Summertime is vacation time, and that means loading up the car for the great American road trip. If you’re planning to take the whole family—including the four-legged members—your trip will have to accommodate the unique needs of your furry friend. Traveling with a dog requires preparation and is not recommended for those vacations where the animal will be stuck inside. If the locale isn’t dog-friendly, or if the trip is only for a short amount of time, your pup may be more comfortable staying at a doggie overnight camp or with a reliable pet sitter. The stress of travel on your pet may not be worth it, and you can relax knowing that your fur baby is safe with a sitter at home. If you absolutely have to take your pet, here are a few things to keep in mind.
Keep Heads Inside
The image of a happy dog with her head out the window, tongue lolling and the wind flapping her fuzzy ears, is almost iconic on the open road. But as fun as it is to watch your pup experience the great outdoors through the window, it can also be dangerous. High speeds and sudden stops can cause serious injuries, and smaller dogs risk falling or jumping out of open spaces. (Sometimes all it takes is a glimpse of a squirrel and they’re out the window for a romp!) Larger dogs might not fit through the window, but their eyes are exposed to anything floating through the air at fast speeds. The Humane Society notes that they can be injured by particles of debris or made sick by having cold air forced into their lungs. And no dog should ever, under any circumstance, be forced to ride outside of the interior cab. That means they should not be in the back of an open pickup truck or tied on top of the car in a crate.
Keep Routines Consistent
When you’re driving on long trips, bathroom breaks are inevitable. This goes for pets as well. Unlike children, they cannot pipe up from the backseat and tell you it’s time for a potty break. Dogs should remain on the same eating and eliminating schedule as they maintain at home. Stopping for a lunch, exercise, and potty break should be scheduled into your drive time. Always keep pets on a leash, and make sure that they have their collar and ID tags on them at all times. Let them get as much exercise and water as possible, since car trips can be dehydrating. (And remember to pick up after your pet when she’s done.)
Make Safe Sleeping Arrangements
Your pup is used to her home. She knows the locations of all the doors, the water bowls, and, of course, the soft beds. When staying in a hotel, campsite, or at a friend’s house for a vacation, your dog will have to get used to a whole new environment. This can cause anxiety in some pets. Keep an eye on your pup to make sure she is not displaying signs of anxiety, like excessive drooling (this indicates high levels of stress), hiding, or shaking. Also keep an eye on what she eats or chews in the new place. House Method lists a number of houseplants that are safe for pets if they end up consuming them while no one is watching. If your sleeping space has plants that are suspicious or harmful for your pup, move her to a closed room or high shelf before you hit the hay.
Keep Your Pup Cool
Never leave your canine companion alone in the car when you are traveling. In the hot summer months, even a quick run into a store is long enough to harm your pup. The Humane Society shares these startling statistics:
- On an 85-degree day, even with the windows slightly open, the temperature inside your car can reach 102 degrees in just 10 minutes.
- When it's 72 degrees Fahrenheit outside, the temperature inside your car can heat up to 116 degrees Fahrenheit within an hour.
- Rolling down the windows has been shown to have little effect on the temperature inside a car.
Yikes! Being kept in a hot car can result in serious trouble for your pet, including irreversible organ damage or death. Additionally, it’s possible that a well-meaning good Samaritan will see your pet in the car and call a local animal control, non-emergency police line, or fire station, or break a window to release your pet. This isn’t a bad thing for pups in peril. But keep it in mind when tempted to run into a shop for five minutes with your dog in the car. It can be an expensive five minutes that could result in a confrontation with law enforcement or an unintentional injury to your beloved family member.