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Home > Dogs > How to Travel by Car With Your Dog: 10 Vet-Approved Tips for Safety & Comfort

How to Travel by Car With Your Dog: 10 Vet-Approved Tips for Safety & Comfort

Woman Fastening Dog In Car With Safe Belt In Seat Booster

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Dr. Paola Cuevas

Veterinarian, MVZ

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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We often grow so closely attached to our dogs that it’s hard to imagine a trip or vacation without them. Instead of leaving our beloved pets with a sitter, it’s sometimes more manageable to bring them along for the ride. That said, traveling can be a stressful time for both you and your pet when you aren’t prepared. When you come up with a travel strategy in advance, the journey becomes much more enjoyable.

Whether traveling for pleasure or necessity, there are crucial steps that you must take to prepare for your dog’s needs. Taking the family pet on the road makes the experience more fun for everyone involved, but you want your dog to be as stress-free as possible while you head to your next destination.


Preparing to Travel by Car With Your Dog

The vet’s office isn’t just for yearly checkups and emergencies. Always take your animal to the vet for a checkup before going on a trip. The vet will make sure your dog’s vaccinations are up to date and supply you with a health certification if you’re traveling across a border. On top of that, veterinarians are equipped with tools and advice for traveling with pets, and they may bring up valid points that you would have missed if you didn’t make the appointment.

You should always be prepared for a road trip emergency and check for a 24-hour hospital at your final destination. If traveling by car, look up a few veterinary clinics on your route so there is always an option in case anything goes wrong.

The last thing that you want to deal with is a lost dog in unfamiliar territory. Make sure both your dog’s leash and collar have tags with the dog’s name, your name and number, and proof of a rabies shot. Give all the information to your vacation host, too so they can pass along the details if necessary. Keep an up-to-date photo of your dog with you, and have a copy of their health records on hand.

Jack Russell Terrier in a car seat harness
Image by: eva_blanco, Shutterstock

The 10 Tips on How to Travel by Car With Your Dog

Preparing for a big trip is already anxiety-inducing, and the stress only gets worse when you have one of your most beloved family members hitting the road with you. These traveling tips can help you out.

1. Keep Your Dog Restrained

We have seat belts to keep us safe, and your pet should also have a security measure in place. A dog crate is a smart way to keep your dog secure and protected while on a road trip. It’s also easy to move in and out of buildings, and you can keep your dog out of trouble if you’re staying in a hotel.

Only use a large enough crate that your pet can stand, sit, and lie down in. Try to get a crate with a leak-proof bottom that you can fill with absorbent material in case they have any accidents in the car. Ventilation is highly important, and there shouldn’t be anything blocking the holes that enable air to flow into the crate.

To make your dog more comfortable, throw in a few of their favorite toys, a comfortable mat or bed, and a water bottle in case they get thirsty.

2. Get Them Accustomed to Travel

It’s not a wise idea to take your dog on a 10-hour road trip if they’ve never been in your car for longer than 15 minutes. The experience will be better for all involved if you take them on short trips a few months before the big vacation.

Set up your car so your dog is traveling in the same way that it will be for the final journey. On each short trip, gradually increase the amount of time that you spend in the car. Eventually, your dog will grow accustomed to the travel, and the longer trips will be a breeze.

Chihuahua in a carrier loaded into the car
Image by: New Africa, Shutterstock

3. Stop to Feed Your Dog

Trust us when we say that it’s never a good idea to feed your dog while the car is moving. If sudden car sickness comes on, you’re one turn away from having to stop to clean up vomit.

Give your dog a meal 3 to 4 hours before you hit the road. Whenever it is time for them to eat again, always pull the car over and stop to let them eat and take a bathroom break before resuming.

4. Don’t Leave Your Dog in the Car

Do not ever leave your dog in a car unattended. It is a sure way to make your dog freeze or overheat, and it could have deadly consequences. Also, a passerby might view your choice to keep the dog in the car as a poor one and break your window in order to free them.

5. Pack a Bag for Them

Humans aren’t the only family members who should have luggage on this trip. You should be prepared for any situation, and there are essential items that you should have stashed in one safe place. Include your pet’s most recent immunization and health records, food, water, bowls, and medications. It’s also smart to come prepared with cleaning supplies, waste bags, and a few toys so they don’t get bored. Last but not least, a pet first-aid kit is a wise investment if you haven’t already bought one.

Essential dog supplies for traveling
Image by: Firn, Shutterstock

6. Have a Way to Identify Your Pet

You might want to consider getting your dog microchipped if the vet hasn’t already done so. Aside from a collar that could come loose, microchips are embedded into the dog’s skin. If your pet were to get loose and someone took them in, most places would check for a microchip so they can get in contact with you about their whereabouts. If possible, get your dog a GPS tracker so you know where to find them in case they get lost.

7. Don’t Let Them Stick Their Head Out the Window

It seems like a fun idea to let your dog feel the breeze blowing through their fur, and we won’t deny that it’s cute, but this puts your pet at major risk of injury. They could get struck by other passing cars, thrown from the vehicle if in a crash, or fall out of the car while it’s moving at high speeds. Your number-one concern on your trip should be safety for all, and that includes your furry friend.

Dog in car seat with safe belt and seat booster
Image by: Andrey_Popov, Shutterstock

8. Have Plenty of Water on Hand

You don’t want your dog drinking from an unfamiliar source on the side of a parking lot. It’s less stressful if you have a case of water in your car that you can grab whenever your dog is feeling thirsty. This way, they get a freshwater source, and you don’t have to go searching for somewhere they can get a drink.

9. Protect Your Car

With shedding fur, long nails, and anxiety at an all-time high, it’s a good idea to invest in car seat covers or mats that can protect your car’s interior from damage. You never truly know how your dogs will react while traveling, and the last thing that you want to do is to pay for repairs.

10. Ask Your Vet for Medicine

Some dogs travel better than others, and if your pet has a great deal of anxiety, your veterinarian may be able to prescribe helpful medication to ease that anxiety while traveling. These medicines can work wonders if you have a nervous dog, and they can make the trip more enjoyable for you too.

Dog in a trunk
Image by: Halie West, Unsplash


Final Thoughts

Traveling is exciting, stressful, and demanding all at the same time. The only way to make the ride go as smoothly as possible with your dog is to prepare, prepare, prepare! Envision the entire trip, and try to think of every situation that could happen. You want to be able to handle whatever life throws your way, and if you’re already one step ahead, you’re going to experience a much better car ride with your furry family member than if you winged it from the beginning.

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Featured Image Credit: Andrey_Popov, Shutterstock

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