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Dog Tip: Car Trips and Car Safety


* Be sure to keep the dog's leash firmly in hand when loading and unloading the dog from the car.

* Always keep a current i.d. tag on the pet in case the pet manages to escape. Make sure the collar cannot slip off. Especially when traveling, it's important that the i.d. tag include an easily accessible number, such as your cell phone number.

* For safety, do not allow pets to ride in the front seat, no matter how much the pet enjoys it. Pets riding in the front seat can be thrown into the windshield if you have to make a sudden stop. Also, the pet can climb on the driver's lap, interfere with driving or fall down by the gas and brake pedals, causing an accident.

Another reason to keep pets in the back seat or in a crate is that airbags can pose hazards to smaller people and pets. Air bags can launch out of the dashboard at a great enough force to severely injure a pet or small human. Some cars come with on on/off switches for the bags. Visit www.NHTSA.gov for details about switches as well as a list of dealers and repair businesses that install them. FYI, air bags can be deactivated by a car dealer, but this could affect a vehicle warranty or insurance.

* Secure the pet in the car. An unrestrained pet can interfere with driving and become a hazardous projectile in the event of an accident or sudden stop, hitting the windshield, injuring a passenger or knocking the driver over (or out) resulting in loss of control of the car.

* Crates or sturdy pet carriers are an ideal way to restrain pets in cars. Stressed pets need a nice quiet place to rest and be alone at times. Secure the crate so it does not fly forward or flip in case of a sudden stop or accident.

* If your car does not allow room to set up a crate, obtain a dog seat belt, which doubles as a harness, from many pet supply stores and mail order/web merchants. Here are two sources:
http://www.ruffrider.com/faqs.shtml and
http://www.greatpetsmarket.com

* Or install a pet barrier to keep dogs in the back seat.

* If you don't have a crate, travel harness or partition between front and back seats, Patti Thorne-Smaridge suggests this tip using a short leash with a loop on the end. Adjust the back seat's middle seatbelt as tight as it will go. Slip the leash through the seatbelt and resecure it. If the leash is short enough to limit the dog to sitting up, lying down and turning around, it will probably be short enough to keep the dog from being thrown to the floor in the event of a sudden stop.

If using a loose leash in the back seat, allow enough slack so that the dog won't strangle if the driver brakes and the dog falls into the floor area. Fasten the leash to something inside the car, such as an arm rest. If you have to extend the loop outside the car window, use extreme caution. You do not want the leash loop to get caught on anything, get pulled by someone outside, or get entangled with the wheels of the car.

* Look behind you frequently. Tell a dog behaving well that she is good. Reassure a nervous dog that everything is OK.

* To curtail barking in the car, Katherine Houpt, VMD, recommends using a citronella collar, which discourages barking by emitting a spray of unpleasantly scented citronella each time the dog barks.

* Bring a dish and some water since dogs often get thirsty during car rides.

* Pack ice chips or cubes. This makes a tasty treat for your dog, plus it melts down into water along the way. For long trips, bring sufficient bottled water for you and your dog.

* Carry a first aid kit in your car, keeping it within reach from the driver's seat. Include items for both human and pet injuries. Also carry a couple of terry towels, which can be used for a variety of first aid needs from stabilizing a hurt limb to stemming bleeding to creating a temporary muzzle. A roll of gauze and gauze tape come in handy too. For a list of items to include in your first aid kit, see below.

* Rescue Remedy, a Bach flower essence available in most health food stores, is a natural stress reliever that many folks keep on hand at home and in travel kits. It can often help both people and animals recover from injury, fright, illness, travel fatigue, chocolate ingestion and irritation. Put a few drops in the dog's water bowl or portable water container. For stressed or injured animals, rub a drop on their ear or put a drop on the towel in their crate or carrier. Flower essences are free of harmful effects and can be used along with conventional medicines. Another safe, nontoxic Rescue Remedy-like product is Animal Emergency Trauma Solution, available from www.greenhopeessences.com, where you can also get Flee Free to combat fleas nontoxically. Other flower essence sources include anaflora.com and perelandra-ltd.com.

