10 Tips for Car Travel with Pets

Traveling with pets in a vehicle.

Here are 10 tips that can help you to keep your pet safer on a long car trip.

Taking your dog, cat or other critters on the road with you can be a lot of fun - both for you and them. But it can also turn into a hassle (or even become dangerous) without some good ground rules. Here are a few suggestions for making sure that everyone stays safe and happy while traveling with pets in the car.

1. Use a Car Leash, Harness or Other Restraint

There are a lot of aftermarket products available for keeping pets safe in the car. Car leashes attached to seat belts or LATCH (Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children) systems are one option. There are also pet car seats and vehicle barriers to keep your pet out of the way while you're driving. We mention this tip at the top because it's so important to keep your pet situated and secured to avoid some pretty scary risks on the road.

2. Watch the Windows and Sunroof

Don't let your pet hang its head out of the windows. It's just not safe. We've all seen those quaint pictures of a dog with its head sticking out of a car window with its ears flapping in the wind. But this can expose your pet to danger from flying objects, so make sure to control windows and doors and other apertures while you're on the go.

3. Bring Along Familiar Items for Your Pet

If your pet is the anxious type, having a familiar pillow, toy or blanket on hand may help get them acclimated to the inside of the vehicle. If you brought a crate, keep these items inside to make your pet more comfortable during the drive.

4. Be Prepared for Poop

It's also important to anticipate one of your animal’s other needs - waste disposal. This includes pit stops, poop bags and pooper scoopers. It also means trying to take your pet to the bathroom before you start out on the trip, just to get off on the right foot. It also makes sense to look at your route and make sure you have places to periodically pull off the highway for a little exercise and a potty break.

5. Exercise Your Pet First

If you have a rambunctious pit bull or a golden retriever or some other kind of dog or animal with a lot of energy, get some of that energy out before getting in the car. Play a game of Frisbee or fetch, or just let your pet run around for a while. Traveling with pets is a lot easier when they’re tired and they can relax in the car, rather than trying to get their energy out inside the vehicle.

6. Make a Veterinarian Appointment

Before a long vacation or trip, take your pet to the vet to make sure that he or she is in good health. This can help eliminate some of the chances of running into problems where you find out while traveling with pets that your animal might have some kind of health problem.

7. Equip Your Pet with an ID Tag

Road trips are one of those situations where you want your pet to be easily identifiable in case he or she gets lost. You never set out thinking that your dog or cat or other pet is going to get lost, but it can happen - especially when you're in unfamiliar territory. Having an ID tag can make all the difference in making sure that your pet gets returned to you.

8. Bring Food and Drink

Hydration is important for your pets. When traveling with pets, keep a supply of clean water to help them cool off and stay hydrated on the road. Don’t just assume you’ll find clean water wherever you go – even in this age of sanitation, your pet can still get sick from drinking from unclean water sources in foreign places.

9. NEVER Leave Pets in the Car!

You may have the best of intentions, but tragic news reports show how it only takes a short time for pets to become ill or die when subjected to extreme temperatures in a parked vehicle. In fact, the temperature inside your vehicle can rise almost 20º F in just 10 minutes. Don't leave yourself open to criticism and problems with good samaritans who only want to help your pet out. This one is pretty simple. When you leave the vehicle (even if only for a short time), take your pet with you.

10. Carry Vaccination Records

When traveling long distances, you might also want to bring along your animal’s vaccination records, in case you need them when traveling across state lines. Some states still have laws on the books about showing an animal's vaccination record. It’s not a common thing, but again, it’s best to be prepared.

All of these simple tips can help you have a much better time with your pet on the road. While buying specialized products is a great start, good planning is just as important for ensuring animal safety on the road.