By Beth Williams
Millions of Americans are expected to hit the roads this summer, headed for vacation destinations around the country, and many of those travelers will be accompanied by their beloved pets.
For many a road trip is a fun, even relaxing, experience away from the stresses of everyday life. But, for pets who aren’t used to traveling in the car, a road trip could cause unnecessary stress. Fortunately, you can ensure both you and your pet’s trip is stress free by following a few simple rules.
Take your pet for rides
If your pet isn’t used to car travel, start taking her for drives. Start by taking only short trips of five to ten minutes, and slowly work your way up to longer car trips. The car trips will help in two important ways. First, your pet will become familiar and comfortable with traveling in the car.
Second, she’ll begin to understand that every time she goes in the car, she’s going to come home again. This is an important trust building experience, especially for those pets who have been adopted and may have been abandoned in the past. Once your pet becomes accustomed to traveling in the car, she may just come running every time she hears you jingle your keys.
If you discover that even short rides cause your pet too much stress, discuss the problem with your veterinarian. Your vet should know your pet’s temperament and should be able to provide you with additional advice.
Feed your pet prior to your drive
Make sure you feed your pet three to four hours prior to your departure. After all, you don’t want to risk her getting sick in the car. Certain pets, however, will require food even while you’re driving. Rabbits, for example, must have constant access to hay, so if you have a rabbit, ensure she has hay she can munch on in her carrier.
Bring fresh tap or bottled water
Keep an adequate supply of water in the car for your pet. According to the ASPCA, it’s best to bring bottled or tap water (from home) in the car rather than giving your pet water from rest stops. Your pet’s stomach may become unsettled should you give her unfamiliar water.
Make sure your pet is secure
When your pet rides in the car, you must make sure she is secure. Most pets, like cats and rabbits, must and can easily travel in a carrier. Dogs, however, have several options. Like cats and rabbits, dogs can comfortably travel in a carrier. Or, you can purchase a safety harness specifically designed for use in the car.
If your pet is in a carrier, ensure you put the carrier in a safe place. NEVER put your pet’s carrier on the floor in the front seat where she’ll be exposed to toxic fumes. There have been pets who have died as a result of being exposed to such fumes.
Additionally, many pets, dogs in particular, love to ride in the car with their heads out the window. Regardless of how happy your pet is to stick her out the window, don’t allow it. Otherwise, she’ll be at risk of particles getting into and damaging her eyes.
Never leave your pet alone in the car
You’ll need to stop for plenty of breaks during your road trip â€“ for the sake of yourself and your pet. Breaks are a great way to allow your pet, especially your dog, to get out of the car and stretch her legs. Rest stops generally have areas specifically designed for pets that you can use to give your pet a chance to relieve herself and get some exercise.
Even if your pet can’t get out of the car, never leave her alone in your vehicle. Leaving a pet in the car is dangerous any time of the year, but it’s particularly worrisome in the summer. You may take all the precautions â€“ from parking in the shade to leaving the window open a crack â€“ to ensure your pet isn’t overheated, but the fact is your car is going to become a furnace in only minutes.
Don’t leave your pet in the car alone, or you risk her suffering from dehydration or heat stroke, which can lead to death.
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