Bad Weather and Illness When Travelling With a Small Dog

I want to take a moment to talk about the less than glorious side of travel. You know — bad weather and illness when traveling with your small dog. It’s a fact: the weather Gods can truly be against you. Combine getting sick with poor weather conditions and misery can ensue — if you let it.

Yeah, because you know what? It happens. In fact, it happened in a rather epic way for poor Mom during our 4-week tour of Croatia. For 3 weeks of our 4-week trip, Mom had a horrid cold with a harsh persistent cough that kept her up at night. Fun, right? And for the last week of our trip, the temperatures dropped far lower than we expected (and had packed for) and the rain would just not stop.

Bad Weather Happens

I will start with the one thing we have no control over, and that is the weather. We are rather fond of sunshine and as such, we try to travel at times when the odds of getting sunny days with blue skies run in our favour. You can do this by searching the internet for precipitation levels for each country you’ll be visiting. You’ll get a chart that shows you what you can expect. You can do the same for temperatures. I like Holiday Weather as a resource.

It’s important to look up weather for each stop along the way. For example, the Dalmatian Coast was a lot warmer than, say, Zagreb, which is further north and inland. How big a difference? About 15 to 18 degrees Celsius! That meant that in Split, the weather might have been a comfortable 20ºC but in Zagreb, it was a chilly 8ºC. That, Dear Reader, is a completely different wardrobe for the bipeds and for me! At 8ºC, I need a sweater!

And that is what happened. Mom had not counted on that temperature drop and once we arrived in Zagreb, she had to buy a pair of shoes. Her footwear was just not up to snuff. Not that she was really too upset about buying new shoes. (Humans.)

Getting warm shoes with faux fur trim

Complete with faux fur lining – from sandals to this!

The bipeds’ clothes were not warm enough either. Not even in Split when the temperature dropped uncharacteristically low. Both bipeds had to go shopping. Not something either particularly enjoys, to be honest. Dad bought a jacket, Mom a thick sweater and some leggings. It was all a bit frustrating. These were expenses we hadn’t anticipated and the purchases added an element of stuffing to make everything fit into our carry-on bags. We still managed but it was close. I had to sit on the suitcases to help Mom get them shut!

… AND they had no warm sweater for me. Or rain gear. That was a bigger problem because there were no pet boutiques that we could find. So no easy shopping for me. That meant that far too much of the trip, I was bundled up in a scarf, blanket, or towel, or under a plastic poncho.

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Krista and Mom on the sailboat with me. Note the scarf AND blanket around us! Photo by Meg Courtney

Nature is fickle and the weather can be unpredictable.

… Then there was the rain. The bipeds had not counted on nearly two weeks of showers. It was not in the norm — not part of the statistics. So we had no umbrellas or raincoats. It made for some very soggy shoes.

Bad Weather and Illness When Travelling With a Small dog in the rain plastic poncho

Enjoying Krka Park – in the rain. A real rain jacket would have been nice. Just sayin…And the legs and shoes got SOAKED!

In addition, the weather added a challenge for taking photographs. Everything seemed flat and dull with skies not even producing particularly dramatic cloud formations. Just flat light. And then there was the challenge of keeping water off the lenses of our iPhones. (Yes! Our only cameras are our phones! Cool, eh?)

ARGH!! Damn you flat skies!! Pula you deserved better.

Pharmacists Are Your Friend

I have talked about a canine first aid kit before, and you know I always make sure to have a list of vets — preferably ones that speak a language the bipeds speak — at the towns we stay in. If like us, you also like to sail, then I can’t stress enough the importance of also taking a first aid course. For humans and canines too.

On the whole, we have been very lucky. So far, I have only visited a vet once. That was in Sofia and was an experiment to see if I could get a European Union Pet Passport. I did get one but it’s not legal since I am not a EU resident. But it was interesting to have a vet show us the process. North America really needs something like this. But I digress … .

The bipeds have yet to end up in hospital while overseas need to visit a doctor when travelling, but we have fellow travel bloggers who have and so we know that either is a very strong possibility. What we do visit often when travelling are pharmacists. In Europe, pharmacists seem to have a bit more umph. They do basic registered nurse type consults. It’s brilliant when you think of it. Instead of clogging up doctors’ offices with folks who have coughs, sore throats, and basic aches and pains, the pharmacist assists.

