Road Trips - How to Turn Your Pet Into an Easy Rider

Warmer weather, longer days - summer is in full swing! And with this season many of us finally hit the open road to tackle long awaited travel plans.  Whether it be a quick trip to a backyard barbeque, a day-long drive to the beach, or a cross-country road trip, our pets often hitch a ride and join us as travel companions. 

Traveling can be exciting, but also stressful even for the most organized and seasoned traveler. Our pets can also become stressed , whether by sensing our own travel anxieties or being triggered by suitcases, the crate, or changes in schedule.  Here are some tips to turn the rough waters of travel into a smooth sailing vacation!

Be Prepared

Ideally, the first time your pet experiences a car ride should not be the start of a multi-day road trip. Try to acclimate your pet to car rides by taking them on shorter drives leading up to the big trip. This way, you can determine how your pet behaves in the car. Do they get horrible motion sickness and vomit? Do they stress, pant, and whine the entire time? Be sure to talk with your veterinarian to determine if your pet would benefit from anti-nausea or anti-anxiety medications prior to travel. 

Crated Confinement

For car rides, it is safest for your pet to be confined in a crate large enough for them to stand up and turn around in.  If your pet must ride outside the crate, there are harnesses that clip into seatbelts, because everyone should always buckle up! Despite it’s adorable imagery, having your pet stick it’s head out the window can be dangerous, as we can never predict how they will react when scared or startled - and your joy ride may turn into a foot race if your pup decides to jump out the window!  Debris from the road and air can also cause serious damage to the eyes.

Identification is Everything

During any travel, always make sure your pet has identifiable tags and a current rabies license. That way, should your pet decide to go on a walkabout or if they get into a rumble with another traveling canine, you can be appropriately alerted. Additionally, microchipping is a permanent way for your pet to always be linked to your contact information. 

Bring a Doggy Bag

Your pet needs a suitcase, too! Be sure to bring a leash, waste bags, a travel or collapsible water bowl, and bottles of water. That way, even if you aren’t near a rest stop you will be able to meet you pup’s hydration needs. Additionally, it is also a good idea to prevent your pet from drinking from unknown water sources or puddles to prevent tummy upset or worse, bacterial and parasite infections. Be sure to also bring any medication your pet needs, a favorite toy, and a blanket or pillow with the familiar smell of home. Depending on how well your pet tolerates the car, you may want to avoid feeding them during active travel. Rather, feed them an hour or two before and again once you have checked in for the night. 

Papers, please

It is always a good idea to travel with your pet’s rabies certificate, as it is required when entering certain states. Depending on where you are traveling, your pet may need a domestic health certificate as well, with proof of recent vaccinations. 

Stop at Rest Stops

Even though your pet may be a champion at bladder control, a car ride is not the time to test their limits! Be sure to make frequent stops every 3-4 hours to allow your pet to stretch, go for a walk, and relieve themselves.  

The Cardinal Rule…

NEVER leave your pet unattended in the car! They pose a serious flight risk if you end up leaving the windows partially open. If you leave the windows open just a “crack” to keep them confined within the car, the interior temperature can rise 10-15 degrees every 10 minutes! That means that even on a cool 70 degree summer day, a quick 20 minute stop at Starbucks can turn your car into a 100 degree sauna! Left in these temperatures, pets can develop heat stroke, which is a potentially fatal condition.