Thinking of hitting the road with your pet in a car this spring or summer? Believe it or not, now is the time to start preparing your pet for that family trip, especially if it will be the first time that your pet travels with you. Here are a few good tips to preparing your pet for auto travel and making the trip easier for everyone.
Take short trips in the car – get your pet used to their restraining device. If you have a small pet, a carrier or bolster seat may be the right way to go. If you have a larger dog or a well behaved cat, a harness will keep them safe as well as other passengers riding in the car. The best way to protect any pet in a car is a pet crate or carrier buckled into the seat. Whatever you decide, your pet will need time to get used to riding in the car.
Take a trip to the vet – travel is stressful, not only for us but for our pets. Make sure that your pet is healthy and all vaccinations are current, especially rabies. Get refills of any medications that your pet is taking. A health certificate is always a good idea and may be required depending on your country and your trip.
Plan to stop frequently – although most older and larger dogs can last between 10 to 12 hours before a rest stop, it is advised to stop and allow them to stretch their legs every 4-5 hours. Puppies and kittens can last about an hour for every month of life, so a puppy that is 3 months of age can last 3 hours between breaks. As this can vary between breeds and puppies, planning more frequent stops is a good idea.
Route your trip carefully – if your trip will be long distance, then highway driving may be the best option as it will mean less time in the car. Try to avoid high-traffic areas where you may encounter bumper-to-bumper traffic. Coming to a standstill will trigger “it’s time for a walk” and your pet is likely to get restless.
If you are planning a relatively short trip or you are not in a hurry, then consider taking the back roads and enjoy the scenery with your pup or kitty. There will be more opportunities to stop and explore along the way.
Find a pet friendly hotel early if you will need one. Many pet friendly hotels reserve a fixed number of rooms for pets, so reserving early is important. After finding a pet friendly hotel, call them to be sure to confirm their pet policy. Make sure you have a room on the ground floor for easy access if this is possible. Ask if there are pet friendly amenities nearby.
Socialize your pet – take them to a neighborhood dog park or walk your dog so they are exposed to other dogs and people. You will be stopping along the way on your trip and you want to be sure that your dog will not be aggressive towards other dogs.
Pick the right place in the car for them – your pet will suffer less anxiety on the road if you position them where they can see you. It is safest to restrain your pet in the backseat of the car; but put them behind the passenger seat if you will be driving. Having you in their line of sight will reduce their level of anxiousness. Removing them from their normal environment is stressful enough. Knowing that you are with them will comfort them.
Groom your pet – dog grooming is extremely important right before a trip. A bath and clip will make the trip more pleasant for everyone, especially your pet. Your pet needs to be accustomed to being groomed and handled so start early if you can. Be sure and treat your pet for ticks and tapeworm (dogs) as your pet will be exposed to new environments. Tick repellant collars may also be useful.
Get the right equipment and get your pet accustomed to using it prior to travel. You will need a strong leash at hand at all times. When stopping for a rest, be sure and do not let your pet out of the car until they are leashed and you have your footing. Do not use a retractable lead if possible as you sacrifice control with larger dogs. You will need portable water and food bowls, bottles of water from home, towels or wipes and a portable kitty litter tray if you are traveling long distances with a cat. Bring enough of your dog’s food to last the trip. Changing food can upset a pet’s digestive tract and may result in unpleasant consequences.
If you are crossing country borders, be sure and plan a trip to your vet to fill out the required documentation for the country you will be visiting. Have your pet microchipped and register the microchip so officials can find your contract information should your pet go missing.
Preparing your pet for auto travel will make your trip so much more enjoyable for everyone traveling. Your dog or cat will know what to expect and will be very happy to be included in your family trip. Safe travels!