Older dogs and cats require much more attention and precaution when taking long trips. While they might be a lot slower now and their puppy or kitten energy might have dwindled with age, that doesn’t mean you can’t take them traveling with you, so long as extra special care is taken!
1. Visit your vet before you hop on that plane, car or train
If your pet is middle-aged (depends on the breed, size and weight of the dog or cat) or elderly, make sure they are fit for travel by taking them to the vet for a thorough check-up. Their physical health and emotional well-being are far more important than your desire to take them with you. Instead, follow the vet’s recommendations as well as your gut instincts as you know your pet better than anyone else.
2. Understand that pets are sticklers for routine
Just like humans, dogs and cats face more health and emotional challenges as they get older, and tend to be set in their ways. A change in routine can be tremendously stressful for pets, particularly older pets, who have an increased sensitivity to change. If your furry friend tends to get anxious or stressed, consider leaving them at home in a familiar and comfortable environment, tasking a relative or pet-sitter with taking care of them while you’re away.
3. Pay special attention to pets with arthritis
Thinking of treating your best friend to a holiday in the snow? Think again, especially if your pet suffers from arthritis. In cold and wet weather, your pet’s joints are likely to stiffen up, leading to more discomfort. Keeping your pet warm and moving (with low-impact exercise) is important if they do come along for the trip. Daytime flights and rides are another consideration to make if you’ll be travelling during the winter months.
4. Make arrangements for fussy eaters
Older pets are especially fussy about their food, so be sure to bring their favourite treats along. Pack their specialised food in plastic containers or bags for them to enjoy throughout the holiday – that way, you won’t need to worry if your destination doesn’t have the goods. Distilled water will also come in handy if your pet is sensitive to the local tap water. Don’t overfeed your pet before the trip. Feed them a light meal two hours before you leave.
5. Pack your pet’s favourite things
To help your elderly pet to feel cool, calm and collected during the journey, take their pet carrier, food and water bowls, blankets and toys – these familiar items will give your pet a sense of comfort on bumpy roads or plane rides, as well as help ease their transition into a brand-new, ‘scary’ place. Keep stress to a minimum by avoiding plane transfers and delays – book non-stop flights only – and steering clear of heavy traffic times like weekends and holidays. Carry your pet’s medication and supplements on you at all times for extra peace of mind.
Rocky is nearly 12 years old now! Hard to believe! He’s still got that puppy energy, but we have definitely changed the way we travel when compared to 4-5 years ago.
While exploring a city, I would usually take Rocky out with me and spend the whole day out and about. However, we’ve adjusted the adventures. On a recent trip to Switzerland, we would alternate days of rest and travel. One day I would spend the whole day exploring Zurich with him. Of course this included frequent breaks, plenty of water, sit-downs for coffee (for me) and lots of stop and go moments as he gets tired more quickly than he used to. On another day I would just take him out for a short stroll and a bathroom break and then leave him to rest in the accommodation.
It’s important to know your pet’s limits when it comes to traveling. For me and Rocky, as long as Rocky is still up for going out to explore, we will keep traveling here and there, but of course there are differences now in the levels of activity compared to just a few years ago.
Furthermore, it’s important to keep your pet’s comfort a priority as they get older.
Dogs, by nature, love to sniff around and explore and I think it’s important to keep it going as they get older. But it’s about finding a good balance. You don’t want your dog to sit at home, or at their accommodation all day and you definitely don’t want to condemn them to an early retirement.
So long as they are still able, I think it’s important to have them move about, exercise, sniff new things, and as a benefit, it will keep them young, just like it does for us humans.