On The Road With My Fur Friend
Driving distracted is one of the top causes of motor vehicle accidents in the United States, and we need to be cognisant of that when planning to transport our pet. Loose pets in a moving vehicle can take our focus away from the road as deadly statistics have shown. You need to take every precaution to reduce any distraction your pet may cause when driving. You want to be sure your pet is comfortable traveling in a car or truck, that you’ve planned for your pet’s needs when outside of the home and please, please check the weather and temperature.
Common sense tells us to start small. Practice with small trips to the store or just around the neighborhood with your pet before committing to an extensive road trip. You want to be sure your pet is accustomed to riding in a vehicle, confined to a small space and isn’t terrified or anxious about the experience. You want them to associate riding in the car as a fun adventure. For example, going for a ride to the dog park to play is a great way for your pet to see that riding in the car takes me someplace fun. If you have a puppy, it’s extremely helpful to acclimate them to riding in a vehicle and going outside of the home. These experiences will help them feel secure in different environments and are excellent moments to train and expose your young pet.
Your pet should be restrained in the vehicle at all times for their safety, as well as yours. Babies and children ride in car seats, and older children and adults are required to wear seat belts. Your pet should also be “buckled up.” Do not let your pet hang out the window or climb over seats or into your lap. This is dangerous and could easily distract you and cause an accident and/or injury to yourself, pet and others. There are many harnesses and tethers specifically for dogs and cats for transportation of pets.
Smaller dogs have many choices for safe travel that offer them luxury, comfort, safety and elevation so they can be restrained and still see out. For travel in a truck in the outside bed, please crate your pet and make sure the crate is secured, so it can’t slide or move. Cats should also be in a crate or carrier that is secure when traveling and not be allowed to roam around the vehicle.
Another safety precaution that pet owners may need is a gate or barrier to offer more separation between driver and pet. This barrier offers even more protection from distraction, and has been shown to give your pet the best chance at survival if something happens. It keeps your pet in the back seat, so it’s unable to come between the seats to see you and get in your lap. If the animal gets excited or irritable about something you are able to maintain control of the vehicle, without having them physically near you. There are many types of car gates and barriers to choose from, and they also can help in protecting your car and its upholstery from dirt, drool, mud and damage. You can look for padding and washable types to make clean up easy.
Exiting the vehicle once you’ve arrived at your destination is a time to be vigilant. Many pet owners have experienced distress and panic after they’ve opened the car door and their pet escapes and takes off. In busy parking lots, near roads or woods this is a pet owner’s worst nightmare. Taking that extra time to tether your pet securely by restraint, can solve that problem.
Accidents do happen, so in this case it’s always best to make sure your pet is wearing a collar with updated and current identification or is microchipped. Making sure your pet is up to date on all its shots and health visits, with your veterinarian, is another excellent precaution if traveling.
Planning for your pet’s needs when you’re traveling by vehicle is important. Safety, food, medication, potty breaks and overnight stays must be planned for and will depend on the type of trip you’re taking. Doing errands or running to the store or dog park involve less planning and effort than a road trip with long hours in the car.
Check the Weather
Check the weather forecast and temperatures that will be current when traveling. Pets should NOT be left in vehicles alone for any extended length of time. Temperatures outside affect the temperature inside vehicles, and hot and cold inside a vehicle can be dangerous for pets. Dogs, for instance, should not be exposed in a vehicle to temperatures for any length of time above 85 degrees or below 45 degrees as a general rule to avoid harm and distress.
Exercise & Potty Breaks
On long traveling trips, have a schedule for appropriate breaks for your pet. Every couple of hours, pets need to get out of the vehicle and be able to relieve themselves and exercise, if possible. Plan out your route and pick pet friendly stops and accommodations.
Water, Food & Medications
On longer trips, make sure you bring enough water, food and any medications for your pet for the duration of the travel. Packing extra is encouraged, just in case of unforeseen circumstances. Have their favorite treats on hand for rewards and breaks to keep your furry friend happy.
Keep your pet hydrated. If you travel with your pet frequently, have a portable watering dish and bottled water in the vehicle at all times. For small outings, when you’re at the store or dog park, have water on hand to offer your pet, especially during the warmer months. When traveling longer distances, make sure your pet has access to water every couple of hours during potty and exercise breaks.
It’s best to have fed your furry traveling companion three to four hours before putting them in a vehicle for a long trip, so they can digest. Make it a light meal, and do not feed your pet in the car while traveling. This can lead to upset tummies and a possible big mess in your car.
Being away from home and traveling for long periods of time can be stressful for your pet, so packing a few of their favorite toys and comfort items can be instrumental in easing the anxiety of your fur baby. A comfy bed or special blanket, for instance, will offer them security. A few favorite toys to play with and have fun will make your travel more enjoyable for both. You may offer your pet some calming treats which will lessen their anxiety and yours on the road.
Traveling in a vehicle with your pet is a wonderful experience for pet owners and pets. I love to make up a travel pet bag for my fur friend. I will make sure my pet’s papers (identification, medical records and proof of ownership), water and food bowls, favorite toys, medications and first aid, leash and extra collar, treats, a blanket, grooming brush, lots of water and don’t forget those poop bags!! Is it a short car ride or long road trip for vacation? Plan accordingly. Practice safety inside and outside of the vehicle for both pet and owner.