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April 29, 2021 – Many of us are anxious to see the COVID-19 pandemic behind us in the rearview mirror as we start traveling again. The safest bet for your first adventure may be a road trip. And what better way to celebrate your newfound freedom then to hit the road with your best fur friend by your side.

But before you go, here are a few friendly reminders on how to keep your pet safe and happy during your travels.

HEALTH THUMBS-UP

Check with your veterinarian to make sure your pet is healthy to travel and has all recommended vaccinations. If you are going somewhere outside your and your pet’s normal habitat, check to see if your pet needs additional protection against a disease or a parasite prevalent at your destination. If your pet takes regular medications, make sure you stock up before you head out.

CHIP AWAY

While you are at the veterinary office, make sure your pet’s microchip is up to date with your latest contact information. Even the best of pets can get spooked in a new environment and make a dash for it. If your pet isn’t microchipped, set up an appointment today. Microchips are responsible for thousands of happy reunions every year between owners and their lost pets.

PLAN A PET-FRIENDLY ITINERARY

Not all places welcome pets. Make sure wherever you are staying, from a campground to a hotel, your pets are welcome. Look for places to stay that will roll out the red carpet for your pet and has a fun dog park or pet-friendly trails so you have safe places to stretch your legs. Also, to avoid unpleasant surprises, be aware of any additional pet fees or deposits charged at your overnight accommodations.

PACK A FIRST AID KIT

You can buy a pet first aid kit or make one yourself. Make sure you have antiseptics, gauze, tape, towels, ice packs and all the other essentials that will make a small emergency easier to handle. Also, keep your veterinarian’s contact information handy as well as local veterinary emergency clinics along the way and/or at your destination. As the saying goes, hope for the best, be prepared for the worst.

SHOW SOME RESTRAINT

If you slam on your breaks suddenly or swerve to avoid another car or animal in the road, your pet may take flight in your car and injure itself (and/or you!). The good news is many great products are out there to help make sure your pet is safely secured during the ride. This keeps you safe, too, by preventing your pet from hopping into your lap while you are driving. A little restraint goes a long way to improve safety for everyone.

GOT YOU COVERED

Seat covers keep your pet cozy and your vehicle’s seats clean from gooey chewy treats, muddy feet, wet fur and other unexpected messes (car sickness especially). Once you’re home, you can throw the covers in the wash or, if unsalvageable, in the trash.

PIT & PLAY STOPS A MUST

If you’ve ever driven long distances without stopping, you know how stiff, sore and tired you get. The same is true for your pet. Stop frequently along the way, every few hours or so, for bathroom breaks and maybe a little frisbee (in a safe dog park) or tug of war contest. A tired pet is more likely to take some naps, making for a more peaceful drive. Be sure your dog is securely leashed during pit stops or you’re in a securely fenced dog park. Dogs in an unfamiliar area can get spooked and take off for home – even if it’s hundreds or thousands of miles away. Make sure to pack lots of poop bags, too!

SNACKS & HYDRATION

Always bring extra food, in case you get delayed because of car problems, weather or other unexpected events. Pack healthy snacks and maybe a few chewing items to keep your pet occupied. Bring an extra container of fresh, cool water and a bowl for your pet. Don’t count on access to clean water at every pit stop.

NO ONE WANTS A HOT DOG (OR CAT)

Never leave your pet unattended in your vehicle, even if it’s just for a few minutes while you pop into a store. Even with all the windows cracked, the temperature inside your vehicle can increase within minutes, creating a life-threatening health emergency or heat-related death. Cars can quickly exceed temperatures greater than 110 degrees Fahrenheit in just minutes, even if the temperature outside seems comfortable to you.  

Remember, pets can’t regulate heat as well as we can; they have fewer sweat glands than we do and their normal body temperatures are higher than ours. It takes just a few minutes for a pet left in a hot car to become seriously ill or even die. Don’t risk it!

MAKE SURE THE CAT WANTS TO GO

Yes, some cats will be happy to join you on a road trip. These are cats used to traveling in a car (start them young) and tolerate a leash or harness so you can safely take them on bathroom and stretching breaks. However, many cats don’t tolerate road trips well – as many people who have moved across country with cats can attest!  Most cats would rather stay home with a pet sitter than join you on a road trip. As always, the cat’s in charge of this decision.

For more information on how to keep your pets happy and healthy, sign up for AnimalNEWS Tips & Tails, our monthly email for pet owners. Let Morris Animal Foundation be your go-to source for health information to keep your pets wagging and purring for years to come.