Taking Your Pets Abroad – Top Pet Tips for Travel

Published by Emma Milne
min read

Find food that fits your pet’s needs

Find a dog food that fits your pet’s needs

Find a cat food that fits your pet’s needs

People love to travel and people love to spend time with their cats and dogs. So it’s logical that people love the idea of taking their pets on holiday with them. But do our pets really like travelling as much as we think they do?

My dogs, Pan and Badger, were with me practically all the time – at work, at home, and even at the pub after a long day! Like lots of people we also took them on holiday with us. The reality wasn’t quite as simple as we might have thought though, so to help you make that decision I need to put my vet hat on.

As a vet, whenever I’m asked for pet care advice I love to take it back to basics and think about the five needs for pets. This is a great way to make sure all your bases are covered. The five needs are:

  • Food and water.
  • The right environment.
  • To be with or without other animals.
  • To express normal behaviour.
  • To be protected from pain, injury and disease.

It may seem obvious but it’s a great tick list for planning your holiday. I’m going to focus on dogs in this article but the same advice applies to cats too.

Food and water.

Water is the most essential thing to think about first. Cats and dogs should always have access to fresh water if possible. If you’re planning a long journey you need to make frequent stops to offer water if it can’t be provided in the car. Remember that even in an air-conditioned car, the boot can still get very hot. I’ve seen dogs in practice get heat stroke while travelling because the owners hadn’t realised how warm the boot was. You’ll also need to make sure that the water is safe to drink for you and your pet where you are going.

Plan to take enough food with you for the duration and a little bit extra in case of delays. You may be able to buy food where you’re going but a change in diet can cause some fairly drastic tummy upsets which you don’t want on holiday! This is especially important if your dog or cat needs a special therapeutic diet from your vet.


This could be similar to where you live but often we go to very different climates and this could impact your dog. Don’t expect them to want to do lots during the heat of the day. Let them find shade and rest when they want to. If you have a very hairy dog, think about having them clipped before you go. It can make a huge difference to their comfort.

Other pets.

In the travel situation this is more about encountering other dogs and cats abroad. Make sure you talk to your vet about diseases that your pet may be exposed to while abroad. This is important for stopping diseases coming back to your home country as well as thinking about your pet safety. 

Behaving Normally.

Lots of pets get upset with changes in routine and it’s important to try and keep this as normal as possible. For mental happiness dogs and cats, like all animals, need to be able to express themselves. For dogs this means playing, exploring, digging and so on. Even though you might want to relax on holiday, remember that your dog still needs stimulation and may not want to chill on the beach all day.

Pain, injury and disease.

No one wants to think about this but accidents can happen and foreign climes can harbour all sorts of sub-tropical diseases and parasites that your dog or cat could be exposed to. For example, Leishmaniasis, which is spread by sand flies can be difficult to diagnose and can cause serious disease and even death. Other examples are Dirofilaria (also called heartworm) and Echinococcus. These can be dangerous for humans as well as animals.

Make sure you find out what vaccines and parasite treatments are necessary for you to travel. But also ask your vet about any they would recommend on top of the obligatory ones. Have a pet first aid kit with essentials like bandages, tick removers, sterile water for cleaning eyes, tweezers and so on. Many are available to buy and useful to have at home too. If your pet needs prescription medication, plan ahead and make sure you definitely have enough for the whole time you’re away. You may not be able to get a prescription filled abroad. And, as we said before, quite a few 'subtropical surprises' may only manifest themselves long after you have returned home. So if your pet gets ill after you come home, please visit your vet and don’t forget to mention that you have been abroad!

And finally…

We had some great times abroad with ‘the boys’ but it wasn’t all plain sailing and if they had caught a disease I’m not sure I would have forgiven myself. Think long and hard about whether you want to take your pet abroad. It can be difficult for both you and your pet and there is most definitely a risk of diseases wherever you go. Cats particularly find travel and strange places very stressful as may the timid dogs out there.

If you have someone dependable to look after your pet it may be less stressful for the pet to stay at home and it might make your holiday a lot more relaxing. Whatever you decide – safe travels!

Contributor Bio

Emma Milne

Emma Milne


Dr Emma Milne qualified as a vet in 1996. She worked in small animal practice for 12 years and as a clinical nutrition advisor for seven years. She is well known for her animal welfare work and has written ten books on pet animals.