Road trips can be fun, for you and your pet. Many dogs and other animals love being in the car, and to make sure they continue to have a good time, make sure you know how to care for them on the go.
Items to bring with you
- Water: This is very important, even for what you think is a fairly quick trip. The excitement of being in the car makes your dog pant more, and if it is hot outside this will worsen the problem. Any pet will get very thirsty on the road, so bring a cold bottle of water with you. Get a non-slip bowl and place it in the backseat or on the floor if your pet can reach it. If you don’t have a non-slip bowl, bring a regular bowl and let your pet drink each time you stop, which in that case should be about every hour or so. If the water runs out or gets warm, stop and buy a new bottle at a rest area or gas station.
- Food: If your trip is only a few hours long, you may want to forgo this item. Eating in a cramped, different area can make your pet’s stomach upset. This is especially true if you have an animal who gets carsick. If you do feed your pet in the car, watch them for signs of distress, and make sure you let them go to the bathroom soon after.
- Plastic Bags: Speaking of going to the bathroom, it is important that you stop and let your dog out to go potty. If there is a mess to clean up, the workers at the rest area or gas station will be very grateful if you pick it up. You can buy small bags in the pet section of any store for this, or you can use old plastic shopping bags.
- Leash: You must put your pet on a leash to take them outside of your car. Some rest areas may have a rule about this. Even if you stop somewhere where it is not required, your pet should still be leashed. Even the best-behaved animal can act out when in a new place or when he or she is under stress. Since many road trips follow large highways and interstates, it can be particularly dangerous for your animal to run off.
- Toys: Particularly if you are driving with a puppy or similarly active pet, you will want to bring a toy for them. If a puppy is teething, they may just decide to take it out on your upholstery. If you think your pet may be a little stressed about the drive, bring their favorite toy to make things more familiar. Just make sure not to lose it!
- Blankets: Your pet may want some extra comfort when lying down, especially if they are going to be on the floor. You also may have a small animal who will get cold, especially in the winter. If you cover your dog up, you will need to watch to make sure he or she does not get too hot. A blanket can also benefit you! If you have a dog that likes to sit in a passenger’s lap (never the driver!) putting a blanket over your legs can keep them more comfortable and keep your pet from scratching you. Be sure that this is a blanket that you do not mind smelling like your pet or having pet hair on it.
Ways to make your pet comfortable
Besides blankets and toys, there are some things you can do so your pet will be nice and comfy.
- Give them plenty of room: Your pet needs space, no matter how small they are. Obviously, when traveling with a bigger pet such as a large dog, you will need to provide more room. Your pet should be able to stand up and turn in a circle at the minimum. A van or an SUV can be perfect for this, especially if the seats fold down. Make sure you have these types of vehicles to provide room for a big animal. Many people also place large pets in the bed of trucks. This is not really recommended as your pet is very exposed to the elements and cannot be watched closely, so it should only be used when necessary for short trips at low speeds.
- Don’t let them put their head outside: While many pets, especially dogs, love to hang their heads out the window, it is not always good for them, especially on a high-speed road trip. The wind can whip against their faces much too hard. This can be very bad for their eyes, especially for a breed with eye problems already such as a Shih Tzu. Having a pet’s head outside of the window can lead to your pet being struck by flying debris as well. There is also the risk of your pet jumping out of the vehicle if the window is rolled down enough.
- Hold onto them: Pets can be very unsure and unsteady in the car. Particularly if you have a small pet, this can send them flying if there is an unexpected brake. If you know there is a sharp turn or a stop ahead, then hold onto your pet to keep them safe. There are even safety harnesses you can buy for a small pet to hold them in place.
- Give your pet a bath: Bathing your pet before you go can be beneficial for both of you. A smelly animal is doubly as bothersome when the smell is trapped inside of a vehicle. Your pet’s sense of smell is better than yours, so they will not be happy either. If you are staying somewhere, you may not have access to a way of bathing your pet. So bathe them the day before or the day of, but just be careful that they are completely dry.
- Leave the A/C on: Your pet needs air, especially if they are a very furry pet. Leaving the air at least on low will keep them cooler and provide them with fresh air. If you notice your pet panting, drinking a lot of water or moving to get in front of the air vents, turn the air up a notch so that they can cool off.
- Let them burn off energy: You know that restless feeling you get when you’ve been in the car for a while? Pets get it, too. When you stop to let your pet use the bathroom, walk around with them for a while so you can both stretch your legs.
All of these tips can make for a more fun ride for you and your pet. Many pets love being in the car, and you can make sure they are safe and comfortable as they ride.