Tips for travelling with pets

Dogs need more than walks and open windows to be comfortable in cars

By Jens Nielsen

Summer is here and so are road trips.

Along with your family and friends, your pets may be joining you on the road. While you may not specifically think about pet safety on the road, it is very important, and worth putting some thought into.

It begins with choosing to take the most pet-suitable vehicle you have available. Maybe the vehicle offering the best fuel economy isn’t the best choice for travelling comfortably and safely with your pets.

Pets should never be allowed to travel on your lap or in the front seat. You would never consider allowing a child to do this, for fear of what could happen in a crash. Your pet would be propelled into the dash or windshield the same as a child would. It’s said that a 27-kilogram pet travelling at 55 km/h can turn into a 1,200-kg projectile in a crash. Deploying airbags can also seriously injure or kill your pet.

Pet barriers keep your pet cordoned off to one area of your vehicle. This assists in keeping them away from the front seat, and may help avoid distracted driving, but offers very little protection in the event of a crash. Your pet will ping-pong around that area. These barriers are often attached to side windows with plastic suction cups or pressure fitted. They are not meant to stand up to a crash.

Crash tested pet crates, properly secured within your vehicle, are a much safer way of travelling with your pet. Get a good quality one, the right size for your pet, with lots of ventilation.

Pet harness restraints that click into the child seat connectors on your car may be another option. Once again choose quality and fit over price.

Remembering things like leashes and dog waste bags seem obvious but are often forgotten.

Other things to consider are:

Taking your pet for a walk to get some good exercise just prior to departure will make it easier and less stressful on your pet.

Bring copies of up-to-date vaccinations. Write down or take a picture with your phone of any medication your pet is on in case it gets lost and you need to find replacements on the road.

Make sure your pets have vaccination tags, license tags, and tags with their name, your name and your cell number on their collar. Have some recent pictures of your pets on your phone in case they get lost and you need to show people.

Cargo mats with a lip around the edge are ideal for keeping accidents and spills contained. They also can be pulled out and hosed off, making cleanup a breeze.

Giving your pet a new or special treat, or toy while travelling can help keep them stay focused on something fun and not the stress of travelling.

Bringing your pet’s bed or mat from home may help them feel more comfortable and at home while travelling.

Lots of water and familiar food will help keep your pet happy. Portioning out meals in zip lock bags makes feeding easy. Bring extra meals in case you are delayed.

Stop every few hours to let everyone stretch their legs and use the bathroom.

Letting your pet hang their head out the window in the wind may look fun but it can cause serious eye, ear, and even head injuries.

Finally, while it may not be as prevalent as pictures on Facebook suggest, pets are still being left in hot cars. Never leave your pet inside the car on a hot day even in the shade. When it is 26 C outside your car it can get to 43 C inside within 20 minutes. This is way too hot for your pet. Even leaving the windows open isn’t enough. Leaving the engine running with the air conditioning may be a better option but could also result in serious trouble if the vehicle engine quit for some reason.

If you see a pet locked in a hot car in peril take pictures of the situation, including the make and model of the vehicle and license plate number. Your options are then to have the store page the customer, call animal control, or the local authorities. As a last result people have taken action themselves by breaking into the car to rescue the pet.

While all these points may seem obvious and simple, it’s easy in the rush of getting ready yourself to overlook these items. It’s a good idea to make a checklist for your pet like you do for yourself while planning a trip.

Catch Driving with Jens on CHON FM Thursdays at 8:15. If you have any questions or comments you can reach out to Jens Nielsen at drivingwithjens@gmail.com. Facebook or Twitter: @drivingwithjens

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