The majority of pet owners would love nothing more than to take their pet with them on every trip. Leaving a pet behind makes you feel like you’re excluding a member of the family, and it’s especially hard on the kids. On the other hand, taking your pet with you makes family escapades more fun. No need to go searching around for a sitter or boarding kennel to provide pet care in your absence. It’s important, however, to remember that in the car, safety comes first.

Shiba Inu in carOf course, the downside is that travel is stressful for pets. If the destination can be reached by car, this makes pet travel more viable, but it’s still not easy. Some pets handle car travel better than others, but whether your pal is a good traveler or not, additional car safety measures are needed. Pets find the task of sitting still for long hours impossible, and they need more ventilation than you or your kids.

Here are a few pet care tips for life on the road. Keep these in mind and traveling with your pooch will a lot easier.

Keeping pets restrained in the car

Dogs in seat belt

A 2010 survey conducted by AAA found that 20% of participants allow their dogs to sit on their lap during car journeys. Thirty-one per cent admitted they were distracted by their dog while driving. This is obviously ill-advised, and puts everyone in the car and on the road at risk.

Several states, including New Jersey, Hawaii and Rhode Island, have made it illegal for drivers to leave their pets unrestrained during car travel. Colonel Frank Rizzo, superintendent of the New Jersey Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (NJSPCA), said, “You wouldn’t put your child in the car unrestrained, so you shouldn’t put your pet in the car unrestrained, either.”

Don’t hesitate to look into pet travel accessories such as pet carriers. Dog crates are designed to give your dog enough room to stand, sit and lie down; which they can do in the car without being a distraction or a menace. Crates shouldn’t be fully enclosed. They need to provide or allow good ventilation.

If you’re not sold on dog crates, you can try a dog car harness. A quality dog car harness will keep your pet safe and comfortable during the trip. Car harnesses for cats are also available. There’s also the option of placing pet barriers in your car to limit movement. If you’re unsure, chat to your vet about pet carriers, harnesses and other options that can help with pet travel. Your dog trainer or a behaviourist should also be able to give you good advice.

Pup in carOn the road

Now you’ve got your pet strapped in nice and tight, here are some tips for keeping him safe and happy during the drive:

  • Dogs like things that are familiar. Taking some of his chew toys along on the journey will help keep him calm and give him an outlet for some of that pent up energy. Treats can help with that as well.
  • Bring lots of bottled water to help keep your pet hydrated.
  • According to the ASPCA, you should feed your pet a light meal three or four hours prior to departure.
  • You should keep the windows open enough to provide plenty of fresh air, but not so much that your dog can stick his head out the car. If you want to keep the windows wide open, make sure your pet is well restrained.
  • Don’t seat your pet in front of an airbag. They may be good at protecting adults, but can cause serious injuries to pets.
  • With cats, it’s useful to bring some Feliway along for the trip. This is a pheromone that has been shown to have a relaxing effect on cats. It’s non-toxic and does not affect dogs or people. It can be purchased at most pet stores and from Amazon.
  • When you stop the car, make sure your pet never gets out on the traffic side. It would also be beneficial to train him not to get out of the car without your say-so.

Preventing heatstroke in dogs

Heatstroke in dogs is a serious issue, and it can become a serious problem much quicker than many dog owners realize. Dogs have a very low tolerance for heat when inside a car and even leaving the windows open or parking the car in the shade does not guarantee their well-being on a hot day. Even if the weather outside doesn’t feel particularly hot to you, it can get unbearable for your canine companion very quickly.

Dog in hot car

The simple approach is to never leave your dog unattended inside a vehicle. In fact, doing so has been made illegal in 18 states. In states without specific laws relating to dogs in hot cats, the perpetrator could still be convicted on other charges, such as cruelty. Many of these states even have legislation that entitles you to break into a vehicle if it contains a domestic animal you feel is at risk. Find out more about state laws regarding unattended animals in parked vehicles.

If you happen upon a dog left unattended in a vehicle and you fear there’s a risk of heatstroke, don’t hesitate to contact the police or your local animal rescue service. Find more information about preventing heatstroke in dogs.