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Tips for Taking Long Drives with Your Dog

Updated: Sep 27, 2023

Information for this Blog Post Provided By: Compare the

Whether you’re planning a short trip to the lake, or an out of state road trip, traveling in a car can be challenging and sometimes traumatic for pets, so it’s important to make sure they’re as comfortable and safe as possible on your journey. If you're traveling with a pet, it's important to ensure that they're appropriately restrained to prevent any potential distractions while driving, or any possible harm to yourself or your pet in the event of a sudden stop.

Here are some safe driving tips to keep in mind when traveling with your pet:

  1. Use a crate or carrier: Purchase a well-ventilated crate or carrier that is appropriately sized for your pet to move around and turn comfortably in. Ensure that the crate or carrier is securely fastened to prevent any movement while driving.

  2. Comfortable restraints: Consider using specialized harnesses and seat belts as they can be comfortable for your pet while allowing them to move around partially and even sit upright.

  3. Get your pet accustomed to traveling: If your pet is anxious when traveling, gradually acclimate them to shorter car rides before embarking on a big road trip.

  4. Check on your pet regularly: Assign a passenger to keep an eye on your pet or take frequent breaks if you're driving alone. Watch for signs of overheating or motion sickness, such as panting.

  5. Never leave your pet unattended in the car: Even on cooler days, cars can heat up rapidly, resulting in heatstroke, which can be lethal. Also, it's not sufficient to park in the shade, leave the window open, and give them water since animals can't regulate their body temperature as humans do.

  6. Pack pet supplies: Bring along your pet's necessities, including food, bowl, leash, poo bags, and medication. Consider packing extra supplies in case of an emergency or unexpected delays.

  7. Keep them hydrated: Ensure that your pet has access to water, and consider using special spill-proof bowls designed for cars.

  8. Don't let your pet hang their head out of the window: Your pet could be injured by debris or get hurt in an accident. While it's okay to have the windows slightly open, make sure there's no chance of your pet jumping out.

  9. Microchip your pet: Microchipping your dog or cat and outfitting them with an ID tag ensures their safe return if they become separated from you.

  10. Let them exercise: Take frequent breaks to allow your pet to stretch their legs and enjoy some playtime. Some gas stations have designated pet areas where you can let them exercise.

The Dangers of Driving with Pets in the Car

Ensuring the safety of your pet while driving should always be a top priority. As pet owners, we cherish our furry family members, and it's vital not to put them or ourselves in any danger while traveling. Allowing your pet to ride unsecured in the car can result in several potential hazards:

  1. Driver distraction: Your pet's movements could cause you to lose control of the vehicle, or they could engage in an activity that diverts your attention from the road ahead, posing a significant risk to safe driving.

  2. Increased risk of injury: If your pet isn't adequately restrained during the drive, they are at a higher risk of being severely injured. In case of a sudden stop or accident, your pet could be flung forward and suffer a life-threatening injury, causing harm to you or other human passengers as well.

  3. Risk of infection to your pet: Dogs, in particular, are vulnerable to ear infections when riding with the window down. While sticking their heads out can be a fun activity for them, it also increases the chances of dust, dirt, and debris entering their nose, eyes, and mouth, potentially leading to infections.

Pet Owner Checklist for Travel

Being prepared is one of the best ways to ensure the safety of your pets while traveling in the car. This involves having the necessary equipment to guarantee their secure placement throughout your journey. Here are some items to consider before embarking on your trip:

  1. Pre-travel pet care: Take steps to ensure your pet is adequately prepared for the journey:

  • If your pet is high-energy, try to tire them out before leaving, so they rest or sleep during the drive.

  • Give them a large meal a couple of hours before you depart to reduce the likelihood of travel sickness.

  • Before you start, provide them with ample time to go to the bathroom and drink water.

  1. Create a safe space for your pet: If using a carrier, ensure it's clean and create a comfortable environment with their favorite toys and blanket. If using a harness, create a cozy spot for your pet to sit or lie down.

  2. Secure them tightly: Though it may seem restricting, securing your pet is no different from traveling with a young child. It's crucial to avoid potential harm in the event of an accident. Securing them firmly, whether in a carrier or not, ensures they stay stable and safe throughout the journey.

