Jane Davidson RVN veterinary-nurses
We’re ALL going on a summer holiday….
Yes, I mean ALL. Since we got a dog, we prefer planning for pet holidays in the UK. The emotional stress of getting someone else to look after Hollie is too much – for her, for me, and for my husband, who must live with us both.
We’re fine with this, and enjoy great UK holidays. Hollie is a coastal dog and enjoys Whitstable and St Ives. We also started taking our cat with us last year when LB wasn’t well. I felt she would need a full-time carer if we were away and we luckily could take her to the places we were staying.
This alleviated the worry of who was caring for The Girls when we were away but it did raise the issue of travelling for extended periods. Cornwall is a 6-hour drive on a good day and as its summer how would we transport both pets, and us in safety and comfort?
I’ve found with the advent of the pet passport scheme more people are travelling extended distances with their pets, often with little consideration that travelling for longer periods with a pet needs more thought and planning than a 15-minute drive to the vets.
The first consideration should be your pets, and your safety. While it may seem more comfortable to have pets free range, either in a car or on a train you need to still have them under control. A crate or soft puppy pen is great for both dogs and cats in a car. Space to stand up, turn around and call their own. We use an old puppy pen of Hollies for our new cat Tillie. She gets space for a comfy bed and can stretch out. As it’s a fabric puppy pen we can then easily carry it when we need to take her out of the car.
If you don’t want to crate your dog, then do consider how you restrain them in a car. There are various harness and seat belt options that you can find. There are various safety criteria for harnesses. Ensure that all clips and D-links are metal – there are still some around with plastic links and under the pressure of a crash these may well break.
Personally, I’ve found crating is easier for longer journeys. There is space for pets to spread out and move around more freely than with a harness strapping them in. You don’t need a huge metal crate, just one that can let your pet stand up, turn around and lie down with ease.
Crating may also mean your pet is less likely to escape if anything does happen. I was in Cornwall last week and this sad storymade the news. People injured, luckily not killed, but their dog missing, scared, and possibly injured. Think safety, and don’t let that happen to you or your clients.
Human and pet comfort in the car has a lot to do with the temperature. It’s a glass box that creates heat and can’t easily be well ventilated. Car air conditioning usually does our upper body in the front seat well as that’s what’s best for us. However, if your pet is in the back seat, boot or footwell you might not realise how poor the cool air circulation is there.
Since we started travelling with pets, we time our journeys to travel at the cooler (and quitter) time of day. After our recent Cornwall trip, we were in our car and starting our long journey by 6.30am at the latest. Giving us at least 2-3 hours before the temperature got really hot.
We have also bought travel bowls, numerous water bottles and the best thing – a cool coat. Hollie loves hers and wears it happily, or even lies on it. We can see when it gets lighter in colour that it needs more water. Tillie doesn’t seem keen on it yet, but we’re offering her a cool mat.
Hollies is an Easidri brand and we’ve had it for 4 years. Now, we don’t have her in the car in warm weather without it. The only drawback is their older coats don’t say “cool coat” so there are times when Joe Public mutters “It’s a bit hot to wear a coat” but I can live with that and Easidri have amended their branding!
As I’m travelling with my high maintenance brood (this is obviously no reflection on me as an owner…) I also consider their health for travelling.
To aid hydration I ensure wet food only is fed for 24-48 hours before travel in hot weather. This is especially good for cats as they often take in the majority of their water intake from food and having tried – A LOT – cats don’t like to eat and drink on the move so for a 6-hour journey you can assume 6 hours of no water or food intake.
As Tillie is older, with early stage renal failure I’m super keen to keep her well hydrated. Some people think I’m taking it too far, but I take SC fluids with me on long trips. Once settled in our destination I work out her fluid needs at twice maintenance for the period of travel and administer this SC.
I think this has divided my veterinary friends. Some think it’s a sensible idea, some others think I’m a crazed and neurotic owner. Whichever camp you are in, I hope you can see there is some sense in it for some pets and it is something an owner can do. My nursing assistant husband is hugely needle phobic, but still provides a comfortable lap and can keep the butterfly catheter at a good position.
At a gravity fed drip rate I’ve found I can get the required time to about 7-8 minutes to get in 6 hours of twice maintenance fluids. It’s not very long for the benefits it brings.
For some dogs, you may need to consider travel sickness and there is medication available.
It goes without saying that all preventative health treatments should be administered before travel, even in the UK. There are differences in parasite prevalence depending on where you are. It’s well worth checking out the ESCCAP website for parasites at home and abroad.
What’s your plan?
This isn’t an exhaustive list, you can have extra toys and treats and plan journeys with nice dog-friendly stops on the way. But it is a start of thinking outside the usual parameters for taking pets on holiday in the UK. Think safety, comfort, health, and you will be doing a great job.
We love our pets; our clients do and so try to consider how we can make their holiday as good as ours.