Prepare for Illness when Traveling with Your Dog and Your Family

This year, almost 100 million Americans are planning annual family vacations, with many hoping to bring their dogs along, too. Traveling with the family is fun and a great way to explore and create memories together, especially when your four-legged family member is involved, but sometimes exposure to germs can wreak havoc on your vacation.

Prepare for illness when traveling with your dog and your family and include preparations and research on how to deal with common as well as uncommon illnesses associated with travel that your dog and family could face, particularly when traveling and exploring new places. A few simple steps can get everyone back on their feet and paws in no time if they do become unwell, helping the whole family to enjoy the trip.

Dog and girl at the beach
Courtesy of Alvin Balemesa – Unsplash

Get vaccinations and preventative treatments before your trip

It’s a good idea for the whole family to get any vaccinations that are recommended for the country that you’re visiting to help keep everyone healthy and safe. For your dog, this means a visit to the vet for their vaccinations too.

A current rabies vaccination is a must before traveling with a dog. Other vaccinations may also be required. Have your veterinarian issue you a rabies certificate and a health certificate as well as any other documentation required if traveling internationally. More information on international pet travel.

A trip to the vet should also include a vaccination against Leishmaniasis, which is common in South and Central America, southern Mexico, and the Mediterranean, as well as Canine Distemper, common in countries where there are a lot of strays and unvaccinated animals.

Canine influenza has been reported in most American States, Canada, China, South Korea, and Thailand, so a vaccination should be given if you’re traveling to any of these countries, especially if you will be kenneling your dog or it will be exposed to other dogs in parks.

Dogs may also need a vaccination against Canine Brucellosis (endemic to the Americas, Asia and Africa) and Trypanosoma evansi (endemic to North and Northeast Africa, Latin America (except Chile), the Middle East, and Asia). There is no cure for Brucellosis once infected and Trypanosoma (surra) can be fatal if left untreated so these vaccinations should be given serious consideration when discussing them with your veterinarian.

Finally, prepare for illness when traveling with your dog to any country and give it preventative treatments against tapeworms and ticks. Your veterinarian can make recommendations on available products.

Preparing for Illness when traveling with your dog means a visit to your vet.
Courtesy of JC – Pixabay

New places can mean new allergens

Just like people, some dogs are more prone to allergic reactions than others, often due to their breed, but the reality is that anyone can have allergies at any time and for any reason. Traveling to new places will increase the chances of an allergic reaction as everyone will be exposed to new things, such as different pollen caused by plants, dust and various chemicals used in the new environment.

On your daily walk, the following plants may cause allergic reactions in your dog and can even be fatal if ingested – junipers (male), Acacia, Mulberry and oak trees, primrose, daylilies, daffodils, narcissus, tulips, and agapanthus, Oleander bushes, bottlebrush trees, spurge, milk bush, chenille plant, pencil tree, yews (male), Podocarpus (male),  and even Bermuda grass which can be found on rights of way in many cities.

Watch out for itching or biting, welts or sore spots, rashes, swollen faces or unusual behavior as these can be signs of an allergic reaction in your dog. If you suspect an allergy, then Benadryl, Zyrtec, and Claritin are commonly used antihistamines that relieve allergy symptoms or counteract allergic reactions. See a veterinarian to discuss the appropriate dosage for your dog.

As a family, it’s likely you’ll end up eating different foods, which can also increase the risk of food allergies, especially in children trying foods for the first time.

Try to stick to foods that you know don’t contain allergens and don’t be tempted to let your dog try new foods either for the same reason. It’s easier to avoid food allergies in dogs than it is in children as you may be able to pack enough of their usual food based on how long your vacation will be.

Adjusting to foreign food and water

When you prepare for illness when traveling with your dog, foreign food and water are important considerations. Depending on how long you’re traveling for and where you’re going, it’s not always possible or feasible to take a dog’s food with you. For example, some countries won’t allow you to import certain pet foods and you need to be aware of the ingredients, how much liquid they contain and the weight of food as well. Every country will require that your dog’s food be in a bag or can that is manufacturer-sealed. Many countries will not permit the import of food where beef or lamb are ingredients.

