Hitting the road with your pet for a vacation or just a quick getaway doesn't have to be a stressful endeavor. In fact, with the right preparations, taking your pet along is not only easy, but a fun and bonding experience. Here are our tried-and-true tips for traveling by car with pets.
Should Your Pet Travel?
This is the first thing to take into consideration, as your pets's safety and well-being is of utmost importance. If your pet is ill, injured, or has any condition that will make travel uncomfortable for him, it may be in his best interest to leave him at home with a trusted caretaker.
- Healthy Start: The last thing you need is a sick pet when traveling. This means a visit to the vet for a medical checkup and to ensure that your pet is up-to-date with all necessary vaccinations. The veterinarian can also issue a health certificate for your pet. If you and your pet will be traveling across state lines, you must obtain a recent health certificate and a certificate of rabies vaccination. If your plans include traveling with your pet from the United States to Canada, you will need to bring along a certificate issued by a veterinarian that clearly identifies the animal and certifies that your pet has been vaccinated against rabies during the preceding 36 month period. Be sure to contact the government of the province you plan to visit as each province has its own requirements.
- Plan for Restraint: Have a plan for how you're going to properly restrain your pet in your vehicle. This is very important during road trips that is not taken seriously enough. The reality is that hundreds of pets are injured or even killed each year because they are allowed free reign in cars, trucks, RVs, and SUVs. Even more real is the toll in human life and property damage caused when an "enthusiastic" animal distracts a driver, leading to an accident. Vehicle pet barriers, pet seat belts, pet car seats, and pet travel crates are all excellent ways to keep your pet (and you) safe when traveling in your vehicle. It's important to familiarize your pet with the vehicle restraint of choice weeks or months before traveling so that they are comfortable.
- Pet ID Tag & Chip: In the unfortunate event that your pet runs off while you're traveling, make your that you have their collar and ID tag properly secured while traveling. Be sure their ID includes your cell phone number. In addition, microchipping your pet is advised to help ensure their safe return. It's also a good idea to have a current photo of your pup on your phone. A photograph will make it easier for others to help you find your lost pet.
- Packing Essentials: When packing for your pet include an ample supply of your pet's food. Don't rely on stopping along the way to pick up their food or picking it up at your final destination. Their particular brand of food may not be readily available and it is not advisable to introduce your pet to a new brand of food while traveling. Other essentials to pack for your pet include collapsible travel food and water bowls, bedding, litter and litter box, leash, collar and tags, favorite toys, grooming supplies, a pet first-aid kit and any necessary medications. And of course - be sure to always have an ample supply of water available for your pet.
- Secure Pet Friendly Accommodations: If you're planning a long journey and will need to stay in pet friendly accommodations on the way to your final destination, be sure to secure these accommodations before you hit the road. Map out where you'll be spending the night and arrange for lodging along the way.
- Medical Records: In case of a medical emergency while traveling, it is advisable to bring along your pets medical records or have them available online.
- No Heads Out the Window: Although many pets find that sticking their head out the window is the best part of the road trip, it's not safe. Your pet can easily be injured by flying debris. This should go without saying, but NEVER travel with a pet in the back of a pickup truck. Some states have laws restricting such transport and it is always dangerous.
- Frequent Pit Stops: Always provide frequent bathroom and exercise breaks. Most travel service areas have designated areas for walking your pet. Be sure to stay in this area particularly when you pet needs a potty breaks and of course, bring along a bag to pick up after your pet. When outside your vehicle, make sure that your pet is always on a leash and wearing a collar with a permanent and temporary travel identification tag.
- Proper Hydration: During your pit stops be sure to provide your pet with some fresh water to wet their whistle. Occasionally, traveling can upset your pet's stomach. Take along ice cubes, which are easier on your pet than large amounts of water.
- Watch the Food Intake: It is recommended that you keep feeding to a minimum during travel. Be sure to feed them their regular pet food and resist the temptation to give them some of your fast food burger or fries (that never has a good ending).
- Don't Leave Them Alone: Never leave your pet unattended in a parked vehicle. On warm days, the temperature in your vehicle can rise to 120 degrees in minutes, even with the windows slightly open. In addition, an animal left alone in a vehicle is an open invitation to pet thieves.
- Practice Restraint: Be sure that your pet is safely restrained in your vehicle. Utilizing a pet safety harness, travel kennel, vehicle pet barrier, or pet car seat are the best ways to keep your pet safe. They not only protect your pet from injury, but they help by keeping them from distracting you as you drive. A safety harness functions like a seatbelt. While most pets will not have a problem adjusting to it, you may want to let them wear the harness by itself a few times before using it in the vehicle. If your pet prefers a travel kennel, be sure it is well ventilated and stabilized. Many pet owners prefer vehicle barriers, particularly for larger pets. Vehicle barriers are best suited for SUVs. Smaller pets are best suited for pet car seats. The car seat is secured in the back seat using a seat belt and your pet is secured in the car seat with a safety harness. In addition to it's safety features, a pet car seat will prop up your smaller pet, allowing them to better look out the window. No matter what method you choose, back seat travel is always safer for your pet.
- Safe and Comfortable: Whatever method you choose to properly restrain your pet in your vehicle, be sure to make their comfort a priority. Just as it's important for your "seat" to be comfortable for your long road trip, your pet's seat should be comfortable too. Typically their favorite blanket or travel bed will do the trick. There are also some safe and very cozy pet car seats available that your pet may find quite comfy.