Whether going to the park, traveling on a road trip or just taking a drive – our pets are often passengers in our vehicles. As we buckle our seatbelts, it’s important to keep in mind that pets must also be constrained in the car for safety. Dr. Sonja Olson, a senior clinician in emergency medicine with BluePearl Veterinary Partners, provides safety tips for transporting your pets in a vehicle.
In most cases, your pet is safest in the backseat of the car. It’s important to have a form of confinement to prevent your pet from flying forward during an accident or sudden stop. For cats and dogs under 15 pounds, it’s recommended they are crated. Any type of crate is fine – just be sure to secure it behind either of the front seats rather than in the middle. For medium and large dogs, consider a barrier such as a car hammock or grate to keep them confined to the back seat.
“Your pet is typically safest in the backseat, however, if you are taking him to the vet and/or you are concerned for his health, you may want to put him in a crate in the front seat,” says Dr. Olson, “If he is next to you, it is easier and safer to check on him rather than turning your head around to the back of the vehicle.”
Keep in mind one of the most dangerous ways to transport a pet is by having him in your lap. Not only is this distracting, but it can also cause crushing damage to the pet if the airbag deploys. It’s also unsafe to transport your pet in a truck bed, unless he is confined with an anchored crate specifically designed for truck bed pet safety. Without the secured crate, having your pet in the truck bed is not recommended. He could jump or fall onto the road, or dangle from his collar and leash.
It’s also important to prevent your pup from holding his head out of the window. This might be a surprise, because we can all see how much dogs seem to love poking their noses into the swift breeze and clean air. But flying debris can cause major trauma to your dog’s eyes and face. The open window also increases the risk of your pet jumping onto the road if not properly restrained. If your pup has figured out the “window down” button in your car, be sure to travel with the passenger window locks on.
One of the most dangerous things you can do with your dog is to leave him alone in a car. Even if it doesn’t seem terribly hot or cold outside, temperatures can be extreme inside. This is a surprisingly common and totally preventable cause of many medical emergencies treated in BluePearl hospitals. That’s why we urge you to never leave your pet alone in a vehicle, even during a brief stop at the store. If you are traveling with your pet, plan to bring him with you at every stop, or leave him home.
There are several supplies you should keep in your vehicle if you transport your pet. Always have a bottle of water and a travel dish, such as a collapsible bowl, for hydration. It’s also a smart idea to keep a towel, wipes and poop bags. Bring a folder of your pet’s documents too, including his vet’s contact information and important medical records.
“In the event of an emergency, it’s a good idea to have your pet’s medical information on hand,” says Dr. Olson, “The more information available, the better the ability for medical professionals to provide care.”
To sum up: Confine your pet in a crate or a barrier, don’t place your pet in your lap or in the truck bed and don’t leave him alone in the vehicle. In an accident, you want to be as safely prepared as possible.
“People often think an accident won’t happen to them and their pets,” says Dr. Olson, “But transport-related emergencies do happen and it’s essential to have the proper constraints in place.”
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