Cute Jack Russel Terrier peeking out car window

Travelling with a Dog that Requires Medication

Written By Olivia De Santos | Canine Coach, Professional Writer & Video Content Creator.
Edited & Fact Checked By Renae Soppe | Double B.A Journalism & Science. 
Last Updated: 27th February 2024

Ever travelled with your dog? I have and it can be challenging. Now add their medical needs into the mix and you could be in for a stressful time. But fear not! I have a few tips to make travelling with a dog that requires medication far easier.

We’ll start with the tips for road travel with your poorly pup, whether that’s camping or road trips. At the end, we’ll talk about flights, because travelling with a dog on medication overseas is a different beast entirely.

Sound good? Let’s dive in.


How to Travel With a Dog on Medication

To travel with a dog on medication, you need to:

  • Talk to your vet
  • Pack strategically
  • Set up a portable fridge and dual-battery system in your car
  • Figure out a consistent medication schedule for your dog
  • Prepare for emergencies

These tips can apply to any means of travel but this section will be particularly helpful to those driving with a dog on medication.
Let’s dive into each point in detail.

1. Talk to your vet

Is it a stereotype that concerned dog parents are always at the vet?

It is. A true one. But that’s what they are there for right?

Just as you would contact your doctor when going on trips away to stock up on medication, you need to do the same for your beloved doggy.

So why do you need to talk to your vet so early on?

I think it’s important to get their sign-off and personalised advice on your dog’s medical needs before you travel.

Some good questions to ask are:

  • Is my dog fit enough to travel with me to ____?
  • What tips do you have for travelling with their medication?
  • Are there any side effects that could be exacerbated by travelling that I need to be aware of?
  • Does my pet insurance cover illness in ___? 
  • What should I do if I run out of medication while away?
  • How should my dog’s medication be stored?
  • Is there any food or activity my dog should avoid while on this medication?

I also recommend asking for an extra prescription for your dog’s medication. It’s always good to have more than enough as you never know what might happen.

2. Pack strategically

Now you’ve been clued in by your vet, it’s time to pack!

Packing for your dog when camping or driving is relatively simple. But now you have the medication to think about.

When packing for your journey, ensure you have all necessary medications, along with your dog's medical records and a basic first aid kit.

It's wise to carry a copy of your vet's contact information in case of emergencies.

You should also think about where you’ll be staying during your trip.

If you have multiple stops with multiple hotels or B&Bs, you’ll want to keep your dog’s medication somewhere you won’t misplace it. Ideally, keep it somewhere in the car or in a hidden compartment in your luggage that is easy to access.

For packing medications, I recommend labelling the storage packs you use with instructions on when they need to be taken. Or you can invest in one of those pill organisers with the days of the week printed on them to help keep you organised.

If the medication needs to be kept cold, it’s worth investing in a portable fridge and battery system. We’ll talk about that next.

3. Set up a portable fridge and dual-battery system in your car

Okay so this section is going to be a bit technical, but I promise you it’s a gamechanger when travelling with a dog on medication.

First, let’s talk about portable fridges. Some medications require constant refrigeration which can be a bit of a pain while travelling.

Itech Under Bonnet Lithium Battery

Insulin is a good example. According to experts, insulin should be stored at 2-5 degrees Celsius.

And leaving it to heat up in the car can be catastrophic.

“Insulin is also sensitive to hot temperatures, so do not leave it outside in extreme heat. This could happen in the summer, especially if you leave your insulin in the car for several hours, or you keep a spare insulin sample in the glove compartment of the car as backup.” – Harvard Health Blog (1)

So a car fridge is important for keeping your dog’s insulin cold.

Bear in mind this is just one example. Always check with your vet about the correct way to store your dog’s medication.

Car fridges are pretty wonderful. You’ll wonder how you survived without one (I love mine).

Unfortunately, there’s a snag with car fridges – especially on long journeys. As an auxiliary device, it feeds off of your car battery.

How do we avoid that? Dual-battery systems my friend!

A dual-battery system makes sure that the portable fridge doesn’t drain your car battery. I’m not sure if you’ve ever been caught on a road trip with a dead battery, but I have! I don’t recommend it.

So if you have a car refrigerator for your pup’s medication, a dual-battery system is a must.

Peach the insulin dependent Chihuahua.

Let’s talk about the different types available to you:

  • Under bonnet dual-battery system

    Installing an additional under-bonnet battery, such as the iTech120X lithium battery, can provide a reliable power source for extended periods while you’re road tripping. Lithium batteries are known for their lightweight design, high energy density, and longer lifespan so they should last you a while.

  • Battery pack system

    If an under-bonnet setup isn't feasible for whatever reason, battery packs like the GoFurther Power Station Kit with the iTech100 lithium battery offer a portable and versatile solution. These battery packs can be charged before the trip and easily connected to your portable fridge.

PRO TIP: Whichever dual-battery system you choose, I recommend consulting a mechanic on exactly how to install and use these batteries safely.

4. Figure out a consistent medication schedule for your dog

Consistency is key when it comes to your dog's medication. And that’s the toughest part when you’re travelling.

You want to try and stick to your dog’s medication schedule as closely as possible.

Set alarms or reminders on your phone to ensure you don't miss a dose.

And remember I mentioned portable pill organisers? Well,  they can also be handy for keeping track of multiple medications, making it easy to administer them on the go.

Now what if your dog’s current medication schedule is just impossible with the activities you have planned for your trip?

