Like everything else with sailing, sailing with pets can be quite enjoyable, with the proper planning. Planning begins well in advance of your trip and we’ve broken down some critical items to consider into three main categories.
Vet PrepVisiting other countries and planning on bringing your dog abroad? Your pet will need to be cleared for animal import in every new country. Each country has their own rules and requirements, with some countries even requiring a mandatory quarantine. Start researching in advance of your departure to determine what tests, vaccines and microchipping are needed for each country. Keep a log of your pet’s vaccination record up to date and determine a plan, if needed, for additional vaccines through your trip. Even when returning to the US, pets will still undergo customs and are required to be up-to-date on the rabies vaccine.
Some countries will require an APHIS (Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service) certified health certificate, which must be issued by a USDA Accredited Veterinarian, this certificate is usually given after the pet has completed all of the required tests and vaccines. Before leaving, all relevant paperwork for the destination country must be sent first to the State USDA office for endorsement. Complete any import permit applications when necessary.
Boat PrepDepending on how active your pet is, you may want to add lifeline netting as a precaution. You can also tether your pet to a harness while on deck.
Pick a spot for your pet to do its business. A cat will be the easiest and most adjustable to the boating life with the addition of a litter box. Planning for your dog requires a little more creative thinking. You could install a piece of carpet or Astro-Turf as the designated spot. These will require daily cleaning to avoid any stench. You could also purchase a pet potty that drains into a tray that you would clean. Once you decide on your solution, you should work on training your dog to use that at home so it is familiar with it once you’re all on the boat.
Create an emergency plan for a pet overboard situation! Just as you would for a man overboard situation, keep one person as the spotter to lock down the pet’s position. Turn the boat back and get as close as possible to the overboard pet. If the pet is swimming, it can swim back to the boat or you may need to use a hook and scoop the pet back by its life jacket.
How will your dog get out of the water when swimming? You might want to add a small dog ladder, allowing your pup to easily climb back on board.
Before setting sail for a long adventure, take your pet on some smaller trips to let it get comfortable with its surroundings.
Regardless of how far you are going, all pets should wear life jackets when on board. Even dogs that love the water will tire easily and need extra flotation if in a pet overboard situation. To keep track of your pet at night, attach a light to its life jacket.
Just like you likely have for yourself on board, you should pack a pet first aid kit complete with all the routine medication the pet will need, as well as any of the preventative care items like flea & tick and heartworm medication. Pets can get seasick so pack extra Dramamine. Vets may be far and few in between depending on where you are traveling so having basic supplies like gauze, eye and ear cleaner, tweezers, and anti-flea shampoo. Did you know dogs can get sunburn? There are a number of sunscreens available for dogs and it is a good idea to keep some in your first aid kit.
When planning the provisions for your trip, account for your pets with the appropriate amount of food and extra water. In the event of an abandon ship, these additional crew members will need to be included in the plan so their necessities will also need to be packed in the ditch kit. When considering your life raft, your pets’ claws can be sharp so you’ll want to invest in a high-quality life raft that uses more durable materials like double coated nylon. With the proper planning, sailing with your pets is quite achievable and a great family activity.
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