While we don’t typically drive with our pets every day, there are instances when Fido or Kitty need to go for a ride in the family vehicle. Whether it’s to visit the veterinarian, accompany you for a walk by the lake, or visit family, car rides are inevitable.
Letting your pet ride shotgun can be a serious hazard, not only to your pet but to everyone in the car. If the pet is nervous and jumping from seat to seat, the driver can be distracted, potentially leading to an accident. Dogs sitting shotgun can sustain air bag injuries as a result of an accident, and those roaming loose in the front or back seat can become projectiles in an accident. A dog literally flying through the car will not only sustain injuries himself, but can injure others in the vehicle as well.
There are many options for keeping your pet safe while driving. Following the “Do’s” and “Don’ts” below will help keep you and your pet safe and comfortable while travelling in the car.
DO crate or kennel your pet. Secure the crate so it does not slide around in the event of a sudden stop. Ensure the crate is large enough for your pet to stand up, lie down, and turn around.
DO use a pet harness. Use a size appropriate pet restraint harness that clips into the seat belt receptacle and use it every time you take your pet in the car. These are normally made to allow a pet to sit, stand, or lie down, but prevents them from being thrown in a sudden stop. Do not tether your pet by its collar; use a properly fitted harness.
DO provide some toys. Provide your pet with a favorite toy that you know will distract him when you go on car trips.
DO spend some time training. Many pets, especially cats, do not like going in cars and it is a very stressful experience for them. Train your cat to “like” her carrier. If you only use it for visits to the veterinarian, your cat will harbor negative feelings about the carrier. Make the carrier desirable in your home by lining it with a blanket and keep toys and treats in it. The next step is to train your cat or dog to enjoy car rides. Spend time with your dog in the car playing and exploring and be sure to give him treats and lots of praise. Gradually increase the time spent in the car, and place your dog in his harness or crate. Introduce new sounds by starting the car and turning on the air conditioning or heat while praising your dog or cat and give some treats. Eventually introduce short drives – first around the block and then increase the length of the drive.
DON’T have a lap dog. Do not let your dog sit on your lap while you are driving, or anyone else’s lap in the car. If you are in an accident, your pet could be caught between you and your steering wheel or dashboard, causing crushing injuries.
DON’T have the wind in his fur. Do not let your dog hang out the window (secured or not) – debris hitting your dog’s eye or head can cause serious injury – think of the stone chips your windshield has sustained and imagine the same sized stone hitting your dog. Even dirt and fine debris entering your dog’s eye can cause serious injury.
DON’T have pets ride in truck beds. Never let with your dog ride in the back of a pick-up truck unless he is secured in a crate.
Remember, never leave your pet unattended in a car, due to the very real potential of death due to overheating, and even severe hypothermia.