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Travelling with your dog in South Africa can be a rewarding experience, but it requires careful planning to ensure a smooth journey for both you and your furry friend.

This guide provides valuable tips for pet owners, covering everything from preparing your pet for the journey to understanding airline policies and ensuring a comfortable trip.

Follow these steps to make your travel adventure with your canine companion stress-free and enjoyable!

Key Takeaways:

  • Prepare your pet: Ensure your dog is in good health with a vet visit, proper identification, and microchipping for added safety
  • Plan in advance: Book pet-friendly travel and accommodations early, securing spots for your dog on flights and utilising pet transport services if needed
  • Familiarise with carrier: Reduce stress by acclimating your dog to their carrier, making travel more comfortable and ensuring a positive experience
  • Essentials and insurance: Pack necessary items, including food, water, and toys, and consider pet insurance for unexpected medical expenses during the journey if you’re travelling locally within South Africa

1. Prepare your dog for the journey

Travelling can be stressful for pets, so it’s essential to prepare them as much as possible beforehand. This includes ensuring they are in good health before departure.

dog travelling with owner

Visit your vet to ensure your dog's health before travel

Schedule a visit with your veterinarian to ensure all vaccinations are up to date and acquire any necessary pet health certificates. Your vet can also advise on potential remedies for motion sickness if your dog suffers from it. Discuss any concerns you may have, and ask for advice on managing your dog’s well-being during the journey.

Pet identification

Proper identification is a safeguard for your pet during travel. Attach identification tags to your dog’s collar with your contact information and keep a recent photo on hand. Microchipping is also recommended for added safety, providing a way to locate your pet if they get lost.

dog ID tag around small breed dog's neck

2. Book your travel and accommodation in advance

When booking your flight, ensure you notify the airline in advance, as pet spaces in the cabin might be restricted. To simplify the process, you may also want to consider utilising a pet transport service.

Book pet-friendly accommodations in advance to ensure a comfortable stay at your destination. Explore pet-friendly accommodation with MediPet

pet owners in park with dog

3. Familiarise your dog with their carrier

To reduce stress during travel, familiarise your dog with their carrier by introducing it gradually, creating positive associations, and taking short practice sessions. Familiarity with the carrier reduces anxiety, ensures safer travel, and makes handling easier during check-ins and screenings.

Here are some steps you can take to help your pet get used to their carrier:

  • Introduce gradually: Start by placing the carrier in a familiar and comfortable space for your pet, like their favourite room or bed
  • Positive associations: Place treats and toys inside the carrier to create positive associations with the carrier
  • Short practice sessions: Encourage your pet to enter the carrier for short periods, gradually increasing the time spent inside
  • Take short trips: Before the journey, take your pet on short car rides in their carrier to help them get used to the sensation of being in a moving vehicle
two dogs being transported in a travel or carry case

4. Consider pet insurance for travel-related expenses

4. Consider pet insurance for travel-related expenses

When travelling domestically within South Africa having a good pet insurance plan, such as those offered by MediPet, can provide peace-of-mind during your pet’s journey. From initial vet visits to accidents and unforeseen veterinary emergencies, travelling with your dog can get expensive. MediPet insurance covers unexpected medical expenses that may arise during the journey, ensuring your pets will receive the necessary veterinary care and treatment.

MediPet’s Accident Plan provides peace of mind when travelling or on a journey. Discover MediPet’s insurance plans including the Lite Plan, LitePlus Plan, Essential Plan, Ultimate360 Plan as well as Benefit Booster add-ons.

dog travelling in the back of a car

5. Ensure you have all the essentials packed for travelling with your dog

Prepare for your dog’s travel by packing essential items:

  • Food and water: Bring enough for the trip, as well as extra for possible unexpected delays
  • Collapsible bowls: Convenient for providing food and water on the go
  • Leash and harness: Even if your pet is in a carrier, have these for rest breaks or emergencies
  • Waste/poo bags: Be ready to clean up during potty breaks
  • Personal toys and blankets: Familiar items can comfort your pet during the journey
  • Medication and first aid kit: Pack any necessary medications and a first aid kit
  • Health records and proof of vaccinations: Keep these on hand for travel requirements, or even pet-friendly accommodation

Additionally, it’s always a good idea to have a backup plan in case of emergencies or unexpected delays during travel. This could include having the phone number of your vet or a local emergency veterinarian at your destination and packing extra supplies in case of any accidents or mishaps. 

husky drinking from water bowl during trip away with owner

6. Adjust your dog's feeding schedule for travel

Prepare your dog for travel by adjusting their feeding schedule:

  • Feed lightly before departure: Avoid large meals to prevent motion sickness and accidents during the journey
  • Stick to familiar food: Maintain your dog’s regular diet to prevent digestive issues while travelling.
  • Pack snacks: Bring your dog’s favourite snacks to keep them content and distracted during the trip
  • Stay hydrated: Ensure your pet has access to water throughout the journey to prevent dehydration
  • Re-adjust after arrival: Gradually return your dog to their normal feeding schedule once you reach your destination

If you have concerns about adjusting your dog’s food and water intake, consult with your veterinarian for guidance.

dog eating treat while travelling

What to know about travelling by plane with your dog in South Africa

Before you travel, understand South Africa’s pet travel policies. Certain airlines permit small dogs in the cabin, while larger dogs must travel in the hold. Different transportation modes may have distinct regulations, so confirm specific rules with your chosen airline or transport provider in advance.

