Travelling with Your Dogs this Christmas
Travelling with your dog over the Christmas holidays is a great way to include your best friends in your end of year celebrations. Some important things to bear in mind are warm weather safety and car safety.
Warm weather safety tips
Dogs are less efficient than humans at regulating their body temperature in warm weather. Dogs only sweat minimally through their nose and paw pads.
Their primary mechanism for cooling is to pant. This allows the moisture on their tongue, airway and lungs to evaporate, providing heat exchange between their overheated body and the ambient air.
Unfortunately this is not the most efficient cooling mechanism, so it is important to take steps to prevent your dog from overheating, especially in the height of an Australian summer.
- Ensure your dog has access to clean, cool drinking water. Some dogs will try to dig in their water bowl when hot, so make sure they can’t spill the bowl, or provide several bowls in different locations.
- Provide a shallow paddle pool for your dog to splash around or lay down in
- Try to limit your dog’s exercise to cooler times of day such as early morning or late afternoon.
- Provide access to comfortable, shady resting spots, or bring them indoors to share your air conditioning.
- On very hot days, give your dog a “pupsicle”.
- Never leave your dog in the car on a hot day, as temperates can rise to dangerous levels very quickly.
Risk factors for heat stress:
Some dogs are at higher risk of suffering heat stress than others due to various physiological features that make them less efficient at regulating their own body temperature. If your dog has one or more of these risk factors, you should take particular care in monitoring your dog’s environment and looking out for symptoms of heat stress.
- Overweight dogs
- Dogs with dark coloured coats
- Brachycephalic dogs (less effective at cooling themselves through panting)
- Dogs with a history of heat stress
- Dogs with existing medical conditions
Signs of heat stress:
- excessive panting
- excessive drooling
- difficulty standing or walking
- red gums
- rapid or irregular heart rate
What to do if your dog is showing signs of heat distress
- Move your dog out of the sun, preferably indoors with a fan or air conditioning
- Provide drinking water, add ice cubes to the water dish if possible
- Offer an ice pack or wet towel to lay on.
- Splash cool running water over your dog and under his “armpits”. The capillaries are close to the skin here so it will have a greater cooling effect
- Offer access to a wading pool with shallow, cool water.
- Seek veterinary advice urgently. Dogs can quickly go into shock and suffer organ damage from heat stroke
Car travel and dogs
Just like humans, dogs should wear seat belts to protect them from injury in the event of an accident. Invest in a good quality car harness which can be attached to the car’s seatbelts. Having your dog properly restrained in the car will also reduce potential driver distractions. As with small children, dogs should not ride in the front passenger seat due to the risk of injury from an air bag deployment.
Some dogs that don’t travel in the car very often may suffer from car sickness, which makes long journeys unpleasant for everyone involved. You may be able to improve matters by starting off with short car trips and gradually building up to longer journeys. This will also help to reduce the “anxiety factor” which may contribute to their car sickness.
Note that many puppies have car sickness which they simply “grow out of”. If possible, avoid taking a young puppy on very long drives.
Take regular driving breaks to allow your dog to stretch its legs, have a drink of water and eliminate. This will make them more comfortable during the drive and less prone to car sickness.
An old wive’s tale with anecdotal evidence is that ginger biscuits help to reduce car sickness in dogs. The required dosage would vary based on your dog’s body weight. A small dog may benefit from half a ginger biscuit while a larger dog may need one or two to have an effect.
In severe cases, consult with your veterinarian, as medications may be available which can help.
Dog Travel Essentials
- car safe harness and seatbelt
- plenty of fresh water and a no-tip water bowl
- a familiar bed, blanket or toy to make them feel more secure in their new surroundings
- waste bags
- your dog’s normal food (any sudden changes to diet is likely to upset their system)
- any regular medications
- ensure they are wearing identification with your current contact number
- Adaptil collar or spray to help them feel more secure (especially if prone to anxiety)