Authored by: Dr. Lindsey, DVM
Car safety is not just important for humans but also for our furry friends that travel with us as well. Here are some car safety and road trip tips for dogs:
- Dogs should be properly restrained. Restraints are usually a pet seat belt/harness, but a crate or pet barrier could also be helpful. Dogs usually need some training to accept being in a seatbelt or crate. If possible, it’s best to start car training as a puppy. Start with short rides like around the block and gradually work up to longer and longer car rides. Make it a positive experience by giving lots of reassurance and pets or by giving a special treat when the car ride is done.
- Don’t put a pet in the front seat. They can be injured by the airbags.
- If you travel with open windows, make sure the dog can’t put their head or legs out the window. Debris can fly into their eyes and cause injury, or they may decide to jump out.
- Set the child locks on power windows so dogs can’t open or close the windows themselves which can also lead to injuries.
- Exercise dogs before long trips and take frequent breaks for them to stretch their legs and go to the bathroom.
- Don’t feed a dog in a moving vehicle. Some dogs get motion sickness. Also, owners may not notice if the dog begins to choke. It’s best to wait until at the destination or at least parked for feeding.
- Use cargo mats and liners. This can make for easier clean-up if a dog vomits from motion sickness or gets diarrhea from nervousness.
- Have your pet microchipped and wearing a collar with identification in case of a mishap like the dog runs away or a car accident.
- Some pets may need prescription medications, calming collars, thundershirts, or supplements for long car rides. No matter how much training an owner does to get their pet used to car rides, some dogs may just be too anxious or get motion sick. Talk to your veterinarian about what can be done to help your dog on road trips. Always make sure to try the medication or supplement at home prior to traveling in case of side effects.
- Don’t forget to pack your dog’s medical records, proof of vaccines, and medications for road trips.
- Never leave a pet alone in a car even if the windows are down or the car is turned on. Heat stroke, frost bite, and theft are all serious problems and can be deadly.
Dr. Lindsey graduated from Colorado State University in 2009 and works in general practice, shelter medicine, and more recently as a civilian contractor veterinarian for the Army. She is also certified in acupuncture and resides in Palm Springs, CA.