Try slowly shifting their medication hours a few weeks before your travel so that it aligns with a schedule that works for your travel itinerary. Of course, this won’t be possible for all medication types, but your vet should be able to advise on how much wiggle room you have.

It’s also essential you discuss with your vet what happens if you miss a dose. For some medications, that means you’ll need to double the dose next time. For other medications, double dosing can be disastrous. So if in doubt, ask your vet!

5. Prepare for emergencies

If you’re a super meticulous planner like me with eventualities for everything, emergencies are the enemy. And yet they do happen when we least expect them.

So as painful a thought as this may be, let’s go through some of the emergencies you could face travelling with a dog that requires medication:

When travelling with a dog that requires medication, it's crucial to be prepared for potential emergencies. Here are some common emergencies you might face, along with tips on how to handle them:

  • Medication side effects
    Some medication has some pretty nasty or sudden side effects. This is certainly a worry if your dog is starting a new medication ahead of your travels.
    Solution: Contact your veterinarian or an emergency veterinarian immediately. Keep your dog hydrated and calm. Have a copy of your dog's medical records on hand.

  • Running out of medication
    Perhaps you didn’t have enough to begin with or maybe your holiday has been extended unexpectedly. If your dog’s medication runs out, you might feel panicked.
    Solution: First to prevent this, ask your vet for a backup prescription that you can take with you on your travels. But if you’re caught short, contact your vet immediately to see what the potential damage may be for missing doses of the medication. If the medication is mild, your pooch may be okay until you go home. In other cases, you may need an emergency vet visit to get more medication as soon as possible.

  • Your vehicle breaks down
    When road tripping or camping, roadside breakdown is a possibility that no one wants to think about. If you’re stranded for a while, this could impact your dog’s medication schedule or refrigeration.
    Solution: For medication that requires refrigeration, set up a dual-battery system (see point 3). Carry portable dog food bowls and plenty of water so you can give your dog medication on the go if needed.

More than anything, it’s essential you know where the nearest emergency vet is located while you’re travelling. Do a quick Google search of the nearest vets along your route and see if they offer emergency services. Knowing you have those backups in the local area can help you feel more relaxed while travelling with a dog on medication.


Flying With a Dog That Requires Medication

We’ve talked about general advice for travelling with a dog on medication. Now let’s talk about flying. Flying with a dog that requires medication is an extra challenge.

This is because:

  • Some airlines won’t allow medications of certain volumes to be stored
  • Some airlines won’t allow you to cold store your dog’s medication
  • If your dog needs to be quarantined upon landing in a foreign country, it can be difficult to maintain their medication schedule.
  • Vaccinations ahead of international travel can interfere with your dog’s regular medication

So what can you do? Two things.

The first is to do your homework as thoroughly as possible. That means contacting airlines, quarantine facilities, airports, etc, to get the most up-to-date information.

Simply explain your dog’s medical situation and see what their guidelines are. This can help you organise your plans.

Second is – you guessed it – consult your vet. A copy of your dog’s full medical records is more important than ever when flying. They’ll also be able to advise on how any immunisations could interact with your pup’s regular medication.


My Final Thoughts

Travelling with a dog on medication requires careful planning. But don’t be discouraged!

If you prepare well enough in advance, you can have an amazing trip and create unforgettable memories with your furry friend.

The key takeaways? Get personalised medical advice from your vet before travelling, maintain a consistent medication schedule, and invest in a reliable power setup for essential equipment like portable fridges.
These simple tips, will not only ensure your dog's wellbeing on the road, but also enhance the overall enjoyment of your road trips, camping adventures, and holiday getaways together.

FAQ

Can I fly with a dog on medication?

Whether you can fly with a dog on medication depends on the medication. If the medication exceeds the liquid volume for hand luggage or breaks a similar rule of the airline or airport security, then it could be a challenge to fly with your dog. If the medication needs to be refrigerated, you could also struggle to keep the meds at the correct temperature while you fly if the airline does not allow you to cold store it. There are multiple factors involved so it’s best to contact your airline for advice.

What medicine is good for dogs on long car rides?

There’s a debate about whether to sedate your dog while travelling or not. I have never felt the need to sedate my dogs while driving with them. Most dogs travel in the car quite well as long as there’s fresh airflow and they can see out of the window. However, some dogs find car travel very stressful. If that’s the case, there are some medications that your vet could prescribe for anti-anxiety. “Trazodone (brand name Desyrel®), gabapentin (brand name Neurontin®), and alprazolam (brand names: Xanax® and Niravam®) are sometimes used to reduce the anxiety that some dogs experience when traveling.” – VCA hospitals. (2)

If you choose to give your pooch anti-anxiety medication, try it out a few weeks before you travel to ensure it works.

References

  1. Toschi, E. December 4, 2018. “Safe and effective use of insulin requires proper storage”. Harvard Health Blog. Retrieved December 21, 2023. https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/safe-and-effective-use-of-insulin-requires-proper-storage-2018120415486
  2. Dagner, A. Hunter, T. Downing, R. Ward, E. “Road Trips and Car Travel With Your Dog”. VCA Hospitals. Retrieved December 21, 2023. https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/road-trips-and-car-travel-with-your-dog

Olivia De Santos


Olivia De Santos is Gentle Dog Trainers Canine Coach, Professional Writer and Video Content Creator.

Olivia has over 10 years of experience writing professionally and is a dog Mum to Pip, her Podengo and Blue, her Flat-coated Retriever. She loves writing pieces to help people to be better dog owners.

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