Pet dogs and cats may need to be transported in the family car. Trips by car can be short, such as to a veterinary appointment, the groomer, or the local park. Longer car rides may be road trips and family vacations. Proper pet car safety will ensure that everyone can enjoy a trip while staying safe.
Restraint and Positioning
It is safest to keep a cat or dog in the back seat during car travel. An airbag in the front seat that deploys in a collision can severely harm a pet whether they are in a carrier or not. While being safely secured in the cargo area is safer for a cat or dog than the front seat, the cargo area can be a crumple zone in a collision.
There are several ways to reliably restrain a dog or cat in a car. In general, the safest way to secure a pet is in a crate or carrier. However, crates can break or bend during a collision, and it’s important to pick one with high safety ratings. A good resource is the Center For Pet Safety. Other restraint devices for dogs include harnesses, car seats, or hammocks. These devices can vary in safety and reliability of tensile strength in straps and buckles. Researching safety ratings and reviews are helpful in picking a device.
It’s vital to keep a dog or cat in a safe temperature during car rides. Pets can overheat easily as their fur keeps them well insulated, and they have limited sweat glands. Therefore, it’s important to keep the air conditioner running in the car when the weather is warm, and they should not ride extensively in direct sunlight. During cold weather, the heat should be turned on.
Pre-existing health issues should be taken into consideration when deciding if a car ride is safe for a pet. While a veterinary visit is important for an ill animal, a lengthy car ride can put a sick dog or cat in danger. Frequent stops are helpful, as a dog can walk around and eliminate outside, and take a drink of water, and a cat can be offered water.
What not to do
A pet should not go for a car ride without identification. In the event of an accident, or a door kept open too long, a dog may run away. Therefore, they should have a collar with an ID tag, as well as a microchip implanted. While a cat usually stays in a crate for a car ride, the crate should be labeled with their information. If a cat is taken out during the ride they should have a collar or harness on with an ID tag.
A dog should never be able to hang their head out the window during car travel, as they can get injured or fall out of the moving vehicle. As a reminder, a pet should never ride on an owner’s lap. Additionally, a pet should not be fed while the vehicle is moving, as they are at risk of choking.
With proper preparation, car rides for dogs and cats can be safe, and if an owner is not sure how to proceeds, they should contact their veterinarian with questions.