Traveling with Your Pet

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More and more people travel with their pets (especially dogs) now than before.  Fido and sometimes Felix get to go on the family’s camping trips, to visit grandma and grandpa and to just be with the family.  If you are traveling within Saskatchewan there isn’t much different traveling from one area to another, that you need to know to ensure your pet’s health.  It is still a good idea though to be prepared for anything when traveling away from home.

Investing in a Pet First-Aid Kit that you take with you on any road trip can be the difference between life and death in some circumstances.  Having these items on hand along with a first aid book, can help you provide first respondent care to your pet until you can get to a veterinarian.  It is a good idea to add additional items to the kit to ensure it is complete specifically for your pet.  Keep your pet’s vaccination record inside, this way you will know what they have had and when, should you need to take them to a veterinarian while traveling (for example Rabies – good to know when this was given last in case your pet gets bit or scratched by any animal).  Check an antihistamine chart and determine what the best antihistamine type and size is for your pet and add it to the kit – in the event of a bug bite followed by swelling, you will have something to give them, you should then contact a veterinarian should the swelling not improve or becomes worse.  A bottle of water and water dish, some polysporin ointment, q-tips, flashlight (with extra batteries) and saline (mild contact solution works) are also good items to include.  If you travel to a specific destination a lot, include the phone numbers of the closest, local veterinarians.  This way should the need arise you aren’t scrambling to find the number.

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Is your pet on medication?  Ensure that you have enough for the time you are gone plus a week or two (just in case plans change and you are gone longer than anticipated).  Veterinarians cannot prescribe out of province so if you have forgotten your pet’s medication or you run out, a veterinarian there will need to do an exam before any medications can be dispensed.

Be sure to pack your pet’s dishes, toys, and bedding to take along.  Having fam

iliar items can help a pet settle when away from home.  Bring treats and enough food in the same manner as medication – pack enough that you have extra in case your trip is extended unexpectedly.  It is also a good idea to bring a jug or two of water for your pet.  Some pet’s don’t adjust well to changes in the water from one place to another and can get diarrhea from it.  Bringing your own ensures you don’t need to worry about that, or allows you the ability to mix the two together making it an easier transition.

If you are traveling to a destination that has a climate much different than our own, be aware of how this can affect your pet.  Watch for heat stroke and heat exhaustion, especially if your pet is accustomed to being in air conditioning rather than the heat.

Blue-Green Algae:

Blue-Green Algae otherwise known as Cyanobacteria or pond scum is an algae that forms in shallow, warm, slow-moving or still water.  The algae form what are called blooms that give the water a blue-green or pea soup like appearance.  Toxins are carried within the cells of this algae.  The toxins can vary in their affects causing only skin irritation in some and causing liver and or nervous system issues in others.  Pets can be affected by drinking or swimming in the water.  Even a small exposure of a few mouthfuls can be a fatal amount.  Because the toxin is very fast acting and can cause liver failure, killing your pet within a few days, it is imperative to get your pet to a vet immediately after exposure.  Although many “blooms” do not carry the toxins, the only way to be sure is through testing.

The Pet Poison Hotline has good information along with common signs to watch for in your pet.  Again, it is best to contact a veterinarian if they have been exposed to this algae.

If you are travelling outside Saskatchewan there are more things you need to be aware of;

Heartworm:

Heartworm disease is caused by a type of parasitic worm that lives in the heart and surrounding vessels of domestic dogs and rarely cats.  Infection wth this parasite can lead to coughing, weight loss, heart failure, and death.  Obviously something to be avoided!

The disease is passed from an infected dog to another, through mosquitos.  The mosquito will pick up “baby” worms when it bites an infected dog and transfer them to another dog.  The worms take up to one year to mature.  An infected dog may have 50 or more worms.  Treatment is both lengthy, often taking several months, and costly.

Haeartworm is common in many areas of North America including the interior B.C., Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, parts of the Maritimes and most of the United States.  It is rare in Saskatchewan, Alberta and areas north of us. In 2010 there were 2 cases of heartworm found in Saskatchewan.  The first dog was a stray and it is believed that due to the high number of worms found in this dog it is likely that he was infected elsewhere.  The second dog was one that had been imported up after the devistation of hurricane Katrina.   That being said, it is possible for heartworm to become common here as well.

Fortunately heartworm is a preventable disease.  We recommend that anyone who is traveling outside of Saskatchewan or Alberta during mosquito season, have preventative medicine for their pets.  This may be a topical product (Revolution) placed on the back between the shoulder blades or pills (Interceptor) given orally.  Depending on the type of medication prescribed and the travel history of the pet, a  heartworm test may be advised.  This is because if your pet is already infected with heartworm, giving preventative medication may make them very ill.  Heartworm testing involves taking a small blood sample and we generally have the results within a few days.  For pets who frequently travel to heartworm areas, annual heartworm testing is advised.  This is to ensure the preventative medication is working and to be able to treat a potential infection before it is too late.

Ticks:

Pets that go to the lake, camping, walk in the country or who live in rural areas are most liekely to attract ticks.  In many areas of Canada and the United States ticks are of particular concern as they may transmit diesases such as Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain Spotted fever and other bacterial parasites.  Fortunately most of these diseases are not found in Saskatchewan.  Furthermore the tick that does transmit Lyme disease is not the tick we commonly find on our dogs here.  However, even if there is very little risk of disease from the ticks, the bites are irritating and in large numbers can make your pet feel ill.

Ticks are found in grass and bushes and jump on the pet as it passes by.  Taller grass is especially more prone to tick infestations.  Ticks like damp weather and dislike the heat.  If grass is kept short it becomes an environment they dislike.

Within a few hours of landing on your pet the ticks usually attach themselves into the skin and begin taking a blood meal.  Check your pet for ticks immediately after being outside and several hours later.  Ticks particularly like to attach to the ears and neck.  For dogs that are frequently in heavily infested areas a product to repel ticks may be advised.  Advantix is a pesticide that goes on the back of the dog’s neck and lasts 3-4 weeks.  These products will greatly reduce the number of ticks on the dog but will not entirely eliminate them.  It is not safe for cats and is not recommended for dogs that sleep with a cat or where the cat grooms the dog.  Revolution is another parasiticide that has activity against ticks.  It does not repel them but causes them to prematurely die and fall off once they have started a blood meal.  Revolution is safe for use with cats.

Travel outside of Canada:

If you are flying with your pet the airlines will require a health certificate issued within 10 days of travel.  You will need to book an appointment in this time frame to receive a certificate.

If you are traveling to the United States (by air or land) you need to be sure to take your pet’s Rabies vaccination certificate.  Without it you may be turned back and not allowed into their country.  Pet food must be kept in its original package and medications must be in the packages with the prescription label on it.

If you are traveling outside of North America, you will need to check the import requirements for animals entering the country you are visiting (or moving to).   Many countries – especially the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand have very stringent import requirements and the process required to bring a pet into the country needs to start at least 6 months prior to the date of travel.

If you are concerned about the health of your pet during the trip or if you think they will require sedation or anti-nausea medications, please contact your veterinarian.

A little extra planning for your pet when you are thinking about a holiday can go a long way to making sure that everyone – including your pet – has a great vacation!

Max & MacDuff Fox

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