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How to travel long distance with a dog

Basset Hound sitting next to a suitcase advice

Not all dogs travel well: some experience anxiety and travel sickness.

© Shutterstock

From properly securing your dog in a car to getting a pet passport if you're taking them abroad, there's lots to consider if you're taking your pooch away with you.

By Dr Hester Mulhall MA, VetMB, MRCVS

Published on the 11/08/2020, 14:28

With pets considered an important part of the family, it’s common for them to join us on staycations and road trips. While some pooches are relatively unbothered, others can experience anxiety and even travel sickness. This article contains some handy advice and tips for how to travel with your dog. If you have any specific questions or concerns about your pet, you should speak to a vet for advice.

Talk to a vet online. Visit myfamilyvets.co.uk

What food can I give a dog before a long car journey?

Just like people, pets can get car sick. This means it is best to feed them at least a few hours beforehand, and consider giving a smaller portion if they are prone to becoming nauseous on the road. It is usually best to offer them their normal pet food, as any abrupt change in diet could lead to stomach upset.

How often should you stop when travelling with a dog?

You should stop at least every couple of hours to give your dog a chance to go to the loo and stretch their legs. They will also need plenty of opportunities to drink fresh water, so make sure to pack them a travel bowl.

Talk to a vet online. Visit myfamilyvets.co.uk

Where should a dog sit in the car?

Wherever your dog sits in the car, it is important that they are appropriately restrained so that they do not cause a distraction to the driver or risk the safety of anyone in the vehicle. This means that your pet should be in a crate, carrier or car harness. Depending on your dog’s size and preference, one of these options may be more appropriate than the others. Never allow your dog to stick their head out of the window – this is dangerous as they may try to jump out and injure themselves.

It is inadvisable to travel with your pet in the passenger seat, as they can cause a distraction. But if you chose to do so, they should be suitably restrained in a harness or carrier and the air bag for that seat must be switched off. This is because air bags are designed as a safety feature according to human weight and size, so they can badly injure a pet. Always remember to follow car manufacturer advice for turning on and off air bags, and ensure that it is turned on appropriately for future human passengers.

Talk to a vet online. Visit myfamilyvets.co.uk

Can dogs travel long distance in car?

Yes, but you should make sure you are prepared. It is also best to get your dog used to car journeys of increasing length, ideally from puppyhood. If your pet is particularly anxious about travelling, you can get them used to sitting inside a still car first. When you start to take them for short trips, they may prefer a surface with more grip under foot, so that they don’t slide around as you turn corners. If your dog becomes very anxious or nauseous, you should speak to a vet about behavioural advice and medical options. Never give your pet a human drug, such as a sedative for car travel, as these can be toxic especially when given at the incorrect dose.

Talk to a vet online. Visit myfamilyvets.co.uk

What is the best way to travel with a dog in a car?

Your pet must be restrained during travel. It can be helpful to attach window shades to prevent the car overheating and causing heat exhaustion in your pet. You must never leave your dog unattended in a car on a sunny day, as the temperature can rise to dangerous levels within a few minutes, even if the outdoor temperature is still cool.

Try not to direct air conditioning straight at your pet, as this can cause distress. Ensure that any windows are not opened wide enough that your pet could jump out if they become loose for any reason. It can be beneficial to bring your pet’s favourite toy or blanket on the journey for comfort.

Talk to a vet online. Visit myfamilyvets.co.uk

What medication can I give a dog for a long road trip?

A vet may be able to prescribe anti-sickness medication for your dog to take on long road trips. But you should never give them any human products or medication that is prescribed for another pet or purpose.

Talk to a vet online. Visit myfamilyvets.co.uk

Can I fly long distance with a dog?

There are strict rules about flying with your dog. These are updated regularly and will often vary depending on the country of destination. It is best to contact a vet for the latest advice, including whether a pet passport is necessary, and what blood tests, vaccinations and anti-parasitic treatments are required. Speak to a vet before you book your dog on a flight, as some of these requirements can take several months to process, and certain vaccines must be given a set number of days before travel.

But bear in mind that flying can be an extremely stressful experience for your pet. They will also be exposed to a new range of diseases in another country, including those that are not found in the UK. Consider whether taking your pet abroad is essential and appropriate.

Talk to a vet online. Visit myfamilyvets.co.uk

What should I pack for travelling with a dog?

This list is not exhaustive, but should be a helpful starting point for things to consider taking on a long journey:

  • Suitable carrier, harness or crate
  • Collar and lead
  • Travel bowl and bottles of water
  • Their favourite toy (unless they have destructive tendencies when stressed)
  • A mat with grip to lie on
  • Car window shades
  • Poo bags
  • Paper towel and pet-safe cleaning products in case of accidents.

What should I ask a vet online?

Any vet practice may provide an online telemedicine service for appointments. There are also providers of online consultations. These may be helpful for an initial conversation about pet travel, but just ensure that the service is provided by UK-registered vets who will be providing advice that follows any UK legislation.

If your pet needs medication, they will need a vet appointment first so that a physical examination and health check can be carried out.

Talk to a vet online. Visit myfamilyvets.co.uk