Traveling with your pets

I’ve been counting down the days to our extended trip to Florida and it’s hard to believe in less than a week I’ll be waking up to the swooshing sounds of the ocean! I’m excited and really looking forward to my time in the sunshine state. It is, however, not without a lot of preparation. My girls Izzy and Kita are coming with us too! Which means we need to be prepared for the long drive down with them as well. My husband and I have made this trek by car several times over the years - his family has been in the area either part or full-time since he was a young child.  As I pack our gear, I thought I’d share a few tips for traveling with your pets. Whether it’s a 3 hour drive to the other side of the state, or a long trip across the country, more and more folks are bringing their furry family members along for the adventure.

Not every dog is ok with car rides. When we brought Kita home from PAWS, she threw up on the short car ride to our house. I thought it was all the changes from being surrendered then taken to the shelter and ending up at our house all in the same day. But when we took her to obedience class, to the vet or back to the shelter, she threw up every time. Izzy was great from the first day she came to live with us, so I wasn’t prepared for Kita’s carsickness. I was determined to have her enjoy car rides, so I took her for short rides every week. Just 2 miles down the street, to the bank, to the park, to the bike path, to visit a dog friend of ours and back. I wanted something fun to happen when we got to our destination so she would look forward to getting in the car. In just a short period of time, she got over it and we haven’t had any problems with her since. When we travel for longer trips, I don’t feed her a full meal, instead, giving her a handful of food throughout the day. On this long trip, I’ll feed her small meals at each rest stop. If you have a dog like Kita, ginger capsules beforehand is another option to help with carsickness.

It’s important to stop frequently and give your dog a chance to stretch their legs. I also relish walking at each break after sitting for several hours. Just like you need plenty of water, so do your pooches. If you’re not sure about water sources on your journey, then bring a cooler or a jug from home. Dogs like routine and feeding them their usual meal at their usual feeding time is important when you are on the road. So don’t forget to pack enough food for the duration of your trip. Keep your car well-ventilated. It’s better to use the air conditioner than to let your dog hang their head out the window. But if you do, buy a pair of dog googles so they don’t get injuries to their eyes from flying debris.

Because we’ll be away from home for several weeks, I’m also packing their vaccination records, including their rabies tags. I don’t expect to need it, but it’s better to be over than under prepared. Many dogs get spooked or break away from cars at rest stops, so it’s also a good idea to bring a recent photo of your pooch. Hopefully this will never happen, but if you do find yourself chasing a loose dog, it’ll help to show people what your dog looks like. Updated identification tags are important too. My girls have tags with our address and my cell phone number. When we get to FL, I’ll switch to tags that will have our FL address instead.

Last, but most important, is safety restraints. I was astonished when I learned 30,000+ accidents occur each year because of an unrestrained pet. Did you know an unrestrained 10 pound dog in a car crash at 50 mph will exert 500 pounds of force? And an unrestrained 80 pound dog in a crash at 30 mph will exert 2400 pounds of force! I’ve had a seat belt for Izzy ever since she was a young pup. I just bought one for Kita too. If you choose to crate your dog, be sure to tether the crate to the car too. If you get slammed from behind, or to the side and the door opens, the crate will fall out. On a highway, this will only end badly. I did a great deal of research when I shopped for Kita’s seat belt. I believe it won’t be long before there are laws requiring all pets be restrained in a moving vehicle. Just like car crash tests, there are tests being conducted evaluating how safe pet restraints are. I chose one made by Kurgo. To date, they have only tested safe for pets up to 75 pounds. Since Kita is 25 pounds, it will be perfect for her.

So whether you are taking a short trip or a long journey with your furry friends, I hope you found these tips helpful!