What to do if your dog gets ill on holiday

While your dog-friendly holiday will likely go as smoothly as a whippet’s short-haired coat, sometimes accidents do happen. When you’re away from home, there are just as many – and sometimes more – risks for your dog, which could result in injury or illness, so being prepared for such eventualities is important. Whether it’s a sickness bug, a pulled muscle or something more serious, here’s what you need to know.

Written by Lottie Gross

5 minute read

Always ask a vet

Just because you’re away from home doesn’t mean you’re away from trusted advice, and in almost all situations it is best to consult a veterinarian about any concerns you have for your dog’s health. Don’t be tempted to medicate your dog without professional intervention and certainly don’t let issues continue untreated until you get home: there’s almost always a vet nearby and if you search “vets near me” in Google you’ll be able to find your closest. Even better, though, is if you can do the research before you leave home so you have a local veterinarian number in your phone in case of emergencies.

Carry a first aid kit

Your accommodation probably has a human first aid kit, but it's unlikely they've got one for dogs. It pays to carry your own just in case -- I keep mine in the car so it's almost always accessible quickly -- as dogs have specific needs in event of an emergency. Veterinarian and animal rights campaigner Marc Abraham OBE says while it's a totally necessary piece of kit, it's not for self-treating: instead, use a pet first aid kit to address any wounds before you get to the vet. These are Marc's essentials:

  • Soft bandages 
  • Antibacterial wound cleaner
  • Clippers to cut the hair around a wound
  • Syringes for flushing wounds with saline or just warm water
  • Tweezers for removing debris
  • Antihistamine tablets for allergies and insect stings (ask your vet for the appropriate dosage)
  • Tick hook
  • Muzzle for a dog to prevent them licking the wound

Monitor them in event of a tummy upset

The dreaded runny poo is a common occurrence for dogs on holiday, says Kirsten Ronngren, Lead Veterinary Surgeon for ManyPets UK: "Gastrointestinal upset is something we see in pets fairly frequently when people are travelling with them. Time in the car, stress, changes in routine and/or diet, as well as exposure to new treats, infectious diseases, and different environments are possible causes. 

"A single episode of vomiting or diarrhoea in an otherwise healthy animal -- that's not showing other symptoms such as poor appetite and lethargy -- is usually fine to monitor initially. Giving them a small amount of water, and waiting an hour or two before offering any food again is reasonable. However, if your pet has more than one episode of tummy upset or shows other symptoms like not wanting to eat or acting lethargic, then seeking veterinary care as soon as possible is ideal."

Consider an antihistamine with your vet's approval

Spring and summer sunshine often means more insects, and it’s possible your dog might get stung by a bee, wasp or other buzzing critter while you’re on holiday – especially if you’re out enjoying the sunshine all day. Other allergies, such as to grass or certain plants, might also present themselves in new environments, too. For mild skin irritations, a gentle, dog-safe shampoo can be used to wash the affected area, says Kirsten Ronngren, and you can also use antihistamines, but you’ll need to ask your local vet what type and dosage is appropriate for your dog. “If you notice facial swelling, trouble breathing, vomiting, or lethargy in your pet, get to a vet promptly,” says Kirsten, “This may indicate a more severe allergic reaction such as anaphylaxis.”

Let them rest

Imagine the scene: your dog is let loose on the beach and decides it’s zoomies time – it’s all fun and games until they slip or land wrong on their feet and suddenly they’ve got a limp. This is another common issue owners can see in their dogs when on holiday, says Kirsten, and limping often indicates pain. If you notice a limp but your dog is otherwise happy and well, it’s best to rest them – so no long walks and certainly no off lead time – for 24-48 hours, says Kirsten. “Do not medicate your dog for pain at home,” she says. “Speak with a veterinarian about pet safe prescription medications for pain.”

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Written by Lottie Gross

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