Holidays with Disabled Dogs

I decided it was time to do this blog as I have had a few clients ask me if they should or could go on holiday with their elderly dogs. I do look at every case as an individual and we discuss it, but I have to admit, I’d not actually been through it until now. So here is my story and thoughts about holidaying with my disabled dogs.

I have two. A dog who is 1 month off of 16y and a 7y old 3 legged. Both border collies, so both around 20kg and therefore not easy. I also have a child and husband to fit into the mix. My child is 7, so not yet self-sufficient but luckily no longer needing all the paraphernalia of a baby and toddler.

I bring up the point of the paraphernalia as I have been through this before with the young child. The only difference then is that if you forget something, you can go and buy it with ease. With your dogs, you need to make sure you don’t forget!  

On holiday you are never totally sure what you are going to arrive to, but we opted for an “accessible” chalet so that we could have a ramp and an easy to use shower. Let’s not talk about the “rules” in these establishments. We often arrive to “dog friendly” places to find a list of rules impossible to adhere to. But so long as you clean up, and you are honest, most establishments are incredibly understanding. I have seen some shocking rules over the years that make them far from dog friendly.

Our Recent Holiday

Our chalet did have a stone frontage, which was a challenge as for my poor oldie it was like walking on Lego! So we had to carry him over that. But the ramp was amazing, as when we got back from our trips we could take him out the car, pop him at the bottom of the ramp and he would happily walk himself up into the chalet whilst we unpacked the rest of the car.

We took his mattress which he sleeps on as it supports him well. This was a good choice. However, what wasn’t so good was putting it in the boot with him, as he managed to lay on it awkwardly on the way there. This meant that on arrival to the ferry he had a sore shoulder. Luckily for me I was able to massage out the spasm on the ferry journey and all was fine again. The lesson there was to know some home massage!

We felt quite worried and stressed about his continence. He is not generally incontinent at all but he has had the occasional accident as all elderly people do. We didn’t realise how much of a stress this would be to us. But we had taken an incontinence sheet with us anyway, as he does always sleep on one now just in case. We did feel strongly that this must always be under him so every time he moved we were not far behind.

Dog Dementia

We did find he was restless at the start of the holiday. Some of this is likely to be due to a new environment. We also know he has a little dog dementia, but it’s well-controlled and he is super happy so again: it’s not really an issue at home. But dementia is flared up in humans by stress too. So, this did mean we were having to take him out for toilet breaks at 2 or 3am. This wasn’t ideal as the Lego stones out the front meant we had to roll up the pyjama legs and carry him to the patch of grass, ensuring we were well awake now and less able to sleep ourselves!

We also were worried that he must have the home interventions he is already getting. So, we took with him the floor rugs to make sure he could walk around safely, the raised feeder and raised water bowl. All super important to his comfort and our stress levels.

Our chalet was labelled “dog friendly plus” and it was really welcoming so that was wonderful. We had a phone number of a local vet on arrival. But I had made sure I had sourced a vet before I went. I was super glad I did too, as the current vet crisis meant the first vets I rang did not want to see us “unless a certain type of emergency” arose. I was very sad about that, but so relieved when I found a nice one; so be prepared. You always need to feel prepared.

Over the week he gradually improved and settled, and by the last day he was keen as mustard for the holiday and raring to go…. typical! We went off to the beach and had a wonderful day where he tried to do too much of course. But we had our trusty buggy and his booties he wears on his back feet, all ensuring he can’t hurt his toes or get too exhausted. I am also pleased to add that the buggy fits both dogs in as we have a big one. Our 3 legged is amazing, but he also feels it with a very long walk.

We don’t want to not go on big family days out and we don’t really see why we shouldn’t. Both the boys love the trips and sniffaris too and are super happy. But what this blog was about was raising awareness of what you might need to plan for on a holiday with an elderly or disabled dog. Like humans, all disabilities do vary and how affected they are by their life stage also varies, but its well worth being prepared. So here is a check list of what you might like to think about.

Holiday check list:

1.     How dog friendly is the accommodation really? Can you shower the dogs off if muddy, or if they have an accident? Are there stones they may struggle to walk on? Is there a ramp for access?

2.     Flooring. I felt this should have its own section. You probably need to take rugs.

3.     Bowls. Its not likely they will have raised ones if that is what they are used to.

4.     Incontinence sheets – I have washable but you might want/need disposable. Its worth taking them for your own peace of mind.

5.     Medication – just don’t forget it and if you are on any that is to be used “as needed” it’s likely it will be needed on the holiday so have enough.

6.     Vets – Find a vet before you go that is happy to see you.

7.     Boots if needed – I use pawz boots as they are very thin and allow normal movement. If they are walking more you don’t want skin damage if they are scuffing.

8.     Beds – it’s not easy taking their usual, but if they need their lovely ortho bed, it’s not likely it will be provided on holiday and most won’t let them sleep on your bed so don’t forget the bed!

9.     Eating out – take the incontinence sheet with you. Again, it’s peace of mind.  You don’t want an accident in the restaurant, but if one happens at least you are well prepared. You might also feel better asking to be seated near the door.

10. Buggy – not everyone has them but know that you can hire these. If you do, that’s great, but get your dog used to it before going away ideally. Walking holidays can still happen.

11. Coats –  if it’s cold out, make sure there are enough blankets and coats. If they are not as active or are in a buggy, they will not be generating as much of their own body heat. Equally don’t let them over heat in the summer.

This list is by no means a full list. This is just some things to think about when preparing for a holiday with a disabled dog. Don’t be put off. It’s not that different to going with a baby or toddler. It just requires a little more planning.

Happy holidays! 

If you are interested in Dog buggies, check out this blog post where you can find more information and details on how to claim 10% off at as part of Animal Physiotherapy Ltd’s perk package.