January 2 marks National Pet Travel Safety Day, a time to make a resolution to keep your dog or cat safe every time you get in the car. Whether pet travel means a dog-friendly vacation, day trip, visit to a dog park, trip to the veterinarian, or a ride home from the shelter, it’s important to make each and every trip a safe one!
History of National Pet Travel Safety Day
National Pet Travel Safety Day was created by celebrity pet and family lifestyle expert Colleen Paige in order to heighten awareness of the traveling needs of dogs and cat.
25 tips to make sure your pet travels safely
- Just as you would never leave the driveway without ensuring that your child is safely buckled in with a seat belt or securely fastened into a car seat or booster seat, so your fur baby should also be restrained when you get behind the wheel. An unsecured dog is a danger to your dog, your passengers, and the driver.
- Cats travel best in their carrier. Help make travel easier on your cat by making the carrier a safe place for your cat. Leave the carrier out and open at home, lined with a cuddly blanket or sweater. Toss your cat’s favorite treats and toys inside then let your cat come and go at will.
- Secure carriers with a seat belt so that, in the event of a sudden stop, the carrier is secured.
- Make sure your pet is properly vaccinated. Talk with your veterinarian about proper vaccinations. Travel often means coming in contact with other animals so be prepared.
- Look at pheromone products. Pheromone products produce an overall feeling of comfort and safety mimicking the pheromones released by a nursing mother. Sprays you can spritz on a pet carrier or a pet mat are easy for travel in the car and a hotel room.
- Don’t let your dog ride in your lap. Are you old enough to remember children riding in the front seat in their mother’s laps? (Yep, we are!) Today no one would think of letting children in their lap yet many people sit in the front seat–and even in the driver’s seat–with their dog or cat in their lap. Riding with a pet in your lap is illegal in several states with proposed legislation in other states–but you don’t have to rely on a law to do the right thing for both you and your dog. Please secure your dog or cat (in his carrier) in his own seat.
- Don’t let your dog ride in the front passenger seat. The weight of your dog or your cat’s carrier sitting the passenger seat will signal to the corresponding air bag that it needs to deploy in the case of an accident, possibly injuring (or worse) your pet with its 200 mph force when it suddenly deploys. If you put your small dog in the passenger seat, he needs to be up on a booster seat that doesn’t apply any weight to the seat itself. Some cars have on-off switches for the passenger air bags as well. In general, though, the back seat is the safest place for your dog or for your cat carrier!
- Don’t let your dog ride in the bed of a pickup. You’d think this would go without saying but people still continue to travel with dogs in pickup beds. More and more states are making this illegal but regardless of the law in your location, never drive with a dog in the bed of a pickup.
- Don’t let your dog stand on the center console. Dogs (even secured dogs in seat belts) in the back seat can sometimes reach that console between the front seats. If your dog is putting his front feet on the console to get attention, he’s distracting you as you drive.
- Travel with food and litter. While it takes up some space, it’s much easier to travel with your pet’s food and your cat’s favorite brand of litter rather than shopping for it at your destination (or, worse, finding yourself having to buy a different brand.)
- Microchip your pet. Even if your dog or cat wears a collar with a tag, it pays to have your vet place a permanent microchip in your cat in case she should be lost on a trip.
- When you get your pet microchipped, be sure to register that number with a service such as HomeAgain.
- Check your pet’s ID tag; if it is damaged or hard to read, replace it.
- Create a tag with your cell number. It’s also a good idea to create an ID tag with your cell phone number.
- Travel with a pet first aid kit.
- Consider a high-tech tracker. For added protection beyond the tag, look into high-tech tag options that use GPS or Bluetooth technology to help you track a lost pet using an app on your cell phone.
- Carry the scent of home. Your pet’s favorite blanket is a comforting scent of home in a new place, whether that’s the carrier, vet’s office or hotel room.
- If you’re traveling out of town, look up the address and phone number of animal hospitals at your destination and along the trip route. Print out the information or add it to your smartphone for easy access.
- Choose car travel whenever possible. Car travel is less stressful on dogs and cats than air travel.
- Rethink a trip if your pet is too large to fly in the cabin with you. If your dog is too large to fly in the cabin (20 pounds max, depending on the airline), think long and hard before considering a flight with him in cargo. It’s extremely stressful and, for some pets, dangerous.
- Carry a record from your home vet confirming that your dog or cat has had all the necessary shots. Hotels and other lodging establishments may require showing proof of vaccinations at check-in.
- Pack an emergency card in your wallet explaining that you are traveling with X number of pets, their descriptions, and your veterinarian’s contact information in case you should be involved in an accident.
- To prevent dehydration, pack plenty of water and a water bowl for your trip. A clip-on water bowl is useful for hikes and roadside stops, too.
- Give your dog opportunities to stretch his legs with rest stops every two or three hours. Not only is it good for your dog, but the stop is good for the driver as well.
- Remember that you should NEVER leave a dog or cat alone in a car. Doing so puts your pet at risk of heat injuries, hypothermia and theft.
Our #1 Pet Peeve – What We Ask You to Do on National Pet Travel Safety Day
In our travels, we notice that most cat lovers are good about traveling with their cats in carriers. The cat remains in her carrier until safely arriving at the destination, inside and with the door closed.
Pet parents with dogs, however, are not following the same safe practices—and many are participating in what is our number one pet peeve when it comes to pet travel safety: letting their dog stick his head (if not his entire upper body) out the open window as the car speeds down the highway.
If there’s one single thing we wish we could emphasize on National Pet Travel Safety Day, it’s please stop letting your dog put his entire head out the window! The list of dangers is scary:
- Your dog could lean too far out of the window—either in excitement or by accident—and fall out the car.
- A sudden stop or accident could project your dog out the window.
- Your dog could lose his eye if a projectile—even something as small as a bug or flying piece of gravel off the pavement—becomes embedded in his eye.
- Your dog could see a dog (or squirrel!) and suddenly jump from the car.
- Your car could be sideswiped by a passing car, crushing your dog between the two cars.
To keep your dog happy and safe, just crack the window about an inch. Fresh air and scents will come rushing in the window, providing plenty of enrichment for your dog while he travels safely inside the auto.
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