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Safety Tips for Traveling With Your Pet


Gas prices remain high, and airports are facing an uptick in passengers as pandemic restrictions ease. Still, more travelers are venturing out and taking advantage of the flexibility and comfort of hitting the road in a car or RV. For many families, the most significant bonus of road trips is they make traveling with pets easy.

Whether taking a short day trip or a longer trek across state lines, you must ensure that your furry family member is as safe as everyone else in the vehicle. Here are some tips for assuring pet safety on trips.

Buckle Up!

Dog harnessed in a vehicle

The first and most important step when traveling with a pet is to secure them safely in the vehicle. Just as you would never drive without a seatbelt, harness your pets before the car starts moving. This habit is for their safety and yours. If a collision occurs and the pet doesn’t have a harness, it can be seriously hurt. Also, you may sustain an injury as your beloved pet can fly forward in the vehicle if a crash occurs.

Your best bet is a canine seatbelt. These come in a variety of sizes to fit all manner of dogs. They usually attach to a harness, then buckle into a seatbelt. A pet carrier may be more comfortable for smaller dogs. However, be sure you securely fasten it to the seat.

And while we all know that dogs love to put their heads out the window, it’s safer that they stay inside. The danger is much greater at highway speeds, where even the smallest of debris can hurt your dog’s eyes or ears.

Bring the Necessities and More

The length of your trip will determine what and how much of it you should bring for your pet, but some items are essential no matter if you drive down the road or across the country. The most important is fresh water and a bowl. Bring more water than you think you’ll need. It’s always better to have extra than not enough, which is true for the humans in your vehicle, too. We recommend keeping water bottles in a cooler for hotter climates and the summer months. After all, no one likes warm water on a hot day.

If your dog requires medication, this too should be brought. Even if you don’t think you’ll be using it due to the short length of your trip, it’s always better to bring it along. If we’re learning anything since this pandemic began, it’s that life is full of unexpected detours. Play it safe and plan for curveballs along the way.

Plan for Meals

Bringing dog food on your trip is also vital for your pet’s health. While we humans can get away with pulling into a drive-through when our stomachs growl, a double-cheeseburger and fries probably isn’t the best bet for Fido. Dogs do best with the familiar, so bring along the food they know and keep those drive-through indulgences to a minimum, if at all. The last thing you want is an accident in the car or outside a restaurant. Trust us; we speak from experience on this one.

Bring Toys

Just as we don’t expect our kids to idly sit in the back seat on a long trip without games, books, or something to keep them occupied, it’s wise to have a toy, ball, bone, or the like to help keep your dog busy. While some dogs – and their fortunate owners – have no trouble sleeping for the duration of trips, others can get restless. Bring something familiar to keep them busy along the way.

Finally, bring your dog’s bedding or pillows and bedding with their scent on them. Familiar things will give them comfort, a sense of safety, and a piece of home even when you’re away from it.

Keep Everyone Comfortable

Once you’ve finally wrangled and secured everyone in the vehicle and are on your way, it’s time to keep them comfortable. Again, as with kids, a good tip for safely traveling with pets is to prepare them before getting inside the car. That means last-minute bathroom breaks and, for our dogs, a nice walk.

Once inside, ensure your dog has room to spread out and be comfortable while buckled in. If you include the family cat along for the ride, bringing a litter box is a good idea.

Providing ventilation and keeping your pet cool and comfortable is critical for their health and safety. If your vehicle has rear-seat air vents, keep them open and directed toward your dog. If the car only has front vents, point them so air reaches the back seats. It’s also helpful to crack the windows now and then to get fresh air inside.

Stay attuned to your dog and take breaks as necessary so they can stretch their legs, heed the call of nature and sniff out the places you’re traveling. And, of course, never, ever leave a pet inside a parked car, no matter how brief you think it will be.

Keep these pet travel tips and safety measures in mind to help ensure that all of your family members – the 4-legged ones included – will have a far better traveling experience.

Related Pet Articles:

Editor’s Note: This article has been updated for accuracy since it was originally published.

Matt Degen
Matt Degen
Matt Degen is an author specializing in interesting news and features about cars. Matt is a longtime lover of both cars and news, as well as the latest technology. He was the past automotive editor of The Orange County Register newspaper and a former board member of the Motor Press Guild, the nation’s largest automotive media association. He holds degrees in Communications and Culinary Arts.... Read More about Matt Degen

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1 COMMENT

  1. If traveling with a cat, I also suggest having a really loud stereo to cover up the constant meowing, and a pair of the kind of chain-mail gloves used by meat cutters for putting kitty in the cat carrier. 

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