Whether for business or leisure, an increasing number of pet owners are choosing to bring their pets with them when traveling. An overwhelming majority of pet owners believe their animal companions are another member of the family, and it’s only natural that, much like their human loved ones, they want to travel with their beloved companions by their side. Traveling with pets is an exciting experience that provides an opportunity to bond and explore a new place together, all while saving money on boarding or pet-sitting expenses, and guaranteeing their proper care and safety.

However, traveling with a pet isn’t always easy. Even the best-behaved or most relaxed animals can get nervous and anxious in new places or on the road. Being in unfamiliar environments, around strange people, with new smells and sounds can be overwhelming and stressful for all types of animals. Air travel, in particular, can be difficult, but some pets may become stressed or upset in short car trips around town. It simply depends on the pet, and some, regardless of what type of animal it is, will travel better than others.

Many pets, though, can successfully travel in cars or in the air if you know how to do it. As a pet owner, it’s your responsibility to minimize potential safety risks while providing them with the level of comfort they need to keep them as relaxed and calm as possible. Getting your pet ready for travel can be difficult in and of itself, but making these preparations ahead of time will ensure that you and your pet are ready for your upcoming journey — and that both of you will enjoy yourselves each step of the way.

Everyday Car Travel

Short car rides for appointments or errands around town are likely the most common way that a majority of pet owners travel with their pets.In fact, over half of the surveyed pet owners bring their animals in the car with them more than six times per month. Though they’re common, short car trips still require you to take some safety precautions for your pet. The majority of car accidents occur close to drivers’ homes, often within just a few miles, and if you aren’t careful, a quick trip to the vet or park could result in injuries for you and your pet.

Keep Them in the Backseat

First off, you should always keep your pet in the backseat of your vehicle. It may not be as fun as having them sit in the passenger seat next to you, but it’s crucial for your safety, as well as that of other people on the road, to keep pets in the back. Pets can be incredibly distracting for the driver, and they can easily hurt themselves (or you) while moving around the vehicle. Further, as reported, an unrestrained pet “that weighs 50 pounds, in a 35 mph collision, is projected forward like a cannonball with 1,500 pounds of force.” This can easily result in severe injuries to anyone sitting in the front seat, as well as the pet itself and other people on the road.

Even if your pet doesn’t ride in the car often or isn’t used to sitting in the back seat, it’s not too late to start cultivating this habit. Small animals, such as rodents and reptiles, can easily be transported in their usual carriers, but they should still be restrained or tied down to the seat of the car in some way. Dogs, especially large ones, can be more difficult to contain. Crates, barriers between the front and back seats, zip lines, dog seat belts, and hammocks are all common, safe, affordable, and effective ways to make sure that even the most excited and nervous pooches stay put. Explore several different options to see which works best for your car and your canine.

Prepare a Travel Kit

Before going anywhere, you should prepare a pet travel kit that you can keep in your vehicle — that way, should you ever need it, the kit is readily available with all the necessary supplies. If your car breaks down, your pet has an emergency, or anything unexpected occurs on the road, you have one less thing to worry about. What you include in the kit will vary greatly depending on what type of pet you have and what they need, but generally, your kit should have:

  • Food, water, and treats;
  • Medications and basic first aid supplies;
  • Food and water bowls;
  • A leash or other restraint for walking;
  • Waste pickup bags and/or potty pads;
  • Toys, blankets, and other items for entertainment.

Not only is it important to have items you would need for your pet in case of emergency, but you should also have items that will help them feel more comfortable on the road. This is especially true for pets who get anxious or upset in the car. Having their favorite toy or blanket can help them feel more relaxed despite the stressful situation. Additionally, giving them their favorite treats or some kind of reward for going in the car can help them associate car rides with positive outcomes, rather than as a negative experience.

Leaving Pets in the Car

Finally, no matter what time of year it is or what type of pet you have, you should never leave them in the car unattended. Leaving your pet in the car can have disastrous consequences, including making them more anxious and putting them at risk of theft or harm. They could roam around your vehicle and engage in destructive behaviors, or put themselves in a position that interferes with your ability to drive safely — such as getting stuck underneath your brake pedal.

Additionally, the weather can have adverse health effects on your pet. The temperature in a car can raise or lower very quickly in extremely cold or hot weather, but on a 70-degree day, your car’s temperature can increase by 20 degrees within 10 minutes. These high temperatures can cause overheating, dehydration, or death if your pet is left unattended for extended periods of time. Because of the severe consequences of leaving pets in a car. many people may take it upon themselves to help a pet left in a vehicle, which may involve alerting the authorities or breaking a window to get your pet out. For their wellbeing, it’s best to simply have someone stay in the car with them or bring them home if you know you have to leave your vehicle.

Car Safety Tips

For long drives and short trips alike, there are a few things to consider about general car safety that you need to keep in mind before and during your journey. You should know your car, its limitations, and its mechanics well; having car troubles is bad enough, but things will only be more stressful for both of you if your pet is along for the ride. Similarly, don’t take your car out into conditions that it can’t handle, and don’t push yourself to drive in situations where you’re uncomfortable, especially if you have your pet with you. If you aren’t familiar already, consider exploring your automotive educational options to see how you can learn more about cars and car safety. Learn as much as you can about how to make your vehicle as safe and secure as possible for both you and your pet.

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Safety Tips for Traveling With Your Pets