to avoid any possible digestive disturbances that switching over to a new food may cause. And although many foods are stocked nationally, it is possible that you may end up in a remote part of the country where your regular food choice is not available.”
Hundley recommends making an appointment with your vet before beginning any long journey with your dog/s. “Vaccinations should be up to date before you depart, the vet should give your dogs the “all clear” for travel and you may want to take the opportunity to discuss sedative options for nervous and restless travelers or car sickness remedies.” Be sure to travel with your pets’ veterinary certificates and be well-prepared with additional equipment to make the journey and holiday a safe, relaxed and comfortable one, such as:
Seat covers – to protect your car seats
Pet car seat
Window Bumper, which clips onto the window so that your dog can rest its head on the soft padded bumper, instead of directly on the hard window ledge, for those who like to watch where they are going
Safety belt attachments – this allows your dog to lie down on the back seat, get to the window for air BUT stops him from lunging onto the front seat
Safety Sitters – these allow you to buckle your pet in to prevent him from jumping out and disturbing passengers or pedestrians
In your planning stages you’ll want to ensure that your destination is pet-friendly. Once there your dog should wear a sturdy collar with an information disc containing your contact details (especially your cellphone number). “Microchips are becoming more popular as methods of identification, but a tag offers an immediate solution, and owners can often be located before needing to take the pet to the vet to read the microchip. It’s also a good idea to travel with a photo of your pet in case he gets lost,” suggests Hundley.
On the day of travel it is recommended to get a walk in before you depart. Only feed a small meal a few hours before you leave to limit the effect of car sickness. Be prepared to stop often, to allow your dog to toilet and stretch his legs. Offer him small amounts of water at regular intervals to prevent dehydration. “Be sure that your dog is secured on a leash and that you have a steady grip on the leash before opening any doors,” Hundley advises. “Although your dog may love sticking his head out of the window, it really is not recommended – the risk of injury is high, with debris and insects flying by, cold wind being forced into their lungs and electric window controls easily stepped on.”
“Be cognisant of the temperature in the car, from your dog’s perspective. Blankets are needed in cold temperatures and open windows or air conditioners (with vents in reach of your dog) are needed when travelling in very hot weather. And never leave your pet in the car as the car’s internal temperature could rise to fatal levels very quickly,” concludes Hundley.