Almost all dogs (and amazingly, even some cats) love road trips. Need proof? Just throw open the car door and watch Fido eagerly leap right in. Yep, traveling in a car with your beloved canine companion (or monkey, bird or snake for that matter) can be fun, but is it safe? Unfortunately, not always.
So read on, Mr. and Mrs. Pet Owner, and discover a few of the simple, yet effective ways you can enhance and ensure the well-being of you and your lap buddy while cruising the neighborhood or the open highways. Because as you learn more, being on the road together can be a hoot, but like many things we’re gaga about, showing a little restraint can be a good idea too. Wag, wag, wag.
The following are some broad tips gleaned from a number of excellent sources, and for the most part, all are pretty easy to implement:
• This is a biggie – whenever you and your furry friend are in a moving car, make sure you’re both strapped in. A seat belt for you is legally mandatory, and a similar restraint should be for your dog. Keep the animal harnessed, leashed or belted in the back seat (like you would a child) at all times. If you have to stop suddenly, your Great Dane won’t become a missile destined to crash-land on your unsuspecting head, hurting both of you. Most pet stores sell these adjustable, affordable restraints that can be easily connected to the rear seat belts.
• If you’ve got a cat, bird or small dog, use a cage when traveling to safely confine the animal. As before, you don’t want to be distracted by a freaked-out feline tearing through your car’s interior. Be sure, however, to belt in or otherwise secure the cage or carrier to the car’s interior.
• Some SUVs and wagons can be equipped (factory or otherwise) with rear compartment barricades and padding – something to consider if your pet is a regular roadie on your extensive travels.
• And while your dog might enjoy hanging its head out the window (even when properly restrained), think twice about this. Injuries from flying debris, especially to eyes, are common. Poke his head back in, and roll up the window. Why risk it?
• Lastly, on that road trip, when a stop is called for, don’t leave your animal unattended in the car – especially when it’s hot. Too many bad things can happen — like heat stress, separation anxiety and plain old discomfort. You wouldn’t do this to your child, would you? Extend the same consideration to all members of your family, two- and four-footed.
Roxie’s Real Christmas story
The day after Christmas last year, Roxie and her human “parents” were returning from a family gathering in Fort Worth. As always when traveling, the small French bulldog was in the rear seat area cozily nestled among her special pillows and blankets but otherwise unrestrained. During a stop at an intersection north of Waco, the unexpected happened when another car rammed the vehicle Roxie was in, sending the animal careening into the back of the front seat.
Shortly after, it became obvious that Roxie had injured her hip and required medical treatment, which she received in San Antonio from her trusted physician, Dr. Pat Richardson, at the Broadway Oaks Animal Hospital.
When queried about mitigating the extent of the injury by using a restraint, Roxie’s favorite vet offers, “Security and safety when traveling with your pet are very important. While Roxie’s involvement in a mild fender-bender caused lameness for several days after the incident and required pain medication, she’s well again. Animals travel so much with us these days that their chances of being involved in a car accident have increased. Harnesses and car seats for dogs and pet beds with restraints for cats can easily be found online and at most pet stores. As with children, our pets rely on us for their safety when traveling. It is always more prudent to prevent traumatic injuries than deal with them after an accident.”
By Ernie Altgelt