Summer means road trips—and what would a road trip be without your pet? As you prepare to take your beloved companion along for the ride, Carriage Crossing Animal Hospital has a few safety tips to ensure your travels are full of happy memories, and not heartache.
Ensure your pet is road-ready
You would not take a road trip without a car tune-up, so why travel with your pet without ensuring their physical health? A pre-trip exam allows our veterinarian to evaluate your pet’s condition, prescribe anti-anxiety or anti-nausea medications they may need for the ride, refill their heartworm, flea, and tick preventives, and make specific care recommendations for your trip.
Ensure your pet has proper identification at all times
Your pet will be riding in the car, visiting unfamiliar places, and encountering new smells, sights, and situations. All pets, including seasoned travelers, can be startled by the unfamiliar, and slip their collar, jump out of your arms, or break out of their crate. Ensure that your pet always wears a collar and updated identification tags. For ultimate peace of mind, have your pet microchipped.
Ensure you pack with your pet’s needs in mind
Pets may not need a suitcase full of bathing suits and flip flops, but they do have specific travel needs, including
- Water and water bowls — Ensure your pet has enough water for travel, and bottled water for your destination, because local water may lead to a digestive upset.
- Food and food bowls —Take their regular food, because you may be unable to find your pet’s formula on the road.
- Medication — Include extra doses, and keep everything in the original medication bottles to prevent confusion.
- Pet first aid kit — Keep a kit on hand for minor issues, but know that your first-aid should usually only help your pet until they get veterinary care.
- Contact list — This should include at the minimum our Carriage Crossing Animal Hospital contact information, a pet hospital at your destination, and the ASPCA animal poison control hotline.
- An “in-case-of-emergency” packet — In your car, always keep records of pet information that includes a picture of your pet, their name, age, breed, gender, vaccine status, and special needs, plus the contact list.
Ensure you practice pet safety at the rest area
Roadside rest areas may be a travel necessity, but they’re not always the most pleasant—or clean. When you take a pit stop with your pet, remember the following:
- Check the heat —Asphalt and concrete get incredibly hot. To prevent burned paw pads, park as close as possible to the grass. Check the road surface temperature with the back of your hand—if it’s too hot for you to touch for five to seven seconds, it’s too hot for your dog.
- Keep your distance — Other visiting pets may have fleas and ticks, or intestinal parasites like giardia or worms. Keep your pet up-to-date on prevention medications, and keep them away from animal waste.
- Watch where you walk — Broken glass and metal can cut paw pads, while cigarette butts, trash, and discarded food, if eaten, could sicken your dog.
- Use good hygiene — Always wash your hands thoroughly after cleaning up after your pet, especially in public places like rest stops.
Ensure you alleviate your pet’s travel stress
Travel can be stressful for everyone, including your pet, but creating a mobile den as a home away from home can make your pet more comfortable.
- Introduce a crate before the trip — If your pet does not travel in a crate, bring a pop-up crate with you. Introduce the crate at home to build a positive emotional response. Contact us for Fear Free techniques for introducing your pet to a crate.
- Add familiar items — At your destination, set up your pet’s mobile den with familiar bedding, food puzzles, and toys. Use a pheromone spray, such as Adaptil or Feliway, to promote calm feelings for your pet. Do not close the crate on your pet, but let them come and go as they choose.
- Try calming tools — For pets who are nervous in the car, a prescription anti-anxiety medication and a calming wrap or snug fitting T-shirt may help.
Ensure you know heatstroke signs
Pets can overheat during warm weather, and the excitement and stress of travel increases their heatstroke risk. Heatstroke occurs when pets get so hot that they can no longer effectively cool their body, and begin to suffer organ damage. Pets often experience heatstroke when left outside without shade or water, exercise too hard or too long in high heat, or are left in a parked car. Learn to recognize heatstroke signs, which include:
- Excessive panting
- Red gums
- Vomiting or diarrhea, possibly with blood
- Dull mental state
- Lack of coordination
If your pet experiences any heatstroke signs, move them to an air-conditioned location, wet them down with cool—never cold—water, and call us immediately.
Ensure your pet is never left in a parked car
Temperatures inside a parked car can increase 20 degrees in only 10 minutes, and skyrocket after that. Lowering the windows makes little difference. Pets can rapidly suffer from heatstroke, and many die every year waiting for help. Skip any tourist attraction that does not allow your pet, and stick to drive-through and curbside pick-up options for necessities. If you cannot take your pet with you when you park the car, you should leave them at home.
Your pet may love being your copilot, but they are counting on you to be their superhero. For more information on summer travel safety, call Carriage Crossing Animal Hospital.