Bringing the family pet along on a road trip may seem like a good idea - you don't have to ask friends or family to look after your pet and you can avoid the costs and concerns that go with boarding and kennels. But traveling with pets in the car also brings special challenges that, fortunately, can be met with a bit of forethought and careful preparation of both the vehicle and pet.
According to information from the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), which recently teamed with Subaru of America to produce a brochure on pet travel tips, bringing a pet along on a road trip simply involves adapting your routine to the road. All of the things you take into consideration at home - your pet's health, happiness and safety - should be thoughtfully addressed when traveling with your pet.
Here are 10 helpful tips for road-tripping with pets from the AVMA and Subaru:
1. If your pet is not accustomed to car travel, take it for a few short rides before your trip so it will feel confident that a car outing does not necessarily mean a trip to the veterinarian or an unpleasant destination.
2. Cats should always be confined to a cage or in a cat carrier to allow them to feel secure and prevent them from crawling under your feet while you are driving.
3, Dogs riding in a car should not ride in the passenger seat if it is equipped with an airbag, and should never be allowed to sit on the driver's lap.
4. See your automotive dealer for pet accessories designed specifically to fit your vehicle, such as compartment dividers that separate pets and cargo from the passenger area. Several automobile manufacturers, including Subaru, offer a dog guard/compartment divider that keeps pets safely in the rear cargo area of station wagons, "crossover" vehicles and SUVs.
5. Pets should not be allowed to ride with their heads outside car windows. Particles of dirt or other debris can enter the eyes, ears, and nose, causing injury or infection.
6. Give small portions of food and water. Plan to stop every two hours for exercise. Remember to include a leash with your pet's traveling supplies.
7. If your dog has a problem with carsickness, your veterinarian can prescribe medication that will help the dog feel comfortable during a long car trip.
8. Pack a simple pet first-aid kit that includes assorted bandages, antiseptic cream, an anti-diarrheal medication that is safe for pets (ask your veterinarian to suggest a product), gauze squares, phone numbers for your veterinarian, and a 24-hour emergency veterinary hospital at your destination, as well as a national poison control hotline.
9. In addition to a standard identification tag (which should be labeled with your name, home address, and phone number), your pet's collar should include a travel tag with information on where you are staying while away from home. Should your pet become lost, this will allow you to be contacted locally.
10. Perform a daily "health check" on your pet when away from home. In unfamiliar surroundings, your pet's appetite, energy, and disposition may change. Watch for unusual discharges from the nose and eyes, excessive scratching or biting of any body part, abnormal elimination, or excessive water consumption. Visit a local veterinarian if you are concerned about any physical or behavioral changes.
As you can see, a little planning and a carefully prepared vehicle can make all the difference between a good time had by all and a road trip filled with regret.
For more information download a color copy of the AVMA/Subaru Traveling With Your Pet brochure.