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Travelling with pets: Safety tips for dogs and cats

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Planning a holiday or trip with your dog or cat? Here’s what to pack, where to go, and how to protect your pet.

Everyone needs a break, including our dogs and cats. These tips will help you and your family enjoy a safe, happy and relaxing holiday with your pets along to share in the fun.

Prepare before you go

Preparation is the key to ensuring the success of any holiday, so make sure your pet is up to date on all vaccinations, worming and parasite control before you depart.

If you’re travelling north or to a hot and humid location, trim your pet’s hair to help keep your pet cool and make it easier to find ticks. If you’re planning to camp, be prepared for destinations with potential risks like snakes and paralysis ticks.

Tags and microchips will help identify your pet in case your dog or cat gets lost. Make sure your contact details registered for your pet’s microchip are correct so you can easily be contacted if your pet goes missing.

What to pack for your pet

At a minimum, you’ll need the following pet supplies for your trip:

  • Food
  • Portable or foldable food and water bowls
  • Leads
  • A favourite toy or two
  • Kitty litter if you’re travelling with your cat
  • Droppings disposal bags if you’re travelling with your dog
  • Bedding
  • Collars
  • Parasite protection (consider the parasites that may be found at your destination which may differ from your home) and any other regular medications your pet takes

Order enough medication ahead of time, and pack a pet first-aid kit including diluted antiseptic (betadine) and clean bandages. Find out the local vet’s contact details in the place you’re travelling to in case of emergency.

Make sure your destination and activities will be pet friendly

Many holiday destinations accommodate cats and dogs – but not all do. Be sure to find pet-friendly accommodation, and check for pet restrictions at the beaches, parks and popular attractions you plan to visit.

If you’re on the fence about bringing your dog or cat on holiday, think first about the type of activities you plan to do, and whether your pet will be able to participate at all. If your trip itinerary is packed with shopping, dining, visiting museums or seeing shows or other attractions, your dog or cat might not benefit from coming with you. However, if your trip involves plenty of outdoor time on the beach or in a park, or if you and your family plan to stick close to your hotel or rental during most of the holiday, your pet will likely enjoy the trip more.

two dogs and a cat in the back of a car

Special considerations for travelling north

The warmth and humidity of Queensland, Northern Territory, north-west Australia and the east coast of New South Wales pose a higher parasite risk for pets. Paralysis ticks, heartworm, hookworm, fleas, mosquitoes and sandflies are more prevalent the farther north you go.

While your pets may have never suffered from parasites or ticks at home, this may not be the case in your holiday destination. A new environment can present new health challenges.

To protect your pets and enjoy a parasite- and tick-free holiday, we recommend taking the following steps:

  • Administer a parasite preventative treatment, such as Seresto® for Dogs, which fights ticks, fleas, and vector-borne diseases, and Advantage® for Cats, which combats flea infestations.
  • Take particular care when bush-walking and visiting the beach with your dog.
  • Perform daily tick checks (as well as using a tick control product) – run your fingers through your pet’s coat over their skin, feeling for abnormal bumps. Pay particular attention to the head and neck, chest, between their toes and around their mouths and gums.
  • If you do notice a tick, remove it immediately and continue looking for more – keep it for identification by a vet. See our guide for removing a tick from your dog or cat.
  • If you find a tick on your pet, contact the local vet immediately, particularly if your pet is showing signs of tick toxicity like changes to the sound of the bark or meow, weakness in the legs, excessive panting or vomiting.

Getting to your destination

Regardless of your destination, you’ll need to figure out transportation options for you, your family and your cat or dog. Each mode of transport comes with its own considerations and precautions.

Travelling safely with your pet by car

The best way to transport pets by car is in a specially designed carrier or cage, which should have good ventilation, plenty of room to move about and a secure door. Dogs can also be restrained and protected with a safety harness that attaches them to a seat belt. Above all, never leave dogs or cats loose inside a moving vehicle. Loose pets can cause an accident and be badly injured.

For longer journeys, here are some hints to ensure a pleasant, stress-free trip:

  • Don’t feed your pet just before they travel in the car.
  • Stop every two to three hours to allow your dog to relieve itself, exercise and get some fresh air.
  • Sunburn can be a danger, so apply a pet-friendly UV cream daily, and use a window blind or towel to shield your pet from the sun while they’re in the car.

Leaving your dog or cat for fewer than six minutes in an unventilated car can kill them. Even with windows left open, the temperature inside a car quickly rises, and heat exhaustion and death become real dangers. Never leave your pet unattended in a hot car, and always take a water container to quench your pet's thirst and prevent dehydration. 

Travelling safely with your pet by plane

Check with your airline for pet travel instructions and restrictions they may have. You’ll need to have your pet thoroughly examined, wormed and vaccinated by a vet before being approved for air travel. Your airline will be able to give you guidelines on the size and weight limitations of your animal carrier.

In the air, dogs and cats usually go in the cargo hold. However, assistance and seeing-eye dogs are allowed in the cabin. Just keep in mind that airlines may limit the number of pets they allow on a flight or refuse to handle animals that show excessive aggressive behaviour.

As a rule, pets can do very well travelling by air. However if your cat or dog shows signs of distress after a flight, see the vet you’ve located at your destination. Better yet, if you have concerns about how your pet will tolerate air travel, talk with your veterinarian in advance. They will be able to recommend preflight preparations or anti-anxiety medication if you think your pet may need it.

With a little advance preparation, you can ensure a safe, entertaining and relaxing holiday with your family and your pet, regardless of where you decide to go or how you get there.

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