Summer Outings and Holidaying With Your Pooch
Things to consider when planning your adventures this summer
Column by Alice Clark RVN
We all love a summer getaway. Time to enjoy (hopefully) beautiful weather and adventures with friends and family and, for most, our families also extend to four legged members too. I don’t know about anyone else, but I despise packing for a holiday. The only way I can ensure I’ve remembered everything I could possibly need is to write list after list after list and whether they are coming with me or not, this includes a list for the dogs. Now, I’m sure this is becoming my mantra; always be as prepared as you possibly can.
How will you get there?
This obviously depends on where you choose to go. If you decide to venture abroad with your pet via car, rail, ferry or plane, the first thing to consider is whether your pet needs a passport (yes, pet passports exist). To travel to an EU or listed non-EU country without being quarantined, a pet passport must be issued by a qualified veterinary surgeon and your pet must also be microchipped, over 15 weeks old, be treated for tapeworms and given a Rabies vaccination. As your pet cannot return to the UK until 21 days after their Rabies vaccination, it is a good idea to get your pet’s passport sorted at least a month before you are due to travel. Travel between countries can only be via approved transport routes with approved companies. You can find country specific details through DEFRA, so make sure you do your research to avoid any disappointment. It is also worth checking the transport companies’ own rules and regulations before booking as, for example, some ferry companies insist that dogs wear muzzles at all times when not in a vehicle or cabin.
It is extremely important to consider your pet’s temperament and personality when deciding how to transport them. For some dogs, being separated from their owners for any period of time, or travelling amongst a number of strangers could prove very stressful and for me, if my dog is stressed, I’m stressed (that isn’t a holiday)!
For longer journeys, plan stops on your route where your dog can have a proper walk or game, rather than sticking to a small patch of grass by a busy road. Make sure you have plenty of water and a bowl that your dog is happy to drink from. You might be surprised that many dogs are too fussy to drink out of a bowl that they aren’t familiar with! Try to avoid feeding a large meal before or during the journey to prevent travel sickness. If your pet has experienced travel sickness in the past, speak to your vet about desensitisation or medications to help, well before you are planning to go away.
What should you bring?
I would always rather pack items I don’t end up using, than finding I haven’t packed something I need, so I do the same for my dogs. Whether you are away for one night or two weeks, there are a few items I would consider essential:
- Enough of your pet’s usual food, plus a little extra. Sudden changes in diet can cause stomach upsets (which aren’t fun at home, let alone when you’re away), so make sure you have enough to tide you over in case of delays or unexpected circumstances. Also take your pet’s usual food bowls if they’re fussy.
- A bed, blankets or crate for your dog to sleep on/in. Many holiday homes and hotels do not allow pets to stay in accommodation alone unless they are crated and others would rather not have pets on the furniture.
- Poop bags, and lots of them. In most places it is an offence not to clean up after your dog and can carry a fine (so there goes your holiday spending money).
- A properly fitting collar, lead and identification tags. If you know the address you are staying at, this can be included on the tag, as well as any relevant mobile numbers.
- A favourite toy (or five). Plus treats or snacks if your dog is used to getting these at home or on walks.
- Old towels to dry off muddy or wet paws, so you don’t use borrowed towels that are meant for humans.
- A cooling coat for days out in warm weather.
How can you make your pet feel at home?
Holidays can be a little stressful at times, and for pets even more so. Most dogs know their home routines well and could end up feeling unsettled whilst in new places, so it’s worth thinking of ways to help them settle into the holiday swing more quickly.
Your pet’s bed or favourite toy will carry familiar and comforting scents. The use of synthetic pet friendly pheromones can also assist with keeping your dog calm and encourage them to settle. These can also be useful for nervous travellers.
For dogs that are crate trained, it makes their lives (and ours) very easy, as their ‘bedroom’ can come on holiday with them. Not only are they more likely to settle at night in the new environment, you also have somewhere safe and secure to leave them if you want to pop out sans dog.
Where can you go?
There are so many great activities to enjoy with your dog on holiday, depending on where you go. What screams ‘summer holiday’ to us Brits more than a visit to an overcrowded beach on a hot day? Most dogs share our love of beach trips; paddling in the sea, joining in our beach games and even sharing an ice cream. During the summer, it’s important to remember that many beaches in the UK enforce strict dog restrictions from the beginning of May to the end of September. Make sure you check out the local beach restrictions before setting off to avoid disappointment. At best you may get a telling off by a local, at worst a hefty fine from the council.
There are also a number of hidden dangers at the seaside for our pets. Riptides, currents and seawater ingestion all pose a risk, as well as potential ingestion of palm oil, sand and fishing hooks (most dogs can’t resist bait on an unattended fishing rod or crabbing line).
Walking with your dog in a new area can be a great way to explore, although I always want to have some idea of where I’m headed, so I can research walks beforehand. This way, I have an idea of when the dogs needed to be kept on a lead (such as near cliffs and livestock) and when they can have a bit more freedom. You’d be surprised how many people think their dogs would never go near a cliff edge until it’s too late – I’ve met some incredibly lucky dogs who have come away from big falls with scrapes and bruises.
Many pubs, restaurants and cafes are dog friendly, so if you plan to bring the pooch for dinner, have a look online beforehand. You certainly cannot leave your dog in a vehicle if they get turned away from a venue.
Now, what kind of veterinary nurse would I be if I didn’t recommend the obvious? A decent first aid kit! Wound wash, wound dressings, bandages and tick removers are an absolute must. For me, I always make sure I’ve got something to rinse eyes with too, especially for visits to the beach. If you are venturing somewhere remote, it’s also worth taking supplies for canine stomach upsets (you can get probiotic pastes from your vet), antiseptic wash and nail clippers (in case of torn claws). You can always keep a larger, more comprehensive kit in your car and just take the essentials with you on outings and walks.
Before setting off on holiday, make sure you know where the local veterinary practice is located and save their phone number on your mobile phone. If you pet has a pre-existing medical condition or a complicated history, ask your regular vet to print out a copy of their medical history, which you can pass to a local vet in the event of a medical emergency.