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7 Practices for Safely Driving With Pets on Board

Some pet owners love to take their fur babies with them in the car. Other pet owners avoid transporting pets unless there is a necessity━such as a vet appointment or during a move. Regardless of how you feel about pets in the car, they can potentially create unsafe environments if you aren't following certain safety practices. Here are some tips to help prepare and help keep you and your pet safe in the car.

Dog sitting in car with the window down.

Don't Allow Your Pet to Roam the Vehicle

You've probably seen plenty of pets roaming in vehicles, but an unrestrained animal can jump out or get in a distracting position for the driver. If your rabbit or hamster is hopping all over the car, it could cause a serious distraction. Plus, if an accident does occur, an airbag could be fatal for a larger pet wandering near the airbag.

Carriers anchored into the seat are really the best way to transport small and mid-sized pets, such as gerbils, cats, ferrets, and snakes. For larger pets, including dogs, pigs, and goats, a crate on the floor is often possible with the seats collapsed. Your carrier or crate should be big enough for your pet to stand, lie down, and turn around inside.

Plan Your Pet's Meals

You shouldn't feed your pet in a moving vehicle, or you could end up with an increased chance of motion sickness. Instead, ensure your pet has a good meal three to four hours before you plan to depart. Let your pet out for a bathroom break before you hit the road. Then, only feed your pet on the road if you have time to stop for a while and take a break.

Never Leave Your Pet in the Vehicle

You may feel sick of hearing about pets and hot cars, but it still occurs far too often! The American Veterinary Medical Association estimates that hundreds of pets die from heat exhaustion each year due to being left in a car for a "quick" trip. Even on a cool 70℉ day, just 20 minutes sitting parked can have the inside of the car registering 90℉. And, the AVMA notes, "cracking the windows makes no difference." So, for your pet's safety, don't leave them in the car.

Keep All Heads in the Vehicle

Dogs love the sensation of air in their faces and mouths. However, sticking their head out the window can lead to issues with their vision or facial injuries. Trash thrown from another car or flying loose from a truck bed could hit them. Particles of dirt or sand could get in their eyes. Plus, there is no way to have them safely restrained in the vehicle if their head is able to reach out the window.

Clean Your Car

Your dog may try to search the floor of your car for things to eat or chew on that could cause them harm. For a safe trip with your pet, be sure to thoroughly clean your car. Look in hard-to-see spots, such as underneath seats, where trash and discarded food might be hidden. You could be dangerously distracted if your pet is able to get hold of something they shouldn't have during your drive.

Pack Bottled Water

If you run into stopped traffic because of an accident or construction, your pet might need water during the drive to avoid dehydration. Not only is it a good idea to have water for you on a long trip, but you should bring enough for your pets as well. Drinking water from unfamiliar sources could lead to an upset stomach for your pet. Don't forget a bowl so you can easily give your pet a drink!

Prep for Longer Trips With Trial Runs

Don't assume your pet will do great on a long trip. If you don't often ride with your pet, they may associate the car with the vet or another specific destination. The anticipation of a known destination can make them very excited. Get your pet used to lots of trips without a big destination to help them get used to riding in the vehicle calmly.

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