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Traveling With pets

Pets Ahoy! Boating with Pets

boat safety pets

Dog overboard!” I heard the dreadful splash just seconds after our small dog slipped from the boat into the ocean below.

Rushing to the rail, I saw our tiny pug furiously doggie-paddling in the dark, cold sea. Kiang was struggling to reach the pier, but the frigid Pacific waters were quickly slowing him down and, despite the warm sun overhead, he was already shivering.

Suddenly, a large green fishing net surged through the water, scooping the tired pup from the sea in a frenzy of splashing and kicking.  Luckily we were still docked, and the sea was not quite as frigid on this sunny day.  Had it been winter, or in the open ocean, our pet may not have fared as well.

When we first thought about taking our pets along for a summer of cruising the Pacific Northwest, it was with little trepidation.  We dreamt of watching our dogs chase seagulls through the early morning surf and seeing our favorite feline vigilantly standing guard on the bow, surveying the whales that surfaced near our yacht at sunset.

It didn’t take long to understand that the reality of cruising with pets is much different than these sweet daydreams; but with preparation, planning and a lot of patience, we were able to make the dream a reality.

boating with pets

Make sure your pets can’t squeeze through small portholes! (Fergie demonstrates)

Ahoy, Matey!

Introduce your pets slowly to a life at sea. We began with short rides in the dinghy. Our thinking was if they could handle a dinghy; they would be fine on a large boat.

boating with pets

As it turns out, our dogs don’t like short rides in dinghies… we learned that they much preferred the yacht (and honestly, who wouldn’t)?!

But, over time, they learned to appreciate the value of a short dinghy ride to shore.

There are many ways you can help your pets adjust.

Symptoms of Seasick Pets

These excursions will also help you determine if your pets are naturals for a boating life. Not all animals can handle this adventure. If you find your pets experience seasickness, there are many options available for treating the disorder. These range from over-the-counter treatments like Dramamine to prescription medications. But, first you must be able to identify the problem. Animals react differently than humans.

For example, the cats of several cruising friends exhibit symptoms like excessive drooling, refusing to eat and hiding. Our dogs may react to the same illness by vomiting or being over-tired.

If you find that your pets are susceptible to seasickness, consult your veterinarian. There are several options you can try before abandoning the thought of a life at sea. But, always check with your veterinarian before administering anything to your pets.

Regardless of how your pets react, it’s a good idea to keep them restrained near the center of the boat while you’re underway. It’s too easy to be distracted by the sights and fail to notice your dog or cat slipping overboard…

Pre-Boarding Health Checks

You’ll need to get your pets in for a full health check prior to any departure. This may include bloodwork and fecal analysis. Not only does having a thorough record give you a starting point for issues that may arise, it helps protect your pet against potential issues.

  • Vaccines: Your pets should be up-to-date (and stay that way) on vaccinations. This is PARTICULARLY IMPORTANT for the rabies vaccine!
  • Heartworm Preventative: Your pets should be protected against parasites. These days, this can be easily done with chewable Heartgard. It’s an easy to administer chewable that only needs to be done once per month – and it could save your pets life
  • Flea and Tick Prevention: Fleas, ticks, lice and other annoying insects can be prevented through a number of options. with topical solution. Talk to your veterinarian, but ask about your options with Advantix II, Frontline, Revolution or Provecta.
  • Medication: Make sure you have a supply of your pet’s medications to take along on your trip. Plan for at least a week more than you think you’ll need.

Keep your pet’s health records handy as you could be asked for them at any time. A health certificate states the animal was in good health at the time of the visit to the veterinarian, its breed, name, date of visit, and any health concerns.  If you’re sailing abroad, European countries require an EU998 from which can be provided by your veterinarian, so plan in advance. 

Avian Flu is causing problems for many a boating bird-owner, so be sure to check the most recent legal requirements before embarking as these regulations change constantly.


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