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How to keep your dog safe on holidays

Plenty of Australians love bringing their dogs on family holidays, but it’s important to keep your dog safe no matter what adventures you go on.1 So whether it’s a weekend at the beach, a cottage in the bush or a camping trip, there are a few important steps you’ll need to consider.

Aside from the key things, such as getting your dog microchipped (or ensuring the microchip details are up to date) and attaching identification details on their collar in case they become lost2, here’s what you need to do.

Planning before the big trip

Even before you settle on holiday dates and start making your travel bookings, you should ask yourself one key question: is taking your dog on holiday the best option? Some locations – such as busy cities, farm stays and island holidays – may not be appropriate for dogs. Also consider whether your dog craves routine – will they be happier being cared for in their own environment by a trusted person or being boarded in a well-designed facility?

But if you’ve settled on taking your dog, it’s time to do some housekeeping. Does your holiday destination have the appropriate pet facilities (such as somewhere to sleep, an enclosed exercise space and toileting areas)? More importantly, are dogs even allowed to stay there? Luckily, you can find plenty of dog-friendly holiday destinations using websites dedicated to helping you find a spot that both you and your furry friend will enjoy.

If you’re travelling in your caravan or camper, many caravan parks and public camping sites allow your dog to stay with you. That being said, it’s easier to holiday in some states than others. For example, in New South Wales all pets – dogs, cats and even birds – are restricted from entering:

  • National parks
  • State conservation park
  • Nature reserve
  • Historic sites
  • Aboriginal areas

But that doesn’t mean your dog can’t come along on your holidays. Consider a trip to the coast or camping by a lake. There are plenty of places in Australia you can enjoy your time together as a family.

No matter where you’re travelling to, make sure you check with the relevant state authorities about any restrictions on where pets can and can’t go.

Finally, visit your vet before leaving for your holiday. They will examine your dog, possibly update their vaccinations, advise on any particular risks to be aware of in the area (such as parasites or snakes) and then give you an answer on whether they are fit enough to travel. It’s especially important to do so if you’re travelling during tick season, which starts in September.4

Keeping pets safe during car travel

There are a number of must-dos when travelling by car with your pet:

  • Hot cars: Under no circumstances should you ever leave your dog alone in a car. Even winding the windows down slightly on a hot day will do little to prevent rising temperatures and can raise the risk of them escaping. What’s more, on hot days dogs have been known to succumb to heatstroke and die.5
  • Strap in: A secure dog is a safe dog – for both you and your family’s protection in the event of an accident. Make sure your dog is properly tethered with pet-specific leads, harnesses, seat-belt attachments or car restraints.6
  • Pit stops: On long car journeys especially, make regular stops so your dog can take toilet breaks, stretch their legs and rehydrate.
  • Water and food: Speaking of water, make sure there’s plenty of it handy for your dog – both in the car and when making stops. If your travel time will overlap with their regular mealtime, stick to their routine and keep them fed.
  • Medications: Remember to pack any regular medications your pet needs and make time to give these as instructed. And if you’ll be travelling during tick season, especially if you plan on spending lots of time outdoors, ensure your pet is protected against ticks with a collar or other treatment as recommended by your vet.

Transporting your pets by air

In some rare cases, you might decide to take your dog with you overseas – such as on an extended holiday. However, there are unique regulations you will need to follow according to the country you are travelling to, with many requiring a predetermined number of days where your dog is kept in quarantine.7

If you’re considering an interstate holiday, consider whether air transport is suitable for your dog.8 Your veterinarian is the best person to advise on whether your pet is fit and healthy to travel by air. Short-nosed dogs are at high risk of breathing difficulties and heat stress, so alternative transport options where they can be closely supervised are recommended.

Once you’re ready to travel, it’s important to make your dog as comfortable as possible. Ensure your dog has ample opportunity to exercise before they are confined. Follow your vet’s recommendation on feeding your dog before travel and make sure their travel container is compliant with air travel rules. Also try to avoid flying when it’s hot. Alternatively, you may also decide to go with a pet travel specialist who will take care of everything for a fee.

What are your options?

If you’re ready to bring your pet with you on holiday, where should you go? If you want to unwind in the comfort of a resort, you’ll be able to find pet-friendly places all around Australia.

Alternatively, you might like to take a beach holiday (make sure dogs are allowed on the beach), go camping in the great outdoors, or even do something quirky like a wine tour where your pet can join in on the fun – just not the drinking part!8

Whether or not your pet should come on holiday with you is entirely your decision, but once you’ve confirmed they are coming it’s crucial that you take all the necessary steps to keep your pet safe and comfortable

RSPCA Pet Insurance can provide coverage for unexpected accidents and illnesses while travelling, so speak to us on 1300 881 492 or get a quote online to find the right policy for your needs.