If you like to travel with your dog or cat, they need just as much protection as a child does—sometimes more. Children often understand, especially as they get older, that while in the car, they are supposed to sit down and stay still. Dogs and cats on the other hand, may try to roam. You may be lucky; maybe your dog will sit on his seat and stay still and quiet while in the car. My dog will pace back and forth on the backseat before trying to first, lick the face of whoever is driving, and then climb into their lap (she is a fifty-pound collie mix).
If you want to keep a dog or cat safe during a car ride, whether you are taking them on a road trip or you are just driving to the vet, here are some tips and items that will help:
- A pet restraint – Just like a child, a dog or cat can benefit from being restrained while in the car. While this isn’t a law yet, it soon may be. Unlike a person who may be able to brace themselves in the event of an impact, a pet will have no concept of preserving himself during an accident. Luckily, there are lots of different types of restraints, including ones that still allow them some degree of freedom to move around the seat and others that keep them buckled down.
- Barrier between back and front seats – If you have a dog, small or large, that wants to ride in the front seat, even if both of those seats are occupied, you might want to consider getting a barrier that makes it impossible for him to climb into the front seat. These partitions are usually secured to the front two seats, and are high enough that even large dogs will not be able to climb over them. Dogs often try to climb into your seat because they are nervous in the car, but this means that you are likely to become distracted while trying to either keep them in the back seat or find room for them in the front seat.
- Travel in the crate – If your dog or cat is crate trained, this can be a great way to safely transport your pet. Not only are they less likely to feel nervous when they are in a familiar crate, they are also less likely to be hurt if there is an accident. A crate is much easier to secure, especially in the cargo space of your vehicle, than a dog or a cat in your backseat or in the copilot seat. If your pet is not familiar with a crate, but you know that they are going to need to travel in one, if you are moving, for example, start a few months before hand to acclimatize them to the idea of a crate. This won’t work for every pet, but it can provide some safety for some pets.
- Child lock your windows and doors – If your pet likes to stand on the armrests in order to see out the windows while you are driving, it is probably a good idea to use the child locks on those windows and doors. That way, they won’t step or tug on the wrong button or handle and create a very dangerous situation. Just remember to turn those lock off when you are going to have people in your car again.
- Take more frequent breaks – This is especially true of you are on a road trip, but is true of any trip longer than three hours. Even if you can sit and drive for five or six hours without needing to take a break your dog or cat can’t. They will want to get out and stretch their legs every few hours. They also likely will need to go to the bathroom every few hours. Doing this, even if they are not asking to go to the bathroom, will prevent any messes from occurring inside your car.
- Consider sedation – Not every pet parent wants to resort to sedation, but for some, it may be the only way to keep your pet safe and happy on a long trip. If you have a dog that gets car sick or a cat with serious anxiety issues, riding in a car for a long time can be stressful—not just for your pet, but for you, too. There are lots of safe ways to mellow your pet out a little bit, if you know that they get nervous in the car. Our vet told us that half an antihistamine tablet (the medication our dog already took for his extreme allergies), would help to mellow him and his sister out when we were moving with those two dogs. Talk to your vet to make sure you are giving your pet the right dosage of the right medication.
- Bring plenty of water – Not just for you, but for your pet, too. Dogs pant and get thirsty more often when they are nervous. Cats may not exhibit the same behavior, but that doesn’t mean that they are getting dehydrated. Not only should you bring extra water for your pet, bring something that they are comfortable drinking out of. In a pinch, you can always pour some water into your hands and let them drink out of your hands, but a collapsible bowl or Tupperware is a great alternative.