If the last year has reaffirmed anything, it’s that dogs are a huge part of our lives and a big part of our family. This is reflected in the increase in demand for dog friendly holidays and adventures. Dog owners are increasingly making more travel choices that include the dog, to spend quality time together and create cherished memories that last a life-time.
Dogs on the other hand thrive while exploring new places, and love nothing more than being introduced to new sights, smells and socialising opportunities. Our elderly pups are no exception to this, they still crave the same amount of adventure as they did when they were a bouncy young pup. However, the older they get, the more increased risk and stress associated with travelling.
Think about it, if a long journey in the car can make you tired, stiff and sore – imagine what it’s like for a dog who has reached 77 human years! That being said, it’s still possible to go travelling with your senior dog, all it takes is a bit of extra planning.
Here’s 10 of our top tips for travelling with your senior dog.
If you’re planning on travelling further than usual for your dog friendly adventures, you’ll want to make sure your pooch is in tip top condition. If you notice your dog beginning to tire easily, or perhaps they’re refusing to climb the stairs, consult your vet to check there isn’t an underlying medical issue. Not only does it help you to plan a holiday that’s both suitable and enjoyable for your pooch, but you won’t have any nasty surprises during your adventures together.
Also, once you’ve booked your staycation or adventure, be sure to identify the nearest vet in case of an emergency. Jot the details down and pop them in your bag. This can become a life-saver if you land yourself with no phone signal and need help quickly.
When planning your walks, make sure to choose walks that are shorter in distance. While your elderly pooch may struggle with walks, they still need regular exercise. The key here is to plan walks that are shorter, but more frequent. That way, you aren’t tiring them out all in one go and you can all continue to enjoy your holiday! Even if they can’t walk far, you may find your dog just enjoys the fresh air and new smells that come with being outside. This helps to provide mental stimulation.
It’s also important to note that many elderly dogs don’t know their own limitations. This means that even in their old age, their waggy tail excitement for walkies may cause them to ignore the fact that they need time to relax and recover!
We’ve all been in a car, where the air con hasn’t kicked in and we’re sweating buckets. Imagine how that is for a dog who is packing a big fur coat. Heat can be extremely dangerous for our dogs with an increased chance of heat stroke or heat exhaustion. We want to make sure travelling is as comfortable as possible for our senior pups, so we recommend traveling with your senior dog when the sun goes down, or early in the morning.
We all need pit-stops while travelling, whether that’s for a toilet break or to stretch our legs. However, senior pooches will need further opportunities to relax and take a break. Perhaps their bladder isn’t as strong or maybe they need movement to avoid stiffness. Every 30 minutes is a super long journey for them, so be sure to plan plenty of breaks.
Try not to put your senior pooch through a large amount of travel, just for an overnight staycation. Having an immediate second day of travel could impact your senior’s health. The longer it takes to travel to the destination, the longer you should consider staying. This is to ease the transition and reduce stress.
Before travelling with your senior dog again, make sure that your senior pooch has a couple of quiet moments where they can rest undisturbed and recoup. You can help them with this by making sure that their food, water and bed are all close by with easy access.
Thanks to our unpredictable British weather, we have no doubt that you’ll be making plans for sunshine, rain and probably even snow! However, as your dog gets older, it’s important that you include them in your weather plans too. Extreme hot and cold weather, even storms, can all affect the joints, and you therefore may have to take things at a slower pace. If it looks like you’re in for some cold weather, then you may need to provide them with extra warmth. A fleece or dog coat will be helpful for this, and extra blankets for the evening will also be helpful for your senior pooch.
As your dog gets older, their dietary needs change. Feeding your dog the wrong type of food can be stressful to seniors, so before travelling you’ll want to ensure they’re on a consistent, healthy diet. Talk to a Burns nutritionist about creating an appropriate diet before travelling.
During our adventures, it can be tempting to feed your pooch the food found in a welcome pack during a staycation, something from the dog’s menu at a cafe, or to slip them a bit of bacon under the table at the pub. However, the slightest change to your dog’s diet can give them an upset stomach, creating added stress your senior pooch just doesn’t need.
While it’s also important to stick to your dog’s mealtime routines, we would also recommend feeding your pooch 1-2 hours before travelling to avoid any travel sickness.
You may need to plan further if your senior dog requires assistance to get around. If they have a wheelchair or they’re pushed around in a stroller, you may need to pre-plan your walks to find places with suitable surfaces. This can be tricky, but this website should be able to help you find walks that are generally suitable for your needs.
Rule 57 of the Highway Code states that dogs must be suitably restrained in the car. Not only is this to avoid any distractions but to ensure they don’t injure themselves. Our senior dogs have enough stress on their little joints without trying to stay still during a roundabout.
Having your dog restrained to a seat belt harness, or dog seat or crate makes their journey a little more restful. This can also be particularly useful for dogs that are prone to car sickness or for those who have other distractions or anxieties in the car. Click here for more advice on doggy car seats!
The saying, ‘dog’s speak, but only to those who listen’, couldn’t ring more true for our senior dogs. While they don’t speak our language, they say a lot through body language. If your dog shows any signs of discomfort, such as slowing down, refusing to move or even limping, then it’s important you listen by resting and addressing their needs. Other signs they need a break, include panting, drooling, or whining. If they aren’t able to continue the walk then it’s time to call it a day. Head back to your accommodation or home.
It’s also important to remember that travelling with our senior pooch isn’t always possible. Some senior dogs may find travelling scary, stressful and scary – and therefore it may be a better experience for them to remain behind with a friend or through things like dog-sitting, home-boarding or kennels.
After all, our dog’s health is way more important than any adventure!
Stay up to date with the latest Dog Friendly destinations by visiting our pawtners at Dog Furiendly, the travel platform for dogs and the number one source for dog friendly adventures.