How to travel with your pet and keep them safe

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Travelling with your family pet is a potential hazard for both the animal and owner. Pets can cause distractions for the driver and sudden stops could cause severe injury or death to the pet.
Today, more and more people consider their pets as true members of their families, and there are now many pet travel products that make travelling with pets easier and much safer. Animals tend to get upset and disorientated when travelling by car. Knowing how to cope with this is vital to their well-being, as well as your own.

Before travelling with your pet

  • Ask if it is a good idea to take your companion animal on vacation with you – is it best for the animal as well, or only best for you?
  • Early acclimation to car travel is the key. If your pet dislikes travelling by car, it might be worth taking it out for a few trips in the car before you set off to try to prepare it for the journey ahead.
  • If you will be going over international borders, make sure you have your pet’s proof of rabies vaccination and their current health certificate to hand.
  • Some companion animals shouldn’t travel at all. If your companion animal is very young or very old, sick, recovering from surgery, or pregnant, then leave them at home.
  • On the day you leave, maintain your pet’s usual feeding routine. Anything out of the ordinary will probably make them feel more uneasy.
  • Keep favourite toys and food handy, as animals tend to respond better when they are surrounded by familiar things.

“Animals tend to get upset and disorientated when travelling by car. Knowing how to cope with this is vital to their well-being, as well as your own.”

How to restrain the pet in the car

Restrain your pet in the vehicle. It is essential that the driver of the vehicle is not distracted by fellow passengers – irrespective of whether these are humans or animals.

  • Net pet barriers can keep animals in the safe area of your vehicle and keep them from distracting the driver.
  • Truly pampered pets can ride in style in booster seats, right next to their owners.
  • These pet travel seats are supported from below, so your pet has a great view along with a comfortable ride. There are straps to secure your pet to the basket of the booster seat.
  • There are various sizes of padded pet vehicle safety harnesses that secure your pet to the vehicle’s seat belt system.
  • The safety harness keeps your pet from distracting the driver and keeps your pet secure in the event of a sudden stop.
  • If you are involved in a car accident, the restraining device will keep your companion animal from crashing into the front window or car seat.

Keeping your travelling companion healthy

  • As soon as you know your companion animal is vacationing with you, see your veterinarian and have them check your pet’s general fitness and ability to travel.
  • Check with your vet that your pet’s vaccinations are fully up to date.
  • Take along a flask of cold water in case other water sources are not available along the way.
  • Stop every couple of hours to allow your pet to get some exercise. Remember to pack the lead!
  • Don’t let your pet put its head out of the car window in case grit and dust get in its eyes. This can cause a nasty injury or infection.
  • Be sure to keep the windows closed, or open them slightly on a warm day.
  • Don’t leave your pet alone in the car. The temperature can soar very quickly inside a locked car.
  • If you must leave your pet in a parked car, make sure you lock the doors, park in some shade and return quickly.
  • Keep a first-aid kit containing bandages, gauze squares and antiseptic cream in the car. Anti-diarrhoea tablets are also useful. Ask your vet to recommend the best ones for your pet. You should keep the phone numbers of your vet and a 24-hour emergency vet hospital near where you are staying with the kit.
  • If possible, try get a reference from your vet for another vet at your destination if you’ll be at your vacation spot more than just a few days. When you get to your destination, find the veterinarian’s office on a map or ask around for directions. Knowing where to go if problems arise will make it easier on everyone.

How to identify your pet in case of an accident

It is important to consider the fate not only of human passengers in the unfortunate event of an accident, but also our animal passengers.

  • No matter what transportation you choose, your pet should wear a collar, with proper identification and a microchip tag at all times.
  • The identification tags should have your companion animal’s name, your name, address and telephone number on it. If there is room also add the name and telephone number of a person who could serve as an emergency contact in case your companion animal is lost.
  • A nylon collar or harness is best for either a cat or a dog. Never allow your pet to travel wearing a choke-chain. The collar-pull could become snagged on the carrier or other object and they may choke to death.
  • A cat must wear a safety stretch collar to prevent getting hung up on hooks, branches or other protruding objects.
  • Keep handy your pet’s shot records, a written description and several photos of your pet in case they become lost.
  • You will need these to claim your pet from the local animal centre when they find them. The written description should include your companion animal’s name, height, weight, colour and any distinguishing marks.

Taking your fur baby for a drive or on vacation with you comes with a lot of responsibility and an understanding of the rules of the road on driving with pets. Be sure to read up on these before you load up your car and hit the road.

Also read:

Pamper your pet with local flavour
Packing the vehicle safely for your holiday road trip