Not many people like the idea of leaving their pets at home while they go off on a jaunt abroad. Not only is it heartbreaking to leave a beloved member of the family behind, but reputable boarding facilities and good pet sitters don’t come cheap. Fortunately, many in the travel industry have recognised that people love their pets like their children and have begun to cater for our furry companions. Travelling with pets, however, can be even more challenging than travelling with very young children, so here are six tips to help you and Fido and Garfield enjoy the trip.
1) Find out about entry requirements
Some countries have very strict entry requirements for pets; for example, they may have quarantine periods which could be longer than your actual holiday. In this case the stress isn’t worth the opportunity to travel with your pet. Other countries only allow certain species or breeds or animals from certain countries. At the very least they require certain vaccines (especially rabies) and deworming treatments.
You need to find out what the specific rules are for the countries on your itinerary well before your departure date. This gives you time to apply for relevant documentation and to allow for any waiting periods after medical treatment. For example, the Pets Travel Scheme (PETS) allows relatively free and easy travel in the UK and EU (and some additional listed countries). However, there is a 21-day waiting period after the required rabies vaccination for pets coming into the UK and deworming treatment is required 1 – 5 days before travel.
2) Find out about potential health risks before you travel with your pets
Some health risks are unique to certain regions or countries. Find out what the risks are in your destination before you travel with your pets and give them prophylactic treatment. You should also consider the seriousness of the risks and the likelihood of infection before you decide you absolutely have to take Fido to the Mediterranean.
The BVA and AWF have a handy brochure (pdf) for you to consult.
3) Find pet-friendly airlines, ferries, trains, etc.
Not all airlines, ferries and trains allow you to travel with your pets (unless they are service dogs). Some airlines do allow pets but only in the cargo hold, while others allow small dogs and cats in the cabin, provided they are kept in carriers. According to PetTravel.com, over 160 international airlines cater to pet travel. You can also find out more about each airline’s terms and conditions.
4) Prepare your pet
If your holiday is going to involve a lot of driving, you need to ensure that your dog or cat is happy to spend hours in the car. For one thing, you need to find out if your dog can settle calmly on the backseat and won’t pace up and down or try to hop onto your lap (a seatbelt clip or crate will help here). For another you need to find out if your dog or cat gets car sick.
Animals can suffer from motion sickness just like people, and just like people there are medicines and natural remedies which can help. You might need to try a few to see what works for your pet.
Start with short trips that go to happy places and end in a treat and gradually increase the drive until you are sure your pet can tolerate several hours at a time.
It’s also worth crate training your dog so you can take a crate along for security and comfort. Crates are nice enclosed spaces that make dogs feel safe – if you approach crate training the right way. Make the crate a haven for your dog, put in a cushion, blanket and tasty treats and let your dog come and go as she pleases. Never lock your dog in the crate and soon it will become a cue for relaxation. As long as they’re in the crate, they’re safe. It’s also something familiar for them on the road, which will ease stress and anxiety.
If your pet isn’t already microchipped, now is the time to get it done. Nervous animals are ingenious escape artists, so you need to ensure that your dog or cat is as easily identifiable and you are as traceable as possible.
5) Prepare a pet travel kit
Your kit should contain everything that your dog or cat could conceivably need while you’re abroad. This includes a crate, bed, favourite toys, favourite treats, food (your dog might not like “foreign” stuff), bowls, waste bags, grooming paraphernalia, extra lead and harness, vet card, medication, necessary travel documentation like a pet passport, your information and spare ID tag.
If you’re travelling in summer, consider getting a cooling jacket or packing some nice cooling treats (apple pieces in frozen stock). If you’re travelling in winter, don’t forget a jersey and extra blankets.
6) Prepare yourself
Travelling with your pet presents some unique challenges, especially if you’re going abroad and you don’t really know the rules or the area. Do as much research as possible to find pet-friendly activities and restaurants. After all, you don’t want to take Fido all the way to Spain and then leave him at the resort, do you? Don’t push your pets to do things they don’t want to do (like visit crowded tourist attractions or attend a fireworks display), so don’t set yourself a fixed itinerary. Remember to stop often so they can relieve themselves and remember that pets may need to relieve themselves more often if they are anxious or unsettled. Don’t be upset if house training takes a step back. Be patient – everything is new to your pet and new can be overwhelming.
Finally, have fun. The best holidays with your pets are the lazy ones without expectations. Relax with some cocktails and water next to the pool, stroll shady boulevards, enjoy moonlit nights in the beach and picnics in forests or parks.
Holidays abroad can make your break your relationship with your pets – do everything in your power to ensure that your trip strengthens your bond. If you think that there is any chance it will do more harm than good, do the right thing and leave your pet in the hands of a reliable sitter or reputable boarding facility.