in Your Car
Crate or carrier
The Humane Society recommends that pets always be transported in a carrier when traveling by car. While it may be tempting to just let your pet roam free while you’re driving, it can be unsafe for both pet and humans to do so. In the event of a crash, even a small dog can become a major projectile, which can cause major injury to other passengers.
The Humane Society recommends that a pet carrier should Have:
- Durable structure
- Smooth edges
- Opaque sides
- A grille door
- Several ventilation holes on each side
You should also choose one with a secure door and door latch.
If any part of the carrier breaks or stops working, you should immediately purchase a new one.
Dog seat belts may seem like a good solution, and they certainly work for preventing your dog from roaming around the vehicle when in transit, but there is little or no evidence to suggest that they keep dogs safer in crashes.
While dogs may be relatively used to traveling in a car, the same is not true of cats; a panicked cat may cause a major distraction for the driver, so cats should always be placed in a crate, even for short journeys.
If you’re planning on taking a long trip, and your pet is not used to being in the car for an extended period of time, then you should take a few ‘warm up’ drives in advance of the main event. If you’re well-prepared, you can do this over the months leading up to your trip. The first step is to get your pet used to its carrier.
- Keep the crate in the house and let your pet play in it.
- Place the food bowl inside on a couple of occasions, closing the door for brief periods so your pet is used to being inside.
- If your pet is unwilling to get into the carrier (this is common with cats), don’t push them in against their will; instead, you should put your pet’s favorite blanket inside, as well as a toy.
- Place treats near the entrance to the carrier, gradually getting your pet closer and closer to going in.
- Once your pet is in, close the door for short periods and then give a treat. The goal is to make your pet comfortable with the carrier.
Once your pet is used to being inside the carrier, you can take them on short trips with you to get them used to the motion and noise of car travel. If your pet is familiar with car trips, it will be better behaved and may even enjoy your long trip. By preparing in advance of your trip, you will be able to anticipate your pet’s behaviors and can prepare for common eventualities.
Prep your car
Having your car ready will take a lot of the stress out of driving with your pet. Although your pet will be safely secured in his or her crate, you should aim to have key items at an arm’s length in case you need to access it quickly.
A toiletry bag opened up can over the back of the passenger seat and will make an excellent way of storing the key items you’ll need during the trip.
Buying rubberized floor liners and waterproof seat covers will also help to keep your car clean, especially if you’ve been camping or anywhere outdoors with your dog.
A healthy supply of wipes in the glovebox of the car is an absolute necessity.
You should adjust the speakers in your car so that the sound in the back is minimized, if not eliminated. Most modern cars allow you to shift the balance of the sound to the front.
This will help protect your pet’s hearing and help keep them calm, without the need for you to sacrifice your own listening habits.
You should aim to bring enough food for the duration of your trip along with a decent reserve supply in case of emergencies.
However, on your trip, you should not feed your pet while driving. Instead, you should make regular stops when it’s feeding time. Feeding a pet while driving could lead to choking, and while you’re driving, you’ll be unable to intervene.
Before your trip, give your pet a light meal three to four hours before you drive. You can have treats for the ride, but it’s better to avoid eating a large meal in advance of traveling.
You should also make sure to have more than enough water. If you’re traveling to a different part of the country (or even outside of the country) there is the chance that bacteria in the water could cause your pet to have a stomach upset.
Given that, bottled water gives you the best means of preventing any dangers caused by the change of scenery. If you can’t bring yourself to give your pet a bottled water-only diet, then filling up water bottles from your tap at home will have the same effect.
If your animal suffers from motion sickness, then you can bring ice cubes to give it instead of water. This will compel your pet to drink more slowly, which will help to settle their stomach and prevent the need for any messy clean up on your part.
Regardless of the length of your journey, it’s worth always having a ‘travel kit’ ready for your pet. You can put the items required in a sturdy bag located near the entrance to your home, or even in your car.
The AVMA recommends the following items:
- Collar, leash, harness
- Bed, Blankets, Pillows
- Grooming Supplies
- Prescribed medication (this should be enough for the duration of the trip, plus a couple of day’s additional medication, in case of emergency)
- Plastic bags
If you know that there are additional items that your pet needs for traveling (such as a favorite toy), it is sometimes worth buying duplicates to have in the car.