Road trips are part of life. But what if you're traveling with dogs or cats? Besides packing your pet's favorite chew toys and a favorite blankie for them to cuddle with, what else should you bring? We've compiled this handy list of suggestions that will make your trip as safe, enjoyable, and stress-free as possible.
The best prevention against accidental injuries is a pet carrier.
One of the most common injuries in pets is due to accidents inside cars. No matter what size your pet is, it will be better off in a travel crate. Of course you're a safe driver, but not everyone else is, and in a worst case scenario the last thing you want is for your pet to be thrown from the car. Even crates can be thrown through windows in the course of an accident, so make sure that you tie the crate down, either on the floor of the back seat or on the back seat with the seat belt. Any crate can be made to stay in place using ropes or bungee cords. This will not only lower the risk that the crate goes flying, it will also lessen the chances your pet suffers from motion sickness. Never let animals, especially cats, roam around a car freely. Cats have a tendency to crawl under feet, and excited dogs will move from one side of the car to the other to take in all the sights. Don’t allow your pet to ride with their head out the window; they could get hurt by flying debris.
Keep your pet out of the front seat.
Yes, we know you like your little fur baby close, but the front seat is no place for an animal. That means no holding your pet on your lap while you drive, and no pets on the passenger side seat. He would be at risk even in the smallest of accidents if the airbag should deploy. And never buckle them into your car’s seat belts. Seat belts and airbags are designed for the adult sized human body, after all, and dogs are not physically equipped for either of them. The results could be fatal.
Attach a detailed travel tag with all of your contact information to your pet's collar.
If you should lose your pet during a road trip, the best chance of having it returned to you may be that tag. Consider having your pet microchipped to make identification foolproof. Just make sure you keep the contact information linked to the account updated.
Bring sufficient pet food and water for the entire trip.
Road trips are not the time to try new foods -- at least as far as your pet is concerned. Remember, your pet is not accustomed to holding it in until the next rest stop, so a bad case of digestive upset can very quickly turn into the ugliest ride of your life. Make sure that you take enough food to last until you get home again, and stick to the treats your pet is already used to having. You might even want to think about filling a jug of water from home, to minimize any chance of digestive problems. Collapsible pet bowls are perfect for trips like this, as you can stash them in your pocket and fill them for rest stop breaks.
Make a "prepared for anything" travel kit.
Your emergency kit should include everything you need, of course, with the addition of pet first aid items:
- Roll of gauze
- Bandages that are specially made to stay on animals
- Hydrogen peroxide — both for cleaning wounds and for inducing vomiting
- Antibiotic ointment
- Anti-nausea medicine (if necessary, pre-approved by your veterinarian)
- Plastic bags for picking up after your pet
- Manual can opener
- Proof of rabies shots (remember, you're prepared for anything)
- Extra toys
- Baby wipes
- Cleaning wipes and paper towels, for cleaning the car
- Extra dog collar and dog leash
- A blanket or beach towel
Don’t forget a litter box for the cat.
One extra tip, just for cat owners, is the consideration of the cat litter box. There are a couple of ways to go about it. Most pet stores, and even some grocery stores, sell disposable litter trays and small "starter" litter trays. Another way is disposable aluminum trays, which can be found in most grocery stores. Many cats are secretive about their "business" though, so you might want to consider getting a cat box with an attached cover (if you don't already have one), many of which have a handle on top for easy movement. Get your cat used to using the new box before your trip, so he isn't freaked out.
This isn't the end all list for traveling by road with your pet. Let your instincts, and your pet, be your guide. But, above all else, be safe, and have fun on your adventure!