There’s nothing like a road trip to kick start a vacation. Bringing your pets along makes it even more fun. If you’re planning to take your pet with you on trips in the car, start early when the pet is young to get used to the routine. Short jaunts across town and back or easy day trips will get your pet used to the ride. A carsick pet can make the trip miserable for everyone. Here are some more tips to help make the trip safe and enjoyable:
1. Dogs and cats need to be secured properly, both for their safety and yours. An unrestrained pet can become a deadly projectile in the event of a sudden stop or crash, causing serious injury (even death) to passengers. For example, an unsecured, 25-pound dog in a 40 mph crash becomes a 1,000-pound mass (half a ton) flying uncontrollably inside the vehicle. The first and best option is to crate your animal for the duration of the trip. For large animals, a more feasible option is to use a special harness that attaches to your vehicle’s seatbelt. Crates and harnesses are available at your local pet store. Dogs should be restrained with either a seatbelt or harness designed for pet travel. Smaller dogs can be secured in pet car seats, which allow them to also see out, while being properly restrained.
Never attach a restraining device to the pet’s collar. Always use a harness to prevent injury.
Cats should be contained in a crate, cage or pet car seat that is secured with a seat belt. Never allow a cat to roam freely in the vehicle, as it could get tangled around the driver’s feet or get in the driver’s sight of the road.
Leaving a pet in a parked car is never a good idea. Temperatures in confined spaces in the summer time can heat up fast, causing heatstroke — even death — to a pet. Extremely cold temperatures in the winter can be just as threatening, so be sure not to leave a pet in the car if the temperature is near the freezing mark.
2. The ASPCA cautions against allowing pets to ride with their heads out the window of a moving vehicle. Not only do they risk being hit with a flying object, but they are also at risk of inner ear damage and lung infections.
3. The noises and movement from car travel make many pets anxious. This anxiety can be expressed through barking, shaking, excessive drooling or even vomiting. Prepare your pets for a long trip well before you plan to leave. Start slowly by getting them used to being in the car. Once they are a little more comfortable, condition them with short trips around the block, gradually extending the duration of these trips. If your pet still suffers car anxiety, talk to your veterinarian about medications. Also consider keeping stain and odor remover in the trunk, just in case of an accident.
4. Just as you will on a long trip, your pet will need periodic pit stops and stretch breaks, too. It’s a good idea to stop every couple of hours for your pet and you to stretch and walk around. Be sure to have your pet’s leash handy to have control and so your pet doesn’t run away in unfamiliar surroundings. Have your own supply of cold water, as fresh water is not always handy or convenient when you need to stop.
5. Don’t feed your pet right before you plan to leave. Instead, give him or her a light meal a few hours in advance. Never feed your pet in a moving vehicle. During rest stops, have your pet consume small amounts of food and water, but don’t allow to overeat or drink if you still have more traveling to do. Reserve your pet’s main meal for the end of the day.
6. If you’re planning overnight hotel stays, be sure to check in advance whether the hotel has pet-friendly policies.
7. A seat upholstery protector, such as a pet hammock or waterproof seat cover will make clean-ups easier in case your pet does get sick or has an accident. Be sure to bring along cleaning supplies to avoid having to search out a place to purchase them at the last minute.
8. A travel tag on a pet’s collar will help someone locate you should you and your pet become separated. The travel tag should contain information about where you are staying locally (while away from home), including addresses and phone numbers. A cell phone number is also a good idea since most people have one with them, especially when they travel.
9. A pet first-aid kit is an essential item to pack when venturing out and should contain things such as antiseptic cream, assorted bandages, tweezers, eye drops, gauge, tape, and the like. Phone numbers for your pet’s vet, the National Animal Poison Control Center hotline (888-426-4435), and emergency pet hospitals in the areas where you plan to travel should be taken along.