Understand airline policies for transporting pets

Be mindful of airline policies, including vaccinations, carrier specifications, breed-specific considerations, and pet insurance. Prioritise your pet’s comfort and safety by selecting an appropriate carrier, and ensuring you are adhering to their regulations.

Consider the following requirements when travelling with pets by air:

  • Pet vaccinations

Pets must be up to date with vaccinations, especially for rabies, and require a recent health check from a veterinarian. You will typically need to provide proof of vaccinations when completing forms required by airlines to travel with your dog.

  • Carrier requirements

If you are travelling by plane, your dog must travel in a suitable carrier or crate that is airline-approved and complies with size and ventilation guidelines.

  • Breed-specific considerations

Some airlines and transportation providers may have breed-specific restrictions, particularly for snub-nosed dogs prone to respiratory issues. Confirm these restrictions beforehand to avoid complications during check-in. 

  • Pet insurance

Some airlines and transportation providers may require pet insurance. Ensure you check and comply with any insurance requirements to safeguard against unforeseen circumstances.

Understanding these policies and preparing accordingly is key to a smooth journey.

Ensure your dog’s comfort when flying

To prepare your dog for a flight, booking a direct flight if possible is recommended. In addition, it is recommended that you acclimate them to their travel crate beforehand. It’s also important to make sure your dog is well-fed and exercised before the flight to minimise any discomfort.

What to pack for your dog when flying

When travelling by plane, it’s essential to pack necessary items for your dog, such as food, water, medication (if needed), a leash, and waste/poo bags. It’s also advised to include a familiar item like a blanket or toy to help your dog feel more at ease during the flight.

dog sitting on travel suitcase

What does it cost to fly with a dog in South Africa

Flying with your pet in South Africa can be cost-effective. Cargo transportation fees are typically treated as excess baggage, starting at around R40 per kg. The exact cost depends on factors such as the airline, pet size and species, destination, weight, and the required travel crate. 

To get detailed information on pet-related fees, reaching out directly to the airline or considering the assistance of a pet courier service is advisable.

golden retriever sitting next to dog travel case

What to know when travelling with your dog by car in South Africa

When travelling by car, it’s important to ensure your dog is secure and comfortable. Invest in a sturdy crate or harness that will keep them safe during the journey. Remember to plan for regular breaks so your dog can stretch their legs and relieve themselves.

Keeping your dog safe during car travel with a crate or harness

While on the road, make sure your dog is secured in a crate or harness to avoid any accidents. Do not let your pet stick their head out of the window, as this could lead to injuries from debris or sudden stops. It’s also important to never leave your dog alone in a parked car, as they can easily overheat.

Planning for pit stops and potty breaks

Just like humans, dogs need breaks during a long journey to stretch their legs and relieve themselves. When travelling by car, plan for regular pit stops at designated rest areas or pet-friendly parks.

small dog travelling in back of car

Final thoughts on travelling domestically in South Africa with your dog

Embarking on a domestic journey with your dog in South Africa is an exciting adventure that demands careful preparation and understanding of regulations. Prioritise your dog’s health, choose a suitable carrier, and research airline and transportation policies for a smooth travel experience. Keeping a recent photo of your pet on hand enhances safety. By adhering to these guidelines, both you and your pet will be well-prepared, ensuring a stress-free and memorable adventure.

For a worry-free adventure, discover why MediPet is the ideal choice for your pet insurance. Compare our plans and get an obligation-free quote online in seconds today. Check out our other posts, including members’ favourite dog hotels in Cape Town and our ultimate guide to pet insurance. Prepare to create unforgettable memories with your furry friend on your upcoming trip. Always prioritise your pet’s well-being and safety throughout the journey. Happy travels!

Learn more about why MediPet is the right choice for your pet insurance, compare our plans & get an obligation-free quote online in just seconds today.

Prospective or current pet owners may also enjoy our other posts including how to take care of a puppy, winter pet safety tips, and our ultimate guide to pet insurance. If you’re planning a trip away and looking for a safe and loving environment for your dog or cat, we have also covered some of our members’ favourite catteries or dog hotels in Cape Town.

Medipet Animal Health Insurance Brokers (Pty) Ltd (MediPet) (FSP Licence No: 15491) is underwritten by Renasa licensed non-life insurer & FSP.