Tips for Car Travel with Pets

Dog properly leashed on a doggy seatbelt with a dog hammock
Photo by Steve Freling of Motor Oomph

Whether you’re headed to a vet appointment, taking a road trip, or trekking to the park, pet car safety is a must. OBOL has 3 simple but potentially life-saving tips for car travel with pets!

Following these tips could mean the difference between life and death.

1. Secure your pet in the backseat

Mature woman and her cavalier dog together behind steering drive car

This number one safety tip is for you and your pet. It may be fun to have your dog sitting on your lap while you drive or to let your cat free roam in the back, but this can pose a huge risk to your safety and theirs. Unsecured pets can distract drivers, and if you slam on the brakes or get in an accident, your pets could go flying, injuring and/or kill themselves and others.

Think airbags can solve your problem? Think again. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, dogs sitting in the front of the car could be seriously injured or killed by an activated airbag. Airbags are designed to protect people, not pets, which is why we recommend that pets always be safely restrained in the backseat.

Options to properly restrain your pet in the car

Small animals (cats/small dogs/rabbits/etc.): Use a portable carrier/crate or a pet car seat. Make sure the carrier is strapped to something so it won’t move during transit.

Doggy seat belt in backseat

Larger dogs: Use a doggy seat belt to secure them in the backseat. Pet hammocks will also keep your pet confined to the backseat and keep them from sliding into the space between the back seat and driver/passenger seats. Bonus: Hammocks also keep your seats clean!

If you have a van or SUV: Secure a kennel/crate in the trunk area. For longer trips, you’ll want your dog to have enough space to stand up and turn around. Make sure to tie down the carrier so it won’t slide around.

If you have a truck: Never let your pet sit unrestrained in the bed of your truck. Dogs in open truck beds can easily fall out of the car. Worse still, they could be directly struck in an accident. There is no protection from extreme weather or debris. If you have no other alternatives, you can secure a crate in the bed of the truck to lessen exposure and risk.

2. Don’t let your pet freely hang out the windows!

Dog travel by car. Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever enjoying road trip.

It may look cute, but pets who hang out of windows risk serious injury. They could jump or fall out of the car, hurting or killing themselves. Additionally, anything close to the vehicle, like other cars, trees, signs, or poles, also endanger your pet. Dirt particles, insects, rocks, and more could fly into their eyes, nose, mouth or ears – potentially resulting in a trip to the vet. The truth about those cute ears? Continuous flapping of dog ears at high speeds can cause swelling and damage to the eardrums. No good at all.

If you have to open the windows for any reason, make sure your pet’s paws or snout are out of the way before you roll them back up. Also, keep an eye and ear out just in case your pet happens to step on a power window switch. Even better, cover the backseat window switches, or lock the back windows if your car has these capabilities.

3. Stop frequently & have a leash on hand!

Dog on a leash

If you’re taking a road trip, be sure to stop every couple of hours. Let your dog take care of business, stretch its legs, and get some water. (You should probably do the same!) Always leash your dog prior to getting out of the car. The unfamiliar environment may compel your dog to run away to explore. Having a leash will make it easier for you supervise, preventing them from running into traffic. Plus, a leash makes it easier to get them back in the car when it’s time to leave.

Thanks for reading our tips for car travel with pets!

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