Hope Schultz
November 17, 2009

Every Thanksgiving I pile my dog Max into my Toyota Land Cruiser and head south to visit my family.  The truth is I would never go without him—he’s my child, of course—and since my parents are crazy pet people too, they welcome both of us with open arms. 

Having traveled so much with Max over the years, I’ve learned that there are some very important ‘rules of the road’ that everyone should be aware of when traveling with your dog. While taking your furry friend along for the ride can be tons of fun, it can also present some real dangers—to both of you.

First things first – Buckle up!

We’re all used to buckling ourselves in when we get in the car, but a lot of people don’t realize it’s equally as important to provide some sort of restraint for your dog.  According to Bark-Buckle UP, a pet safety advocacy group, if a car is traveling at 30mph and has an accident, a 60-pound dog will crash into the windshield, front seat or another passenger with the impact of 2,700 pounds. Obviously, the faster you’re going, the greater the impact.

There are some great restraints for dogs of all sizes ranging from harnesses and car seats to safety belts and carriers. (You can check some of these out here.) In addition to injuring one or both of you if you do have an accident, there are other potential dangers if your dog isn’t properly restrained in the car including:

- Distracting you when you’re driving

- Jumping out of the car and either being hit or causing another accident

- Preventing emergency workers—out of protectiveness for you—from reaching you should you be involved in some type of serious accident

If you’re planning on traveling with your dog this holiday season—or any time, for that matter—you should consider a few other safety tips that the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) recommends:

- Have your vet check your dog out before you travel.  Some dogs aren’t well-suited for travel so make sure there aren’t any temperament issues or physical problems that might make car travel a bad idea.

- Try taking your dog on a few short trips to get it comfortable in the car before you head out on a really long journey.

- NEVER let your dog ride with its head out the window. While it seems harmless—and most dogs really like the wind in their face—dirt and debris can get into their eyes, ears and nose and cause serious injury or infection.

- NEVER leave your dog—or any pet—alone in the car.  Just like humans, they can easily suffer from heat stroke or hypothermia, which can lead to serious injury and even death.

- Stop for exercise every two or so hours—it’ll be good for both of you—and feed your dog small portions of food and water when you do.

- If your dog is prone to motion sickness, ask your vet for medication.  Otherwise it can get really uncomfortable for both you and your pet.

- And don’t forget, if you’re taking a long trip and will need a hotel room, check ahead to make sure you can find a pet-friendly hotel in the city where you’ll be calling it a day.

The Travel Industry Association reports that 67% of all pets who travel with their owners do so by car or truck.  With this many pets on the road, it’s really important that we take whatever precautions necessary to make sure they have a comfortable, safe and fun trip!

Happy holidays and safe travels!

Guest blogger Hope Schultz is a co-founder and president of WebVet.

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