For Mom, after two weeks of getting a bit worse every day, she finally sought out some help in Split. The sailing was over (and she had to deal with seasickness for that!) and we were settled into our cute apartment in Split to use as our home base, so it seemed like the time was right to get this cold under control. The pharmacist took a look at Mom’s throat, put her hand on Mom’s forehead … saw the bags under Mom’s eyes. And after pantomiming some questions and answers, Mom was sent home with a bunch of goodies, including a cough syrup that she assures me tasted awesome and helped her sleep.

So… yeah. But Mom says that the Prospan tastes fabulous. She must have had a fever.

Missing Out

The pharmacist had a few choice head shakes and finger wags to give Mom. We interpreted the message as “Why didn’t you see a pharmacist sooner?” The other clear message was, “You need to REST!” Mom nodded, and then we went out and continued our adventures.

I think Dad tried to slow things down. We spent an extra day just walking the old streets of Split for a second time. Mostly taking it easy and enjoying the coffee shops and gorgeous promenade. But I could tell Mom wasn’t going to have it. Because Mom wanted to see and do everything. There were old monasteries to visit and towns to explore. There was so much to see and we had no idea if or when we might return, so I could tell Mom was not liking the feeling that we were missing out — not maximizing our time there.

Bad Weather and Illness When Travelling With a Small dog relaxing time

Dad told Mom to relax in the sun one morning in Vis. I totally had her back on that! Good call Dad!

The Cost of Pushing Yourself

You see, Dear Reader, the cost of pushing yourself is that you get worse. If Mom had just taken a day to sleep things off earlier on — stayed in bed, taken some meds, and let her body heal — I am certain the cold would not have escalated the way it did. But no. The fear of missing out meant Mom pushed and pushed. Even swimming in slightly too cold waters. Hiking and spending entire days on the go. And when you add in her being cold and wet … yeah, a recipe for disaster.

Or was it?

You see, here is where things get interesting. I actually admire Mom’s tenacity. She was in a good mood, smiling and enjoying what the trip had to offer. Even if coughing fits sometimes got so strong she got light-headed and had to sit down.

Bad Weather and Illness When Travelling With a Small dog museum coffee

Being sick AND the rain also means looking at indoor options. Here is the AMAZING little museum in Zagreb: The Museum of Broken Relationships.

The rain drenched her over and over again. But she laughed it off (after a deep sigh) and treated herself to a cashmere poncho sweater as a consolation. And when the photos were not coming out the way she wanted? She reached out to her photographer friends for tips on what to do.

Mom’s upbeat attitude reminded me of how easy it is for humans to slip into an emotional “in the dumps” when sick. But some studies have shown that the brighter your mood, the faster the healing. And maybe … maybe, Mom was onto something when she refused to feel blue while healing. But maybe that was her problem: she wasn’t giving her body down time to heal. Ah, the conundrum!

Bad Weather and Illness When Travelling With a Small dog in the rain

Mom remaining upbeat and silly!

Being sick reminded the bipeds of how happy they were that they were prepared for my being ill with a list of vets and their opening hours. In Split, we even had the number of the local animal hospital. Paradoxically, the bipeds also realized that although Mom pushed herself, she would never push me if I were sick. She’d stay home, or the bipeds would do hand-offs. I found that double standard very interesting.

Lesson Learned

So much of travel is a learning experience and I think there is no exception here. After coming back and settling into our at-home routine, we have had time to chat a bit about being sick for more than half of the trip. We managed to talk about the “bummer” of not getting the expected weather. We’ve learned a few things and so I wanted to share that with you.

