Traveling by Car or Truck with Pets

    Taking the family pet along for the ride is a part of the vacation plans of families across the nation. These trips can be quite memorable and enjoyable—but only if you take the proper safety precautions for your animals. This guide will help you travel safely and comfortably with your favorite pet.


    Before You Travel

    When you and your family are traveling, planning is essential to make sure you get everything packed and are fully prepared for your journey. Such planning is also a must when it comes to traveling with pets:

    Find a Place to Stay With Your Pet

    Not every hotel, campground, or other lodging allows pets to stay on the premises, and the last thing you want is to pull into your lodging and find out that your animal is unwelcome. While planning your trip, you should make sure to find pet-friendly accommodations at every stop along the way on your journey. Figure out where you will stop and plan accordingly.

    Check Your Pet’s Health

    A sick pet is no fun when you are in a truck or car, so you want to make sure that your animal is healthy before you go. You will want to take your pet to the vet to check on its overall health and to make sure you are current on all your pet’s vaccinations. This is particularly important if you are going to travel across state lines or from the U.S. into Canada. Cross-state travel requires a health certificate from your vet and proof of rabies vaccination. If you travel into Canada, you need certification from your vet that the animal has been vaccinated against rabies within the previous three years. Some Canadian provinces have additional requirements, so contact the provincial governments of the provinces you plan to visit in order to make sure you are all set. **As an addendum to this aspect of preparation, you should also take along your pet’s medical records and vet contact information in case you have to stop for veterinary care along the way.**

    Make Sure You Don’t Lose Your Animal

    It would be awful indeed to lose your pet while you are traveling, which can happen if it runs off while you are at a rest stop or at your destination. The best way to address this potential problem is to get a temporary pet ID tag that has the address and phone number of where you are staying on your trip. You will also want to include your cell phone number and email address on the tag. It is also wise to bring a photo of your pet with you in case you have to enlist the help of others in finding a lost pet.

    Pack the Essentials

    You don’t want to be caught on the road without everything you need to keep your pet healthy and happy. When you are packing, don’t forget these essentials:

    • Pet Food — Take an adequate supply of pet food for your trip, especially if your pet is picky and will only eat certain brands, which may or may not be available at your destination or at stops along the way.
    • Travel Food and Water Bowls (collapsible)
    • Bedding
    • Kitty Litter
    • Litterbox
    • Collar
    • Tags
    • Leash
    • Medications
    • Pet First-Aid Kit
    • Grooming Supplies
    • Toys
    • Sufficient Water for Your Pet

    Pet Restraint

    Every year, hundreds of pets are killed while they are on car or truck trips because they have not been properly restrained. Pets should not be left free to roam around the car or truck cab because they can be injured. They can also distract the driver, increasing the risk of auto accidents. Please do not forget to properly restrain your pet, as restraint is one of the most neglected aspects of pet travel. You can choose from a wide variety of pet travel crates, carriers, pet car seats, pet seat belts, and vehicle pet barriers to keep your animal safe and secure. Make sure to practice driving with the new restraint device so that your pet is prepared when it comes time for your journey.


    On the Road

    Once you are on the road with your pet, you will need to adhere to some basic guidelines to keep your animals and your family happy and safe. Here are some recommendations for the trip itself:

    Keep the Animal Inside

    Anyone who owns a dog knows how much these animals like to put their heads out the window while they are riding in a car. This is dangerous for the animal, as debris can injure it. It is best to keep the animal’s head and every other part inside the car or truck, and never let your pet ride in the bed of a pickup truck, which exposes it to many dangers.

    Stop Frequently

    Particularly if you are traveling with a dog, you will need to stop regularly to give your animal bathroom, exercise, and water breaks. Fortunately, most rest areas have ample space for you to give your pet a chance to stretch its legs. Keep your pet leashed when you stop and have a bag ready to clean up after it.

    Food and Water

    You will want to limit excessive feeding while you are traveling to avoid giving your pet an upset stomach. Keep feeding to a minimum and stick to the pet food. Avoid the temptation to let the animal snack on what you are eating, as that can cause some unpleasant digestive issues.

    On the other hand, you want to make sure that your pet gets as much water as possible. Give it water every time you stop. You may also want to bring along some ice cubes, which are a treat for most pets and easier for them to handle than water if they get upset stomachs while you are traveling.

    Stay with Your Pet

    Pet owners should never leave their pets alone in a vehicle at a stop, even for a brief moment. Even when the windows are rolled down slightly, interior car temperatures can reach upwards of 120 degrees on a hot day. This will be fatal to your pet. There are also pet thieves on the road, and leaving your pet alone is asking for someone to take it.

    Safe and Comfortable Restraint

    We noted above how important it is to keep your pet restrained while you are travelling in order to prevent auto accidents and injuries to you and your pets. Once you have settled on a restraining device, however, it is important that you use it throughout your trip. These are some common restraint options:

    • Travel Kennels or Pet Carriers are ideal for smaller pets, although large kennels are good options for large dogs as well. Just make sure that your kennel is well ventilated and on a stable surface such as vehicle flooring.
    • Vehicle Barriers are great options for SUVs and vans, especially when you have large animals.
    • Safety Seats are best for small animals. These work essentially like a child’s car seat, and like a child’s car seat, they should be placed in the rear of the vehicle. In fact, it is always safer for your pet to travel in the back seat no matter what kind of restraining device you have chosen. If you are using a pet car seat, it will come with a pet harness that you should have your pet wear several times before your trip in order to get used to it.

    Finally, you will want to make your pet’s comfort a priority when you travel because that will make the whole experience better and happier for your animal. Take along a pet’s favorite blanket or bed, and bring a toy or two in order to keep it occupied.


    For Further Information

    For more information on traveling with your pet, please consult the following:

    • Animal Planet: Top 5 Safety Tips for Traveling with a Pet in the Car — Animal Planet provides this brief overview on safely traveling with your pet.
    • ASPCA Car Travel Tips — This page offers 10 tips for travelling with pets in cars from the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
    • CDC: Traveling with Pets — The Center for Disease Control has put together this guide that is particularly helpful if you are traveling with your pet into another country.
    • Dog Tip: Car Trips and Car Safety — The Partnership for Animal Welfare has published this guide that includes many tips on safely traveling with your dog that you might not otherwise consider.
    • How to Calm a Cat for Travel in a Car — Most cats hate to travel by car, and this article from USA Today can help you get your cat ready for a good driving experience.
    • Packing a Pet Suitcase — Pet owners can access an article and video that describes how to pack a pet suitcase for comfortable pet travel.
    • Packing for Pets — This is a relatively comprehensive overview of packing for car travel with your pet.
    • Pet Travel Tips — The Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals can help you make your trip with your pet a great one when you follow this guide.
    • Safe Road Tripping with Pets — Visit this page from Consumer Reports to get an overview of pet travel safety and suggestions for the best products to make your trip a safe one.
    • Tips for Safe Traveling with Your Bird — Follow these tips for safe traveling with your bird.
    • Traveling by Car with Your Pet Part 1 — Click on this link to access the first part of a two-part article from the American Animal Hospital Association on safely traveling with your pet by car.
    • Traveling with Your Cat — The Feline Advisory Bureau has put together this guide to traveling with cats.
    • Traveling with Your Dog — The American Kennel Club has put together this guide on traveling safely with your dog in a car or truck.

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