Pets at Sea

Published in the July 2011 Issue July 2011 Ask The Expert

Boat owners are often pet people, and why not? Both owning a pet and owning a boat usually mean you spend time outside, and both require a certain level of maintenance that is paid off and then some in the end. The trick is that combining these two loves can be difficult. If you're planning a boating trip this summer, and want to bring along Fluffy, do you know how to prepare in order to keep both your boat and your pet safe?

Well, for starters, call to make sure that wherever you're heading allows pets. You don't want to arrive at the marina and be told you can't bring Tippy along. While you're on the phone, ask about their policies, as many locations require that you keep pets on a leash and don't leave them alone. Even if you never planned on enjoying a boat excursion without your dog, it's good to know what you can and cannot do.

In addition, check with your boat insurance company to see if your pets are protected. With Progressive's Pet Injury Coverage (, your vet bills are covered up to $1,000 if your pets are hurt in a boat incident.



Outfit your pets with up-to-date ID tags with your cell phone number, marina address, and slip number. If there's room, consider including the fact that you'll offer a reward for their safe return. Most people are kind at heart and will return someone's lost pet if given the ability and information required to.

Bring along copies of your pets' health records and vaccinations. Some marinas and camping spots require this kind of documentation.
Take the time to pack a bag so you're prepared for anything. Stock it with things like cleaning supplies, a towel or travel bed so your pets have a place to sleep, portable bowls, food and water, a pet first aid kit, and lots of toys.

For safety, fit your pets with personal flotation devices or life jackets before you head off to the lake. Find one with a lifting handle to make it easy and safe to lift your pets from the water. Give them time on land to get used to wearing it.

Animal Onboard

Gradually introduce your pets to your boat and the water. Give them a chance to explore their surroundings while the boat is docked. Turn on the engine so they get accustomed to its sound, smell, and feel, and take short cruises, gradually building up to longer trips to help them acclimate to life at sea.
Be sure to store away any potentially toxic or dangerous materials, such as cleaning supplies, fuel, hooks, and others. You don't want to have to visit the vet while on vacation.

Give your pets a helping hand with a ramp that helps them get onboard and off, both from the dock and from the water. Check out among other options for pricing and details.

Protect your pets from the heat by providing shade and plenty of water, and wash the deck with cool water to protect their paws. While you can put on a pair of sandals when the mid-day sun gets unbearable, as far as I know you can't find flip-flops for dogs.


Watch For Wooziness

If your pets are overly tired or disoriented, seasickness might be to blame. Some vets recommend giving them ginger or medications like Bonine or Dramamine. Ask your vet before giving your pets anything, and always follow the recommended dosing guidelines.

Pets need to relieve themselves, too, and if you can't make regular stops, prepare provisions so your pets can go to the bathroom onboard. Bring your cat's litter box along, and for dogs, you can buy a portable dog potty that simulates grass. Your nostrils and your boat's carpet will thank you.

Follow these suggestions when taking your pets with you on the `toon or deck boat this summer and maybe, just maybe, Princess won't have reason to claw every piece of furniture you own when you get home.

For more information on mixing pets and boats, visit

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