  • Bring some of your own meds and look up doctors as well as vets. Also, don’t’ forget to take some human and canine first aid. You never know. There are doctors who specialize in travel medicine; book an appointment before you go. See your vet as well and get your dog a good once over to make sure there isn’t some underlying issue that may become a problem once on the road.
  • Take a look at your insurance and make sure you are covered for being sent home. It didn’t get to that for us, but it did make us think. So Mom and Dad checked and yes, they are covered. I however, am not.
  • Do you have a plan for your dog if you are sick on the road? This is especially true if travelling solo with your canine. In our case, the odds are good one of the bipeds will still be okay even if the other is sick. But we do have a plan for someone to come and get me (and that includes having money for her flight set aside) should both bipeds be down for the count. Her name is listed as one of my owners on my microchip so she has no trouble crossing the border or flying with me. And the bipeds always have a letter drafted just in case. We also ask those from whom we rent our apartments if they would be willing to watch me should both bipeds be in hospital and to contact my caretaker. It is always good to have this sorted out ahead of time.
  • Bring money for emergency supplies. This can include anything from warm shoes and a rain coat to a simple umbrella and cough syrup. Don’t travel with a budget so tight that there is no room for illness. This may include having to re-book airfare and hotel nights and so on. Be prepared.
  • Leave room in your bag! We travel carry-on only. We like that best. We have learned that we should also make sure there is space for those extras that may need to be purchased. You don’t have to bring a sweater but make sure you have room for one if you buy one. Or, as Mom did, be sure you are okay to wear a lot of layers on your way home.
  • Tips for photos in the rain! Here are the ones we enjoyed:
    • Umbrella! Don’t just use it to cover your head and camera but use it as an accessory in the photo. A white one also reflects light onto faces better.
    • Pops of colour! Look for that bright red umbrella, flash of yellow rain boots, etc.
    • Looking from the inside out. Shots taken indoors looking out into the rain can be lovely!
    • Find an overhead or awning! They protect you from the rain but also make great photos!
    • Have fun with some backlighting.
    • Have fun with reflections made possible by the puddles!
    • Look for dramatic skies!
  • Stay cheerful but do take time to heal! Getting sick sucks. Getting two weeks of rain? Also sucks. But it will suck a little less if you don’t allow it to ruin everything for you! This is very much a case of “smile until you feel happy.” And don’t let the rain stop you. It was pouring rain but we still went to Krka national park. And you know what? It was gorgeous! The rain also means fewer people, and as far as we were concerned, that was actually a good thing.
Bad Weather and Illness When Travelling With a Small dog

Another great tip: Don’t include the sky at all! We got it all going on here! The moss and texture of the walls, the hits of colour with the scarf and blue shoes… FUN!!

In review: Travel isn’t always puppies, sunshine, and blue skies. Sometimes it rains on your parade. Sometimes you cough through more than half of it and need to sleep it off and thus miss something. Bad weather and illness when travelling with a small dog or without – sucks! Mom ended up sleeping an entire day before flying home. Sacrificing a day of discovery in Zagreb for a healing sleep before a long flight home. Being on the road is always an adventure and it constantly provides you with an opportunity to grow and learn something about the country you are in, about your companions, and about yourself. Mom has learned she needs to be better at finding that middle ground between healing and not missing out. Dad realized just how willing he was to cut his trip short to fly back home and care for Mom or for me if necessary.

27 Comments on “Bad Weather and Illness When Travelling With a Small Dog

  1. As you know, I usually travel with a physician who brings along what is probably a more robust first aid kit than most people travel with in that it contains some prescription medications. I’ve also found pharmacists helpful while traveling. (BTW, you should know the generic names for any medications you take or think you could need because the brand names are different in different countries—although pharmacists will look this up for you, if necessary).

    We recently purchased a special travel insurance policy from Med Jet Assist which only covers medical transport, but to wherever you want to go. Most travel insurance policies will only pay to get you to the nearest facility capable of rendering the care you need. A friend was in a terrible car accident in South Africa and had to stay there for 7 weeks until she could fly in a commercial plane seat. This policy actually stays in force even in our home country—the US– if we want to be transported from more than 100 miles from home. Since the US (and Canada) are big countries with excellent medical facilities pretty much throughout, a person could get stuck thousands of miles from home and their loved ones if they need to be hospitalized.

    We had the opposite weather experience from you. For a trip to Ireland, we purchased truly water proof jackets to bring because in SW Ireland, we anticipated sightseeing in the rain. In the 10 days we spent in Ireland, it never rained—although apparently it had rained for 3 weeks straight before we arrived. OTOH, our arrival ended a drought in Spain once where it rained so hard, no amount of rain gear would have been sufficient.

    BTW, Monte, as usual, you are adorable in all the photos.

    • why thank you!
      The bipeds have amazing coverage in Insurance with the Federal government…. but noted! will dog deeper! Great tip about knowing the the generic names for meds!!

  2. That was certainly an epic trip (not in a good way)! Thankfully, Mr. N has never been sick on a trip yet. All of the places we’ve gone to had vets/stores though. It’s hard because you still want to push on even when you’re sick.
    For next time, maybe consider making Monte a sock sweater? I think they’re pretty easy and socks should be easy to get almost anywhere!

  3. What a wonderfully up and down trip – but what I loved best, you just did it with joy, even the coughing! Thank you so much for sharing your joyous trip – it was a fun read!

    • Thank you for visiting! Sometimes you just have to say “well … it is what it is. The only thing I control is how I respond to the events!” 🙂

  4. It sounds like your mom has a terrific outlook on life! I do wish she would have rested sooner, but I totally get that “push through it” attitude. You have shared so much good advice and I’m sharing it with my daughter who loves traveling. She doesn’t have a pet right now, but I think she’ll benefit from all the tips for bipeds!

