Managing road trips with pets in tow

Family vacations provide opportunities for parents and their children to unwind and make memories that last a lifetime. Such excursions can be made even more memorable when taking the family pet.

Traveling with animals in tow is not as simple as beckoning the family pet to the car when it’s time to hit the open road. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals notes that travel can be stressful for both pet owners and their pets. To help ease that stress and ensure all members of the family, including those covered in fur, have a great a time on vacation, the ASPCA offers the following tips to pet owners taking their animals on road trips.

  • Check and update your pet’s collar. Even if pets are microchipped, it’s important to make sure they wear collars imprinted with their owners’ names, phone numbers, email addresses and any additional relevant contact information. Make sure the phone numbers listed on pets’ collars are the numbers where you can be reached while on vacation and not just landline home phone numbers.
  • Prepare your pet. In the weeks before the trip, pet owners should start to prepare their pets for the trip by taking them on short drives. Lengthen each of these mini trips so you can build up a travel tolerance in your pet and acquaint the animal with car travel before vacation begins.
  • Purchase appropriate travel gear. