The first step in ensuring your pet’s well-being during a vacation is to train her to ride in the car. AAA recommends that you restrain your pet in the back seat of the vehicle to avoid distractions as well as to protect the animal and other passengers in the event of a collision. The front airbag can be deadly to a pet during a crash, even if the pet is restrained. Options for restraints include harnesses and crates that can be strapped down.
To help prevent car sickness, feed your pet a light meal 4 to 6 hours before departing on your trip. Do not give an animal food or water in a moving vehicle.
Never allow your pet to travel in the bed of a pickup truck. It’s illegal in some states; he also can jump out or be thrown, endangering himself and others on the road. Harnessing or leashing him to the truck bed is not advisable either: If he tries to jump out, he could be dragged along the road or the restraint could become a noose. Avoid placing animals in campers or trailers as well. If your pet cannot travel in the car with you, leave him at home.
Don’t let your dog stick her head out the window during your trip, no matter how enjoyable it seems. Road debris and other flying objects can injure delicate eyes and ears, and the animal is at greater risk for severe injury if the vehicle should stop suddenly or be struck. If it is hot outside, run the air conditioner instead of opening the windows, and be sure that the air flow is reaching your pet.
AAA recommends that drivers stop every 2 hours during a trip to stretch their legs and take a quick break from driving. Your pet will appreciate the same break. Plan to visit a rest stop every 4 hours or so to let him have a drink and a chance to answer the call of nature. (Cat owners should bring along a litter box; dog owners should clean up afterward.)
Be sure your pet is leashed before opening the car door. This is not merely a courtesy to fellow travelers; it will prevent her from unexpectedly breaking free and running away. Keep in mind that even the most obedient pet may become disoriented during vacation or in strange places and set off for home. Hint: If your pet is not used to traveling, use a harness instead of a collar; it is more difficult for an animal to wriggle out of a harness.
NEVER leave an animal in a parked car if you stop along your trip, even if the windows are partially open. Even on pleasant days the temperature inside a car can soar to well over 100 degrees in less than 10 minutes, placing your pet at risk for heatstroke and possibly death. On very cold days, hypothermia is a risk. Also, animals left unattended in parked cars can be stolen.