Summertime for many families = road trip season. And as pet guardians know, a road trip with your furry family member can double the fun.
Before you go, consider a pre-trip vet appointment. Get a quick exam to confirm that your pet is in good health and up-to-date on their vaccinations, and as some dogs and cats can become anxious or suffer from motion sickness on long car rides, take the opportunity to speak to your vet about medication for the trip.
Drive Smart tips for pet guardians:
● Use a safety device to protect your pet. Loose animals in the event of crash can become a projectile, injuring themselves and others in the vehicle. Animals can also pose a safety risk for first responders, as a disoriented and injured animal may try to attack an attendant or even cause another crash by running into traffic.
Harnesses come in various sizes to fit your dog. Make sure the harness fits properly and is easy to put on. A good guideline to follow is to allow room for two fingers to fit between the harness and your pup for a comfortable fit. Dogs should be able to stand, sit, or lay down comfortably, without having to brace themselves while you’re turning, reversing or stopping.
If you’re using a crate, it must be secured by a seatbelt, cargo hooks, or placed by the rear seat to secure it in place. If unsecured, the crate can bounce around and even become a projectile. When you’re buying a crate for your dog, look for one that has been crash-tested.
For cats, a hard-shelled “airline type” cat travel carrier is recommended. A sturdier carrier will protect your cat from escaping and from injury in the event of a crash. Help your cat learn to love their carrier before your first trip by offering treats, food, and a familiar blanket inside and gradually encouraging them to hang out in the carrier.
● Let your dog be the backseat driver. Pets are safest when secured in the back seat or cargo area. For the same reason ICBC discourages children under 12 from sitting in the front seat of vehicle, the same safety risks of a deployed air bag can have devastating consequences for animals as well.
● Prevent pet distraction by packing the essentials. Keep pets content by bringing food, water, dishes, bedding and toys. For road trips, it’s best to stock your vehicle with a pet first-aid. Need help remembering what to bring? Check out our Pet Travel Checklist!
● Keep pets inside the vehicle while driving. While it’s tempting to let your dog hang his head out the window for the breeze, the sand and dust can get in their eyes and cause corneal ulcers. Disable your power windows to prevent your dog from accidentally opening a window, causing it to escape or have the window close on its neck.
● Do not drive with your pet on your lap. This can prevent you from having full control of your vehicle. Your pet could also be seriously injured or killed by a deployed airbag in the event of a crash. Drivers can be ticketed for driving ‘without due care and attention’, which results in a fine and penalty points.
● Secure your pet if travelling in the back of a pick-up truck. It is illegal and dangerous to travel with an unsecured pet in the exterior of a truck. If you must transport your pet in the back of a truck, the safest method is in a secured crate in the centre of your truck box.
● If you’re not in the car, your pet shouldn’t be either. Vehicles can quickly heat up in summer weather, and can endanger your pet’s health. Even a car parked in the shade with the windows cracked open can get hot enough to cause heatstroke or death of an animal. Air conditioning does not prevent animals from overheating to the point where they lose consciousness.
When on the road, plan for a pit stop every few hours. It’s good for drivers and pets alike to stretch and get fresh air — just remember to leash your pet.