Happy trails - Mapping out a road trip with the fur family

TRAVEL INSURANCE: Preparation is the key to a safe, happy journey with our companion animals.
TRAVEL INSURANCE: Preparation is the key to a safe, happy journey with our companion animals.

While restrictions on international and some interstate travel have caused crushing disappointment for so many Australians in 2020, there is an upside for companion animals; they are going on holidays with their owners in record numbers.

There has been an explosion of pet-friendly accommodation, with an increasing number of hotels, motels and camping sites allowing responsibly-kept pets onsite.

If you are travelling with companion animals, it's worth planning ahead to ensure the trip goes smoothly.

Is accommodation suitable for your pet?

Read the fine print. If you and your dog like to share a bed, check your host is fine with that. Some of my clients have been caught out. An indoor dog that is required to sleep outside may make a lot of noise.

Similarly, if you are travelling with a cat and your accommodation is cat-friendly, and may have resident cats, ensure your cat can be kept separately. In general, cats take time to adjust to the presence of other cats.

You should also determine whether your accommodation is escape-proof.

Pets that are very anxious about travelling, or quite happy in their home environment, may be better off sitting out the holiday in a boarding facility or with a reputable pet sitter.

If you are travelling with companion animals, it's worth planning ahead ...

Is your pet fit to travel?

Older pets, and those with physical or behavioural conditions, may not be in the best condition to travel.

If you are not sure, book in for a health check with your vet.

Ensure you have adequate supplies of medication for your trip, and look up the numbers of the local vets and emergency clinics in advance, or ask your vet for a recommendation.

Local hazards

Do your homework. Are you heading to an area where snakes are commonly sighted?

Are you heading to a tick area?

Are there particular diseases, such as leptospirosis, that your pet will require an additional vaccination for?

If in doubt, contact a vet at your intended destination and ask.

There are plenty of excellent tick preventatives now available, either as tablets, chews, collars or spot-on formulations, that prevent tick paralysis.

Some also prevent tick bites, which reduce the risk of transmission of tick-borne diseases such as Erlichiosis.

Travel sickness

Motion sickness is not uncommon in companion animals, and usually manifests as nausea (drooling, lip licking, being uncharacteristically quiet or flat, vomiting or - the worst in the car - diarrhoea).

If your pet has shown these signs previously when travelling, ask your veterinarian for medication to treat motion sickness.

Avoid feeding animals a big meal before travel, and make sure they have had a decent toilet break before you set out.

Misadventure

Even well-looked after pets can suffer misadventure on holidays.

The most common problems I see in holidaying pets include trauma (which can range from a torn claw to fractures or motor vehicle accidents), problems arising from ingestion of inappropriate food, intestinal foreign bodies or sprains and strains.

It pays to check your holiday accommodation for potential hazards - has someone left rat bait out? Is the rubbish accessible to a curious dog? Are there holes in the fence?

Ensure your pet is microchipped and that their details are up to date on the relevant companion animal register so that if they do get lost in an unfamiliar environment, they can be reunited with you as soon as possible.

Dr Anne Quain BVSc (Hons), MANZCVS (Animal Welfare), Dip ECAWBM (AWSEL) is a lecturer at the Sydney School of Veterinary Science and a practising veterinarian.