Are you planning on travelling with your furry companions? (part 1)

by Dr Fiona Holman & Dr Kevin Solberg ~

Whether travelling domestically or internationally, planning and preparing for your four-legged companion’s travel requirements is the best way of reducing any stress to yourself and your pet.

Ensure that you have provided adequate time to do so. The requirements depend on where you are planning to travel, but the best place to start this process is with a visit to your vet. The vet will do a clinical examination and assess your pet’s fitness for travel.

By law, rabies vaccination needs to be up to date whether travelling internationally or domestically. Domestic travel and travel to Namibia is usually straight forward and can be done by any of the vets at any of our branches. For any other travel destinations, Tygerberg Animal Hospital has a dedicated Travel Clinic at our Durbanville Branch.  Dr Kevin Solberg and Dr Izak van der Vyfer head up this clinic.  The Travel Clinic offers clinical examinations, vaccinations, microchip implantation, travel advice and how to choose a travel agency for your pets. The Travel Clinic is not an alternative for a travel agent and the use of a good travel agent cannot be overemphasized.

Travelling by Road:

Most companion animals travel very well by car, especially if they have been used to travelling from a young age. If your pet is not used to travelling, it will be your time’s worth to do a few practice rounds. Start with short trips around the block and gradually build up the distance and time that the animal will be in the car. If your pet struggles with motion sickness, speak to your vet. There is medication that can help with this. Very often, turning on the air conditioner helps to reduce motion sickness.

If your pooch is very anxious, one can consider anxiolytic medication. First, try over-the-counter medication specific to the animal species. The medication will be available from your local vet. If the anxiety continues, your vet will need to assess your animal and make a recommendation on the best medication to help reduce anxiety.

Anxiolytic drugs are used to decrease anxiety without causing sedation (drowsiness or sleep). Sedation is NOT advised. Animals in transit need to be alert and aware of their surroundings. Adverse effects caused by sedation include loss of airway control and respiratory depression as well as hypotension (low blood pressure) which is not an ideal situation for your pet to be in.

Safety measures used in car travel is beneficial for everyone in the car. Cats and small dogs should travel in cat baskets or crates, there should be adequate room for them to stand, stretch and turn around and lie down comfortably. We advise looping the safety belt through the handle of the basket/crate to keep it secure during the journey.

Car safe dog harnesses are available online. They have a tether that fits from the harness into the safety belt buckle. Tethers should never be attached to a collar, as this can cause serious injury should the car stop suddenly or if you are involved in an accident. Safety of the driver and passengers is as important, and a loose animal in the car could obstruct the view of the driver or prevent the driver from braking and this can cause an accident.

Before a journey, make sure the animal has had a good meal about four hours before travelling. Feeding just before a journey is more likely to cause nausea and vomition. Do not withhold food from very young or small animals. Make sure you take a few bottles of fresh water, food and a bowl for the journey.

Remember that pets also need to stop, refresh, stretch their legs and “go to the loo”. It is advisable to stop every two to three hours for this. Use of a small cat litter tray that can fit behind the passenger seat may be required if your cat has a very long journey ahead.   Clean up after your pet has “been to the loo”.  This shows respect towards others, as well as good hygiene practices. Remember to take leads and harnesses with you and keep your pets on a lead when taking a break.

Be sure to always provide adequate ventilation and that blankets in crates and baskets do not obstruct ventilation. Never leave animals in cars unattended, even on a mildly temperate day. Temperatures in locked cars can increase by 28 degrees centigrade within 1-2 hours (from outside temperatures), resulting in heatstroke and possibly even death.

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