Travelling Safely With Your Pet

What a great year to pile the whole family into the car or camper-van and escape from the four walls of home. In this article we will look at some considerations and plans needed for a successful road trip with your pet.

Safety

The Highway Code (Rule 58) states that animals travelling in a vehicle ‘should be suitably restrained so they cannot distract you while you are driving or injure you, or themselves, if you stop quickly’. This is best achieved by using a safe form of restraint. It is also worth noting that having an unrestrained animal in your vehicle can lead to 2 points on your driving license! So do some research on the best method of restraint and containment for your pet.

Small pets, birds, cats and even small dogs can be transported in a crate or carrier to keep them safe. This needs to be fixed to the car, so that it doesn’t move around the car on turning or braking. The carrier should be completely secure - a cardboard box will not keep them safe for long. It is useful if you can fill water bowls or provide a toy or clean up a mess without your pet escaping, so multiple doors can help with this. For example, a door on the top of the crate may give you access but prevent escape. Puppy pads, a rubber mat or waterproof car seat cover can be a wise addition under a pet carrier.

Larger breeds of dogs may fit in a suitably sized crate, or be restrained by a seat belt attached to their harness. Never attach the seat belts to a collar, as severe neck injury can occur in an emergency stop. Most walking harnesses are not safe for vehicle restraint. Use a well-fitting, wide web harness recommended for this purpose by the manufacturer - talk to us if in doubt.

Ideally your pet would travel in the back of the car as the driver is less likely to be distracted. However, if you do use the front passenger seat, disable the airbag. In an accident the airbag itself could cause an injury.

Do not let your dog travel with their head out of the window as debris can injure their eyes and cause damage and infections.

Comfort

Any pet carrier or crate should be large enough for the pet to sit, lie down, move around or stand up inside. A soft familiar bed or familiar toys can make your pet more comfortable and less anxious.

For the larger dog, a crate in the back of the car should be an appropriate size. A dog guard can be used but some models may be dislodged in an accident, resulting in your dog being injured or injuring a passenger - so make sure it is securely and properly fixed and fitted.

If your pet becomes anxious on car journeys, pheromone sprays can help cats and dogs to stay calmer. With small pets, a travelling companion or familiar smells from home can help. The practice can provide the pheromones and advise you on their use. We may also advise sedative drugs to reduce the trauma of a long journey for a pet who finds travel frightening or is very unsettled. Arrange a consultation to discuss all the options.

Temperature

Travelling in the cooler parts of the day, or overnight, can reduce any heat stress for your pet. But if that isn’t possible, make sure your pet doesn’t overheat in the car.

The carrier, or area the pet travels in should be well-ventilated and a comfortable temperature. Cars become very hot very quickly. Check the air conditioning is effective in the back of the car, not just in the front. You can perhaps open the window a little, but not fully in case your pet decides to attempt to jump out. If you are delayed, make your pet is secure, and then open the doors and windows.

Sunshades can be used on windows to reduce the temperature in the car. When you stop, you may also use a sun shield on the windscreen to keep cool. Cool mats can be excellent for cooling on hot days. And never forget...

Water

Water is essential on a long trip - take extra in case of traffic delays. Some animals are happier with water from home and will not initially drink unfamiliar water. If you freeze water to take with you, it will thaw slowly during the journey and provide cool water. Water bowls fitted to the side of the carrier, or bowls designed not to tip, can be used to provide water on the move.

Regular breaks

Your pet will appreciate regular breaks. A dog can be walked and allowed to toilet. It can also give you an opportunity to clean up any mess or refill or offer water. The car should be shaded and ventilated on a break, to prevent it heating up. Having a secure tie up spot on your car allows you to picnic while a dog spends some time out of the car. Your pet should not be left alone in the car, if at all possible, in case of escape or overheating. Remember, it takes only a few minutes for a car to become dangerously hot.

Food

Small pets and birds need food available constantly. Use bowls that will not tip, and encourage them to eat in peaceful breaks. Dogs and cats are best fed a light meal a few hours before your journey and not fed during the journey unless a long break is possible. They may vomit otherwise.

Travel sickness

Unfortunately, some cats and dogs become travel sick. This is common when they are young, but getting them used to short journeys usually resolves the symptoms. Some animals have persistent travel sickness, so see one of our vets to discuss anti-sickness medication if your pet suffers in this way.

Healthcare

A pet first aid kit can be a great help on an adventure. It should include the means to clean up a wound: a pair of scissors, some clean water and wipes. Bandaging materials and cotton wool can be helpful. We can provide these and advise on their use.

If you are taking your pet away, ensure that they are protected against any diseases they may meet. Some parasites are more common in certain parts of the country, so discuss parasite prevention and check their vaccination status with us before you travel. Some travel will require a pet passport, rabies vaccination, and sometimes blood tests. We can help with this also.

Check that your pet is identified, ensure their microchip is registered to your address with a relevant contact number and place a travel tag on the carrier or animal.

With planning and preparation, taking your pet on a journey or holiday can be a positive experience for all.

Happy holidaying!