Safe Car Travel for Your Pet

From the American Animal Hospital Association website, www.healthypet.com

Let’s say you’re driving 35 miles an hour with a loose 60 pound dog in your car. If you stop suddenly or crash, that dog can have the impact of 2,700 pounds. This and other alarming facts posted at Bark Buckle Up show the need to restrain your pet while driving.

Loose pets are in danger of getting hurt during an accident. They also can cause an accident by distracting their owners.

More states require animals to be restrained in a moving car. But what is the best restraint? Below are suggestions from Tom Kendall, DVM. A longtime veterinarian, Dr. Kendall is an AAHA Board Member and practice manager at the Arden Animal Hospital, Inc., in Sacramento, California.

Carrier vs. Pet Seatbelt

The best way to transport your pet is in a padded carrier that is fastened with a seatbelt or restraining devise in the back seat. Pet carriers can be transported in the back of a pickup truck, as long as they are strapped in. Strapping in the carrier prevents it from being thrown during an accident.

Though not as effective as a carrier, pet seatbelts are better than having a loose pet. If you choose to use a seatbelt, make sure it’s padded and can adjust to your pet’s size. It’s a good idea to test the seatbelt on your pet before you buy it. Make sure the latches are secure. Metal latches are probably better than plastic.

Place Pets in the Back seat

As is the case with children, pets are safer in the back seat of a car. No matter which restraint you use, place your pet in the back seat. Never let your pet ride in front of an airbag.

Pet Booster Seats and Barriers

A pet barrier may be necessary for a large animal like a Great Dane. If you use one, make sure your pet also is tethered in a harness and leash, preventing escape in the case of an accident. But never tether your pet by the neck. This could cause choking during an accident or sudden stop. If possible, however, the safest way for your pet to travel is inside a padded carrier, made of hard plastic.

Pet booster seats can help your pet better fit in a pet seatbelt. They’re sometimes used to allow your pet to look out of an open window. Pets should not be allowed to stick their heads out of car windows, because they can become injured or suffer infections from dirt and flying debris.

The Best Type of Carrier

Choose a carrier that’s made of hard plastic and padded inside. Make sure your pet can stand up in the carrier. Some pets also will be more comfortable if they can turnaround.

Getting Your Pet Used to a Carrier

Sometimes the only time pets are placed in carriers is when they are being taken to the veterinarian. This causes most pets to dislike carriers. Some steps to prevent this:

  • Get pets used to their carriers by feeding and watering them in their carriers while at home.
  • Stock the carrier with your pet’s favorite toys and blankets.
  • Let your pet sleep in the carrier.
  • Take your pet on drives (in the carrier) that don’t involve the veterinarian.

It shouldn’t take long before your pet adjusts. Most pets feel safe and secure inside their carriers.

Keep Dogs’ — and All Pets’ — Heads Out of Open Car Windows

Although dogs love to stick their heads out of car windows, doing so is very dangerous. All pets’ eyes, ears and noses can become injured by dirt and other objects. They also can get infections. It’s always safer to keep your pet’s head inside a moving car.

Check other articles on for information on specific pets, including air travel and sedatives:

  • Traveling with Your Turtle
  • Traveling with Your Snake
  • Traveling with Your Guinea Pig
  • Traveling with Your Bird
  • Traveling with Your Fish
  • Traveling with Your Cat/Kitten
  • Traveling with Your Dog/Puppy

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