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Summer vacation – Travel tips for your pets

Approx. 7 minutes read

Yay! Holiday time is almost here and you can’t wait to go away to chill. Fortunately, your furry babies will be coming along on holiday with you, so some extra planning is required. Don’t stress – we’ve got all the right advice to help you and your pets travel in style and comfort, and enjoy a much-needed break. With enough proper planning, your journey will be as worry-free as your destination.

When planning a holiday, begin with the destination and find pet-friendly accommodation. With this in mind, you can then decide if it’s worth a very long car drive or if your puppy pal would be better off as a jet setter and going by plane. Follow these steps to make your planning a little less stressful:

Step 1: Check that your destination is pet friendly

Plan in advance. It’s important to know if your pet will be welcome at your holiday destination. Fortunately, there are more and more pet-friendly destinations these days, but if your destination requires an overnight stay or two, make absolutely sure you have reservations with a pet-friendly hotel or bed and breakfast.

Some things to keep in mind

  • If your pet is allowed to stay at a hotel, respect other guests, staff and the property.
  • Keep your pet as quiet as possible.
  • Do not leave your pet unattended – many dogs will bark or destroy property if left alone in a strange place. It is YOUR responsibility to ensure this doesn’t happen!
  • Ask the management where you can take your pet for a walk. Pick up after him and do not leave any mess behind.
  • Remember that one bad experience with a pet and his owner may prompt the hotel management to refuse any pets in the future. Be considerate of others and leave your room and the grounds in good condition.
  • Some pet-friendly beaches might be useful to explore during dog walks, but all the water safety rules apply, especially at the seaside!

There are also pet-friendly restaurants for you to visit on your holiday around Johannesburg, Pretoria, Durban, Cape Town, Winelands and surrounds. Just remember to check in advance whether they allow pets and what the conditions are.

Step 2: Visit the vet

Before anything is finalised and paid for, take your pet to the vet and make sure your pet’s health is in order. You will need to travel with a health certificate or vet card that shows your pet has had all her vaccinations, and MOST importantly that her rabies vaccinations are up to date. This is essential as it is against the law to travel with a pet that has not been vaccinated. Keep the vaccination card/certificate in a safe place in the car or have a copy on your pet’s carrier. 

If your pet is going on a plane trip and out of the country, there are many tests that need to be done beforehand. Your vet will be able to assist you with all the necessary steps. Your pet will have to go for a rabies test, which can take up to three months to get the results back, so please plan properly and make sure you have everything in order.

While you are at the vet, get your pet microchipped. Dogs can easily lose their collars and if you’re away in a strange place and your dog goes missing, you’ll save yourself a lot of hassle by having her microchipped. If she’s picked up by a stranger and taken to the vet, the vet will scan the chip and your chances of being reunited with your furry friend are much greater than without a microchip.

Step 3: Choose your mode of transport

Going by plane

Oh, how exciting! But not so much for your pets. Travelling by plane can be very stressful for your pets, especially if they are put in the cargo area. It’s loud, uncomfortable, strange and scary! Unless your dog is small enough to travel with you on the plane, it’s best to reconsider these travel arrangements. If you still want to take your baby along in the plane, here is what you need to know:

  • Each airline has its own set of rules for pet air travel. You should call for information and make arrangements well in advance of your trip. You can also use a pet travel agency for all the logistics and to ensure you have all the paperwork in order.
  • All airlines require health certificates and proof of vaccinations.
  • Some airlines will not transport animals when it is extremely hot or cold.
  • Pets must be in an airline-approved crate when transported as cargo.
  • Many older pets are finicky eaters or have digestive problems, so be careful about pre-flight diets. Don’t feed your pet too close to flying time (allow a few hours between feeding time and flight time), and offer only a light meal.
  • Since pets can pick up on your vibes and tend to follow your lead in terms of mood and energy level, it’s important to set a good example for them by exhibiting a calm demeanour and keeping them on a regular schedule as far as possible, before and after the flight. The less their lives are disrupted, the more likely they’ll cope well with the flight and adjust to their new surroundings.

Going by car

Road trips are awesomely fun for your fur babies if they have been trained to travel in a car since puppyhood. Pups get carsick just like humans do. Be sure to stop frequently for potty breaks. Let them stretch their legs, have a wee, and enjoy all the new sights and sounds on their trip while going for a walk. Only exercise/walk them on a strong leash – preferably with a harness rather than a collar to reduce chances of escape. Here are some helpful hints when travelling by car:

  • If your pet has never travelled by car, it’s important to get her used to the car first. Let her sit in the car with you without leaving the driveway. After that you can start going for short drives to get her used to the motion of the car.
  • If you have never travelled with your pets before, take either conventional or proven holistic medications with you to control motion sickness and/or anxiety.
  • Avoid car sickness by letting your pet travel on an empty stomach. However, make sure she has plenty of water at all times.
  • Keep the car well-ventilated. If your pet is in a crate, make sure that fresh air can flow into the crate.
  • Avoid driving with your pet in the car when the weather is too hot.

Additional safety tips for car travel

Some dogs love to get in a car, hanging their heads out of the window, and revelling in the experience with their jowls and ears flapping in the breeze. This is not a very good idea though, even if your dog is well trained. It is best not to allow your dog to freely walk, jump or crawl in the car. This can cause a serious accident. Dog crates are a very effective way to keep your dog safe and secure, depending on the size of your pooch and if your car has the space.

When choosing a crate for your dog, it should be large enough to allow your dog to completely stand up inside and turn around, but it shouldn’t be so big that your dog slides around with every move of the vehicle. It should be well-ventilated and structurally sound. Make sure that the crate is properly and securely fastened inside the car.

If a crate is not an option, there are other ways to keep your dog secure from roaming around. A harness that is fastened to a seat’s safety belt is a great alternative. It gives your dog some freedom, but will restrain her in an accident. Be sure to buy a harness that’s specifically designed to be used with safety belts.

  • Do not let your pet ride with his head sticking out through an open window. This can lead to eye injuries and much more.
  • Never let your pet ride in the back of an open truck or bakkie. This is extremely dangerous and can lead to severe injuries or death. Some dogs are prone to jumping off moving vehicles, which is dangerous for them and other road users.
  • Long car rides are boring for everyone, so instruct your children not to tease or annoy your pet inside the car.
  • Never ever leave your pet unattended in a closed vehicle, particularly in the summer. If you must leave the car, designate a member of the family to stay with your dog.

Step 4: Extra handy tips

  • Take along plenty of your pet’s regular brand of pet food. Pets are sensitive to sudden changes in diet. Try to keep to your pet’s regular feeding schedule as much as possible.
  • Stay calm. Speak to your dog throughout the trip in a calm and relaxed tone of voice. Try to relax during the drive and trip. Your dog can sense if you are having a good time or not and will react to your emotions.
  • Preparation in advance makes a difference between a positive and enjoyable trip or a potential nightmare. Prepare for your dog’s needs and make their safety a top priority.
  • If you are worried about anything, ALWAYS check with your vet since they know your pet’s ins and outs. That way you’ll make the holiday one to remember for everyone.

Most importantly, enjoy every single minute of your trip and build a better and greater bond with your baby! Memories last a lifetime!

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