Coping with pet-related emergencies while sailing
Coping with pet-related emergencies while sailing

Discover how to keep your furry friends safe and healthy while sailing with our guide to coping with pet-related emergencies on board.

Coping with Pet-Related Emergencies While Sailing

As you embark on your sailing adventure with your family, you may also be considering bringing along your beloved pets. While pets can make wonderful companions on your journey, it’s essential to be prepared for any pet-related emergencies that may arise while you’re out at sea. In this article, we’ll discuss some common pet emergencies, how to prevent them, and how to handle them should they occur.

Table of Contents

Preventing Pet Emergencies

Prevention is always better than cure, and this is especially true when it comes to pet emergencies while sailing. Here are some steps you can take to minimize the risk of emergencies:

  1. Choose a boat-friendly pet: Not all pets are well-suited for life on a boat. Dogs and cats are the most common boat-friendly pets, but even within these species, some breeds are better suited for sailing than others. Research the best breeds for boat life and consider your pet’s temperament before bringing them on board.

  2. Pet-proof your boat: Just as you would child-proof your home, it’s essential to pet-proof your boat. Ensure that all hazardous materials, such as cleaning supplies and medications, are securely stored out of your pet’s reach. Install safety gates or netting to prevent your pet from falling overboard or accessing off-limits areas.

  3. Train your pet: Proper training is crucial for your pet’s safety and well-being on board. Teach your pet basic commands, such as “stay” and “come,” and ensure they are comfortable wearing a life jacket and harness. Familiarize your pet with the boat and its surroundings before setting sail.

  4. Keep your pet healthy: Regular veterinary check-ups and vaccinations are essential for your pet’s overall health. Ensure your pet is up-to-date on all necessary vaccinations and medications, such as flea and tick prevention, before embarking on your sailing adventure.

Common Pet Emergencies

Despite your best efforts to prevent them, pet emergencies can still occur while sailing. It’s essential to be prepared and know how to handle these situations should they arise.


Pets can easily become overheated on a boat, especially during hot summer months. Signs of overheating in pets include excessive panting, drooling, weakness, and even collapse. To prevent overheating:

  • Provide your pet with plenty of shade and fresh water.
  • Avoid exercising your pet during the hottest parts of the day.
  • Consider using cooling mats or vests designed for pets.

If you suspect your pet is overheating, take the following steps:

  1. Move your pet to a cooler, shaded area.
  2. Offer your pet cool (not cold) water to drink.
  3. Apply cool, wet towels to your pet’s body, focusing on the neck, armpits, and groin area.
  4. Monitor your pet’s condition closely and seek veterinary assistance if their condition does not improve.


Just like humans, pets can also experience seasickness. Symptoms of seasickness in pets include vomiting, excessive drooling, and lethargy. To prevent seasickness:

  • Gradually acclimate your pet to the boat’s motion by taking them on short trips before embarking on longer journeys.
  • Consult your veterinarian about anti-nausea medications for your pet.

If your pet experiences seasickness, try the following:

  1. Move your pet to a stable, well-ventilated area of the boat.
  2. Offer your pet small amounts of water to help prevent dehydration.
  3. Consult your veterinarian for advice on managing your pet’s seasickness.


Injuries can occur on a boat, whether from rough seas, slippery surfaces, or accidents. To prevent injuries:

  • Keep your pet’s nails trimmed to improve traction on slippery surfaces.
  • Ensure your pet is wearing a harness and is secured when necessary, such as during rough seas or while docking.
  • Regularly inspect your boat for potential hazards, such as sharp objects or loose equipment.

If your pet sustains an injury, follow these steps:

  1. Assess the severity of the injury. If it’s a minor cut or scrape, clean the wound with mild soap and water, apply an antiseptic ointment, and cover with a bandage.
  2. If the injury is more severe, such as a deep cut or broken bone, stabilize your pet and seek veterinary assistance as soon as possible.


Pets can be exposed to various toxins on a boat, such as cleaning supplies, medications, or even toxic plants at your destination. To prevent poisoning:

  • Store all hazardous materials securely and out of your pet’s reach.
  • Be aware of any toxic plants or animals at your destination and keep your pet away from them.

If you suspect your pet has ingested a toxic substance, take the following steps:

  1. Remove your pet from the source of the toxin.
  2. Contact your veterinarian or a pet poison control center for guidance on how to proceed.
  3. Monitor your pet closely for any signs of distress and seek veterinary assistance if necessary.


While it may seem unlikely, pets can be at risk of drowning while on a boat. To prevent drowning:

  • Ensure your pet is wearing a properly fitted life jacket at all times.
  • Install safety gates or netting to prevent your pet from falling overboard.
  • Supervise your pet closely while they are on deck or near the water.

If your pet falls overboard or is struggling in the water, follow these steps:

  1. Remain calm and call your pet’s name to help them locate you.
  2. Use a flotation device, such as a life ring or cushion, to help your pet stay afloat.
  3. Carefully pull your pet back on board, using a harness or life jacket handle if possible.
  4. Once your pet is safely back on board, check for any injuries and monitor their condition closely.

Creating a Pet First Aid Kit

Having a well-stocked pet first aid kit on board is essential for handling pet emergencies while sailing. Your pet first aid kit should include:

  • Gauze pads and rolls
  • Adhesive tape
  • Antiseptic wipes and ointment
  • Tweezers and scissors
  • A digital thermometer
  • A muzzle or soft cloth for restraint
  • A blanket or towel
  • A pet-specific first aid book or guide
  • Emergency contact information for your veterinarian and a pet poison control center

Knowing When to Seek Professional Help

While many pet emergencies can be managed on board, it’s essential to know when to seek professional help. If your pet’s condition does not improve or worsens despite your efforts, contact your veterinarian or the nearest veterinary clinic for guidance.


Sailing with your pet can be a rewarding and enjoyable experience for both you and your furry friend. By taking the necessary precautions and being prepared for pet-related emergencies, you can ensure a safe and happy journey for your entire family.