What to do?

See if your pet’s usual food is sold in your destination country. Many large stores have locations in foreign countries. If this is not an option, be prepared by writing a list of the main ingredients in your dog’s food so you can find something similar.

If your dog is on a prescription diet, ask customs officials in your destination airport whether you can justify the import if you have a letter from your veterinarian stating the necessity for the food.

It is not always feasible to bring bottled water for your dog and your family when you go on vacation, especially if you are flying. Water quality can vary by country, and it is worth the time to research information from other pet owners.

Speak to your doctor and veterinarian for advice on the best anti-nausea and diarrhea medication to pack and the doses that should be administered.

Start introducing local water gradually by washing food with it, brushing your teeth with it, making ice cubes with it and watch for signs of an upset stomach.

Dog in car on family travels
Courtesy of Tadeusz Lakota – Unsplash

Preparing for motion sickness

Both humans and dogs are susceptible to motion sickness, whether you’re in a car or on a boat. Specifically, children and young dogs seem to be the most prone to this condition. If you’ve never traveled a great distance before, it can be difficult to know if motion sickness will be a problem for your family, which is why it’s so important to prepare for it. Luckily, children can tell you how they’re feeling, but look out for common signs of motion sickness in dogs, which include inactivity, whining, yawning, drooling, shaking, licking their lips, and vomiting. Preventing motion sickness in people is similar to preventing motion sickness in dogs. Open the windows for some fresh air, have them sit at the front of the car and face forward if possible, limit food consumption before travel, and stop regularly for breaks. If none of that helps, motion sickness medication from a pharmacist and a veterinarian can be given to relieve symptoms.

Research dangers lurking in the local environment

It’s really important to be aware of and prepared for environmental dangers to your dog and your family in your destination country. Blue-green algae has started to become more prevalent in many countries across the globe, including many US states, the UK, and Mexico. The algae releases toxins as it breaks down, which is dangerous to the health of both animals and humans.

No one should swim in water where algae is present, and you need to take precautions to ensure your dog doesn’t drink it. Make sure they have fresh water available to them to deter them from doing so. Symptoms will include twitching, weakness, seizures, vomiting, and diarrhea and even death in extreme cases.

Lungworm is another potential problem for dogs and is particularly prevalent in the UK currently. Lungworm infestation occurs when dogs eat larvae that are found in snails, slugs, or frogs, so be extra vigilant of what they’re eating when outside. Worst-case scenario, it’s important to be aware of the symptoms so that dogs can be promptly treated. This includes breathing problems, coughing, and a reluctance to exercise.

If you and your dog are traveling to the southwestern United States or northwest Mexico, know that people and animals can develop Valley Fever after inhaling spores growing in loose, sandy soils prevalent in these areas. Be on the lookout for symptoms of coughing, fever, weight loss, lack of appetite, and lack of energy.

Make sure you pack enough medications

If anyone in your family, including your dog, is on medication, you should make sure to pack enough for the duration of your trip. Ideally, bring along a few days extra supply, just in case of travel delays. Keep all pills and lotions in their original packing with the prescription details on the outside of the packaging.

Have a copy of any prescriptions in case you need a refill during your travels. This is also helpful to show proof to any officials that your medicines are prescribed, if required. 

It’s also a good idea to research the location of local doctors, pharmacies, and vets in relation to where you’re staying and have their contact details on hand.

Traveling as a family can feel incomplete if you don’t bring your dog along, plus it’s great fun for your pooch to be involved too; however, don’t forget to prepare for illness when traveling with your dog and your family as it just makes sense. Medical emergencies are not what anybody wants to deal with while on vacation. The object is to keep everyone safe, healthy and happy and make memories together.

Jane Sandwood is a freelance writer and editor who spent over a decade in the tourism industry.

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