Dogs and cats need to get from A to B sometimes and that often means placing them in the car. So, here are some tips for safer travel with animals.


Getting A Healthy Start

Nothing turns a trip dramatic faster than a sick pet. Get your pooch prepared for your trip by running by your veterinarian for a general checkup. This is also the time to make sure that all of your pet’s vaccinations are fully up to date. You should also ask your vet for a health certificate. This is a necessity if you’re going to cross state lines; besides a health certificate, you also need documentation verifying that your pet has a valid rabies vaccination. If you’re crossing the US / Canada border, you need a veterinarian’s certificate that identifies your pet and documentation establishing that your animal has received a rabies vaccination in the last 36 months. Get in touch with the local government in the province you intend to visit to check the full details; each province of Canada has specific requirements for incoming dogs.

The Need For Restraint

Your dog needs to be restrained safely and comfortably while your vehicle is in motion. Far too many pet owners neglect this matter. Every year, pets that are allowed to roam freely inside vehicles (cars, trucks, SUVs, and RVs) end up getting injured or even killed. If that’s not serious enough for you; consider the safety risk that unrestrained pets present to human drivers and passengers. An over-enthusiastic pet can lead to driver distraction and subsequent accidents. You have plenty of options that will keep both you and your pet safe when you’re traveling. Examples include pet crates, pet car seats, pet seat belts, and pet carriers – check out these ones from Give your pet some time to get used to your restraints by taking a few shorter rides before you set off on a long journey.

Temporary Pet Identification

The prospect of losing your pet while you’re on the road is an unpleasant one, but it’s also one that you can prepare for. Pack photos of your dog and make sure you attach a temporary ID tag to your pet’s collar. This should be considered a supplement for your pet’s permanent ID tag rather than a replacement. Temporary tags need to have a phone number and address that reflect your traveling destination. Cell phone numbers (and possible email addresses) are ideal for temporary pet tags. Take a clear photo of your dog before setting off on your trip. This will give you something to show to others if your pet happens to get lost along the way.

Essential Provisions

It’s a very good idea to pack all of the food your dog might need on your trip along with a healthy extra supply for unexpected delays. Don’t plan to pick up food along the way or at your destination; you may not be able to find your dog’s preferred brand. Attempting to introduce your pet to unfamiliar food in the course of traveling isn’t a smart idea. Travel can be stressful enough for your dog without adding on the challenge of strange food. Other handy supplies to bring along include collapsible bowls for food and water, bedding, an extra leash, your dog’s favorite toys, a first aid kit for dogs, grooming supplies, and any medications your pet is taking. Make it a general rule throughout your trip to make sure your dog has ample access to water.

Look For Pet-Friendly Places To Stay

On multi-day trips, you’re going to need to stay overnight in accommodations that are friendly to pets. The time to make these arrangements is well in advance of your trip. You can use our “search by route” travel planning feature to locate pet-friendly accommodations in between any origin and destination you choose. Always verify that a lodging establishment (hotel, etc.) is okay with pets before you make a reservation. Established pet policies (such as on a website) might change without notice, so it’s a good idea to check in and confirm that your dog will be welcome wherever you stop. (It’s also polite to notify any friends you might be staying with that you’re bringing your pet along!)

Medical Documentation

Just in case you need to take your dog to a strange vet when you’re on the road, you’ll probably want to have a copy of your pet’s medical records with you when you travel. You also need to bring current contact information for your usual veterinarian back home so that other vets can consult with them as necessary.


Keep Dogs’ Heads Inside

dog sitting on a truckThe chance to poke their noses out into the high-speed wind outside your car or truck is something that most dogs look forward to. As charming as this behavior is to watch, it’s not safe for your pet. You don’t need to run into a catastrophic accident to injure your pet if it’s hanging its head out the window; flying debris can cause a lot of trouble. Needless to say, it’s not a good idea to travel with your dog in an open pickup truck bed, either. This type of transport is even illegal in certain regions.

Make Plenty Of Rest Stops

dog inside car on a tripTake plenty of breaks for exercise and going to the bathroom. You’ll find dedicated pet-walking areas in a lot of travel service areas. Whenever you stop at such a facility, keep your dog inside the designated area – especially during potty breaks. Bring plenty of baggies to clean up after your dog, and keep your pet on a leash whenever it’s outside of your vehicle. Your dog should also be wearing a collar and both permanent and temporary tags.

Staying Hydrated

A chance to enjoy some fresh water should be a part of every pit stop you give your pets when you travel. If possible, bring some ice cubes along with you. Dogs can get digestive problems from traveling, and if your pet is getting ill cool ice cubes may be more palatable than liquid water.

Don’t Overfeed Your Pet

Feed your dog no more than necessary when you’re on the road. Stick with a brand of food they’re familiar with and don’t try to “treat” them by sharing fast food with them. Strange food leads to all sorts of problems when pets are subjected to travel stress.

Don’t Leave Dogs In The Vehicle

Dogs should never be left alone in a parked vehicle. The ambient temperature inside a parked auto can shoot past 120 degrees within minutes. Leaving the windows open slightly does not remedy this problem. You also don’t want to make your dog a target for pet thieves while you’re on the road.

Use Restraints Properly

As noted above, your pet needs to be restrained for the safety of both two and four-legged travelers. Use a travel kennel, pet barrier, pet car seat, or pet safety harness to restrain your dog while your vehicle is in motion. Pick the restraint system that suits your dog and vehicle best. Smaller dogs may do well in pet car seats, while bigger animals will be more comfortable secured behind a pet barrier. If you use a system that requires your dog to wear a harness, let your pet get acclimated it to it by fitting it into them a few times before putting them in your vehicle.

Make Comfort A Priority

However, you restrain your dog, make sure it’s a situation that your pet finds comfortable. You need a comfortable seat to make it through a long road trip; why would you expect things to be any different for your dog? Tucking your pet in with a favorite blanket or toy will often help keep them serene and comfortable.

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