* Keep the windows rolled up high enough so that the dog cannot squeeze out. Dogs can make themselves very skinny in order to escape through a window, even in a moving vehicle.

* Secure the dog so that he cannot hit buttons for electric windows, adjustable mirrors, etc. Dogs have gotten their heads stuck in electric windows after activating them. Securing the dog will also help in case you stop at tollbooths or need to roll down the window to ask for directions. Another tip: have money at hand so you won't have to fumble at tollbooths and parking lots.

* When stopping the car, have things organized before opening the door, including stops at gas stations and rest areas. Make sure the dog is still secured. And when taking the dog out of the car, have the leash attached to the dog and in your hand so that the dog cannot escape.

* To prevent car-sickness:

** Avoid feeding the pet within three hours before a ride. Give the pet a good opportunity to relieve himself before the trip...a hardy walk has the added benefits of tiring and calming a dog before the road trip. Some vets suggest limiting water consumption just before the ride, too.

** Many pet owners have successfully used ginger as a natural way to prevent travel sickness. You can use grated raw ginger or powdered ginger root capsules. Ginger has worked for many humans, too.

** Some folks report success using mild natural remedies such as Rescue Remedy, available at health food stores. A common Rescue Remedy dosage is four drops in the mouth about ten hours before the trip, repeating every four hours or as needed. Some people prefer to drop Rescue Remedy into the pet's ears or water bowl.

** We've heard reports about other potentially helpful carsickness preventives such as B complex vitamins, Pet Calm (available from pet supply stores) and cooled peppermint tea (which also can be used to calm tummies after a trip).

** Some folks bring newspapers for their dog to sit on because the smell of newspapers has a calming effect on some dogs.

** Some give their dogs Dramamine before a trip. But discuss drug options with your veterinarian before you consider using them.

* Be prepared in case the dog gets queasy in the car. Cover the seats, bring towels, paper towels and baggies, give a back seat dog plenty of air, play soothing music, and do not play music too loudly.

* If your pet is unaccustomed to car trips, take her on several short rides before attempting a long one. Make sure that the first few car trips are to pleasant places, so that the dog will associate drives with positive experiences.

* For long road trips, give yourself and your pet a rest stop and take a walk every two or three hours.

* Avoid letting dogs stick their heads out the car window, which can lead to eye, ear and other injuries.

* Dogs are at risk in convertibles with the tops down and in the open bed of a pick-up truck.

* Avoid leaving a dog in a car alone to avoid the risk of theft, accidental death and heat stroke even when it does not seem that warm outside.

* If you must leave the animal in the car for a short period, take the leash off the dog. The leash can get caught on objects such as the parking brake to the adjustment handles beneath the seats. If this happens, the dog can panic and injure himself. Be extremely careful not to let the dog escape out the car when you open the door.

Travel with Pets -- Packing, Preparation and Other Trip Tips:
http://www.paw-rescue.org/PAW/PETTIPS/DogTip_Travel.php

Hiking, Camping and Swimming with your Dog:
http://www.paw-rescue.org/PAW/PETTIPS/DogTip_Hiking.php

Hotels, Motels, Lodging with Pets:
http://www.paw-rescue.org/PAW/PETTIPS/DogTip_Lodging.php

First Aid Kit and Guidance:
Keep a pet First Aid Kit in your home and car. Take the one you keep in your car with you on trips with your pet. This webpage lists items to include:
http://www.paw-rescue.org/PAW/PETTIPS/DogTip_FirstAid.php

ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center emergency 24-hour hotline at 1-888-4-ANI-HELP

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For more Dog Tips and other information about pet
care, adoption and the work PAW does, visit our
website at:  www.paw-rescue.org

Partnership for Animal Welfare
P.O. Box 1074, Greenbelt, MD 20768

Last Updated: June 23, 2013 (LET) PawSupport