Pet Owner’s Equipment Checklist

To ensure a comfortable and secure car journey with your pet, it's important to have the following items:

  1. Safe pet restraint: Use a crate, carrier, or a specially designed seat belt or harness for your dog to keep them safely secured while driving.

  2. Pet travel kit: For extended trips, consider creating a pet travel kit that includes necessary items like food, treats, water bowls, clothing, medication, toys, waste disposal bags, and blankets. The contents of the kit may vary depending on your pet's specific needs.

  3. Collar, leash, or harness: Keep your dog on a leash outside the car when taking breaks to stretch their legs, as new and unfamiliar surroundings may make them nervous and excitable.

  4. Seat covers: Use soft, cushioned covers or waterproof designs to protect your car seats from potential pet-related accidents or messes.

  5. Anti-anxiety remedies: Consider using products like compression coats, pheromone collars, or supplements if your pet experiences travel anxiety. Consult with your veterinarian for suitable options.

Before embarking on a trip with your pet, ensure that they are familiar with the harnesses, belts, carriers, and other equipment that you will be using to make the journey more comfortable and stress-free for them.

Managing travel sickness in dogs

Similar to humans, dogs may experience motion sickness while traveling, with some common symptoms including drooling, excessive swallowing, lip licking, retching, and panting. If your dog exhibits these signs, it's advisable to contact a veterinarian and seek professional advice before traveling with your pet. To prevent motion sickness before it occurs, consider the following tips:

  • Feed your dog two to three hours before traveling

  • Take your dog for a walk to expend excess energy before the journey

  • Ensure your dog is not overheated

  • Start with shorter car trips to acclimate your dog to longer trips

  • Provide a comfortable and stable seat for your dog

  • Use a car harness or adapted seatbelt that allows your dog to face forward and anticipate turns

  • Take regular breaks during the trip

To reduce the likelihood of motion sickness, ensure that your dog is safe and secure during the journey to prevent their balance from being disrupted. If your pet experiences severe motion sickness, your veterinarian may prescribe anti-sickness medication. However, avoid giving your pet human motion sickness medication, which may not work and may have adverse effects.

Traveling with pets in the car in hot weather

External weather conditions are a crucial factor in ensuring the safety of pets during travel. It's best to avoid taking pets on long journeys during hot weather, but for necessary short trips, it's important to take steps to keep them comfortable.

Despite seemingly mild temperatures outside, the temperature inside a car can reach up to 47°C when it's just 22°C outside, posing a risk of heatstroke for most pets, which can be fatal.

To ensure your pet's safety during hotter conditions, consider taking the following steps:

  • Use air conditioning to keep the car cool and prevent it from becoming humid and stuffy.

  • Use pet sunscreen, which is essential but often overlooked, especially for dogs. Look for products specifically designed for pets that are free from harmful zinc oxide, waterproof for longer protection, provide UVA and UVB protection, and are fragrance-free to avoid irritation. Apply sunscreen gently over sensitive areas such as the ears, nose, belly, tail, and back. This level of protection is particularly important for dogs with finer fur, such as greyhounds and bulldogs.

Overall, it's crucial to be mindful of external weather conditions and take appropriate steps to ensure the safety and comfort of your pet during travel.

Take breaks.

Frequent breaks offer the opportunity to step out of a hot car and breathe in some fresh air, providing much-needed relief for everyone, including your pet. These breaks also allow you to offer your pet fresh water, which can help reduce their body temperature and make them feel more at ease.

Shade them.

To shield your pet from the intense heat of the sun, try to create a shaded area in your car whenever possible. This may require improvising with blankets or other materials to block out sunlight.

If you notice any signs of heatstroke in your dog during transport, such as heavy panting, loss of balance, vomiting or diarrhea, lethargy, collapse, excessive drooling, dry or bright red gums, or unusual behavior, pull over immediately and provide fresh air. Act quickly to cool your pet down using cold water and fans, and offer them plenty of water to drink. Heatstroke can cause serious and lasting harm if left untreated.

In conclusion, traveling with your pet can be an enjoyable experience, but it's important to prioritize their safety while on the road. By following the tips outlined in this article, such as creating an emergency kit, properly securing your pet, and taking frequent breaks, you can ensure a comfortable and safe journey for both you and your furry friend. Remember to take the necessary precautions to keep your pet happy and secure during your travels. Safe travels!

For more information on keeping your pets safe read the full guide here


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