Pet Safety in Cars
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UPDATED: Sep 23, 2020
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Traveling with pets can be a great experience. Taking your best friend on a road trip is fun, helps to start conversations along the way, and can be a great way to travel. Some pets, like dogs, travel much better than others, but almost all pets can travel safely in the car if they fit comfortably, certain precautions are taken, and trips are planned well! Even short trips can be enjoyable and safe if proper planning is undertaken beforehand. Although not all animals will love riding in the car, their safety can be assured!
There are some general tips that can help to make trips with your pets safe and more enjoyable. If you are on a long trip, stopping often for your pet to use the restroom or just to get out of the car is important, as is having adequate food and especially water. Keeping enough water for you and your pet is one of the most important things you can do to ensure safety, even if it is just for a short trip. Also, even if you have plenty of water, make sure that your pet has a way to drink comfortably. Keep a spare bowl, or even a collapsible bowl, in the car for their comfort!
Another thing that can help keep pets safe is to make sure that they are properly restrained in the vehicle. In the event of an accident, your pet needs to be secured just like you are. There are several different options for this, from booster seats to harnesses, so you should weigh your pet and see what they are most comfortable in before deciding on which one to choose.
- American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA): Travel safety tips
- American Kennel Club: Traveling with your dog
- Center for Pet Safety: General travel tips
- UC Davis Veterinary Medicine: Traveling with cats
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Preparing for Your Trip
If you are going on a short trip of less than a few hours, then some food, water, and a proper harness setup are all the supplies that you should need. If you are going on a longer trip, or if your pet has additional needs, you may have to make extra plans. For example, if you are taking a dog on a several-day road trip, it is important to make sure that you have time to stop a lot, plenty of water, enough food, any medications needed, and that you can keep your car at a comfortable temperature.
One of the most important things you should do before taking your pet on even a short trip is to make sure that they have identification attached to them that is clear and current. Collars with current tags are essential. If you can, it is a good idea to have your pet microchipped and make sure the chip information is current. If your pet were to slip away, this could get them reunited with you safely. It is also a good idea to look into pet insurance or, at the very least, identify where emergency animal services are along your route. This can save valuable time if you do have an emergency or need assistance with your pet.
- The Humane Society of the United States: Traveling: should your pet stay or go?
- American Red Cross: Pet travel safety
- American Veterinary Medical Association: Traveling with your pet FAQ
- Consumer Reports: Taking a vacation with your dog might cost more than you realize
Planning for Emergencies or Unexpected Issues
Even with proper planning, emergencies or issues can happen on a trip. You could be in a car accident; your pet could get sick, you could be delayed, the weather could be bad, or a hundred things could happen. However, you can plan for emergencies to make it easier to deal with them if they arise. As mentioned above, making sure your pet has current identification is very important. Having extra supplies, including medication, food, and water is a great way to prepare.
If unexpected issues arise, especially if you are on a long trip, it is important that someone not traveling with you know where you are going and all the important information about your pet in case they are lost or you cannot get in touch. You should also prepare by checking the weather, road conditions, and pet accommodations. You should know how to find an emergency vet. If you are involved in a car accident, you should immediately tell any first responders that you have a pet with you.
Keeping Your Pet Happy During the Trip
Once you know your pet will be safe, it is also a great idea to make sure they are happy during your trip! Food and water are good, but why not get your pet some healthy road trip snacks? Dogs, for example, often love apple slices, and cats would definitely like catnip toys for the road. It is also a good idea to keep your car the temperature your pet is most comfortable in. Although it is tempting to roll the window down for your dog, you should make sure they are not too windblown.
If you are traveling through a hilly area or on a road that is very curvy, it is also important to stop frequently and keep an eye on your pet in case of car sickness. If your pet does get sick, stopping until they are better and giving them something to soothe their stomach is a good idea. Singing along with your pet is also always encouraged but keep an eye on the volume of the radio. Dogs are more sensitive to sound than humans! But most importantly, make sure that you and your pet enjoy your trip!