Sick Pets While Traveling

Taking your furry friends on the road can be a great experience however unfortunately there are times when they are not well.

Here are a few tips to assist in dealing with minor issues. Of course more serious illness or concerns, seek professional help from a local vet.


It is highly recommended that your animal is tagged with contact details such as a collar and/or microchip in the event he is separated from you.

Medical / Vaccination / Registration Records

Ensure you have electronic access (i.e. USB) to your pets medical and vaccination records n the event a visit to the Vet is required.

You will also need to take your vaccination and registration records if you want to leave your pet at a boarding kennel one day on your trip, such as when you want to visit a National Park where pets are not allowed. Kennels may refuse to take your pet if you are unable to provide proof of vaccinations.

Minor Injuries

Pack a good First Aid Kit that includes bandages, gauze and tape, as well as tweezers to remove splinters and a muzzle to keep your dog from biting, antiseptic wipes, saline solution and disposable gloves. It is advisable to talk to your vet about the proper dosages for common medications (like antihistamine or aspirin).

Most Common Sickness

Motion Sickness

Symptoms of nausea from motion sickness may include panting, drooling, trembling, swallowing, restlessness, lip licking, retching, vomiting, and anxiety.

Treatment –

  • Help your dog face forward while travelling by strapping him or her into the seat with a specially-designed canine seatbelt.
  • Lower car windows a little to equalise the inside and outside air pressures.
  • Keep the vehicle cool.
  • Limit your dog’s food and water consumption before travel.
  • Give your pet a treat or two every time he or she gets into the car.
  • Give your dog a toy that he or she enjoys and can have only in the car.
  • Several over-the-counter conventional medications can help reduce your dog’s nausea associated with travel. These include Dramamine and Benadryl.

Vomiting and/or diarrhoea

Majority of cases are simple stomach upsets that typically resolve within 24 hours. If your dog develops any other signs such as lethargy or weakness, blood appears, seems to be in pain, and persists for more than 24 hours see a vet immediately.

Stings/bites/allergic reactions

Typical signs are swelling around the face, or hives, most easily seen on the belly. These can be quite itchy for your pet. Rarely, severe allergic reactions can lead to breathing difficulty due to swelling of the airways. Other signs of a severe reaction include extensive swelling throughout the body, diarrhoea and shock.


This can includes road traffic accidents, falls and bites. Internal trauma can be difficult to assess so it is recommended  to see a Vet. Wounds can cause infection and trauma can cause some degree of pain so a painkilling injection could benefit.

Breathing difficulties

This may include wheezing, choking, weak and raspy. Breathing difficulties can result from foreign bodies in the throat, allergic reactions, asthma, heart disease or lung disease. Breathing problems are serious and potentially life-threatening so seek professional help.

Straining to urinate

If your pet is not producing any urine, is urinating or straining to urinate frequently, or you notice blood in the urine, go to see a vet as soon as possible. It may be a sign that your pet has a life-threatening blockage.

Poisoning/indiscrete ingestion

If your pet has eaten something they shouldn’t have, call a vet immediately. The most common poisonings we see are chocolate, grapes/raisins, human medications, lilies, rat and slug poisons.

Bloat or gastric dilatation volvulus (GDV)

GDV is where the stomach becomes twisted, it is probably the most serious non-traumatic emergency for any dog so seek professional help. The early signs may just be that a dog appears restless after a large meal and tries to be sick. As GDV develops your dog’s abdomen will become distended or bloated, your dog will show signs of discomfort or pain and will continue to try and be sick. In most cases, all they will manage to bring up is white froth. They may drool excessively and you may notice an increase in breathing rate and heart rate.


Signs associated with a seizure (or fit) include uncontrollable shaking and tremors, loss of consciousness, paddling with the legs and possible loss of bowel or urinary control. The most common cause of seizures is epilepsy.

Neurological (nerve or brain) problems

Neurological problems can manifest in your pet as disorientation, incoordination, walking in circles, severe lethargy, unresponsiveness, and coma. Lethargy and weakness can be seen with any serious illness and should never be ignored.

Vestibular syndrome, or geriatric vestibular disease, is often incorrectly referred to as a ‘stroke’ and is commonly seen in older dogs. The characteristic signs are loss of balance, leaning to one side, head tilt and rapid left-to-right eye movements (nystagmus). Sometimes the loss of balance is so severe that the dog rolls over repeatedly.