    • It is first a travel blog – the “with dog” part that is just a bonus! 🙂
      And thank you … Mom is upbeat. It’s a bit contagious too. Nice right?

  5. Great post, loved the tips on traveling and photography in the rain tips. Also about what do do in case of an emergency. I printed up a ICE and have it by my door in my motorhome and in my dog pouch when I’m out walking dogs and in my purse.

    • Yeah – I should add that! good point. Seriously … good point. AND in a a foreign country it should be translated if possible … easy google translate for “spouse” and “Dog emergency contact” etc.

  6. You are right, Pharmacists are the real friends whenever you are travelling(which you do quite often), you must have the information of the famous Vet of that place. I always recommend my patients to take care of your pets and carry all the necessary belongings of your pet with you, because the pets are not much adaptive of the changing and bad weather. You have provided very useful tips which should be followed when travelling with pets. And I just loved the photography with your cute little pet.
    “Very Informative post! I usually ask these kinds of questions from my Veterinarian. I’m always a bit anxious regarding the health of my pet and often ask, what is the right time to provide the vaccination to my dog? And whenever, I feel that there’s something change in the behavior of my pet, I immediately rush down to him.

    See, if you are keeping a pet, you have to take the full responsibility and you cannot leave your pet unattended. Thank you for providing the great insights, I hope the new pet owners will find this useful. ”
    Hi Kathryn, Very informative post! This is something that every pet owner must look upon. The most common thing like hand sanitizer is something which everybody carries whose consumption can kill your pet. I used to keep my bag wide and open in front of my dog and he every day inspect my bag. To stop that, you have to keep our bag’s belongings away from your pet or otherwise you could end up losing his life.
    “Taking care of hygiene of our pet is one of the most important thing! And this starts from where he spends most of his time i.e on it’s bed!

    Therefore, your dog’s bet should be neat and clean and you must take care of the things mentioned above before making the bed for your pet and if you’re not following these point then you need to consider to change your pet’s bed immediately!”

    • I think it’s just like being a parent really. There is that fine line between caring and bubble wrapping. We are as prepared as we can be on the road while we travel … but we also don’t let fear stop us from enjoying the adventure you know?

  7. Pingback: Flying the European Coastal Airlines Seaplane with a Small Dog

  8. Pingback: Visiting Zagreb, Croatia with a Dog

  9. Thanks for sharing such great article about dogs. The social adaptations of dogs and humans are same enough that cats can live perfectly happy lives surrounded by humans and vice versa. Dogs are pampered with the best of food and medical care, frequently sleeping in their owners’ comfortable sofa.Do you have any other articles about pets?

  10. Way to make the most out of less than perfect situations. Mother nature can be so fickle. We have often ended up in similar situations. Thankfully, it’s easy to wrap up a small dog in a scarf or your own clothing to keep them warm. We know ALL about that. Love your adventures!

    • Yeah – tougher I imagine with the bigger dogs. I think I would have been left at our rental apartment if I had been a big dog. Too wet and miserable. 🙂

  11. Wow, your parents are so well prepared for anything with YOU but they aren’t all that concerned about themselves, LOL! Typical parents, the kids always come first.
    I’m so sorry Mom was sick for so long, what a bummer. I hope you helped nurse her back to health when you got home.
    Love & Biscuits,
    Dogs Luv Us and We Luv Them

  12. It is always a bummer when it rains non stop during travels and then on top of it you get sick, but like you did I would do the best I could also as I would not want to miss anything, loving your stories and travels

    • Thanks Ruth. Yeah I mean you can either be a miserable person and just add to the gloom or – you just slow down a bit but keep going. So far no hospitalizations so that’s good!

  13. I love how you accommodated the pup under the raincoat! 🙂

    Good reminders; we always research vet hospitals and emergency vet hospitals wherever we go. Last thing one wants to do in an emergency is to try to find out where to turn.

    • indeed… sometimes it is tougher – like when we sail and are away from land … so a first aid course is also a good idea.

  14. Glad everyone appears to be feeling better now.

    I had a similar experience when visiting San Francisco in August one year. Left South Carolina in 90+ degree weather and assumed San Francisco, being on the coast, would have similar temperatures. I had to go shopping for warm clothes as soon as I arrived because I wasn’t prepared for the cold weather.

  15. Those bipeds are hard to manage, aren’t they? Being sick is terrible, being sick somewhere other than home…….one of my biggest travel fears. Good advice, glad you made it through!

    • Well interestingly – likely to still go out and do more when travelling than home. And depending on where you travel to, medical assistance may actually be better than home!

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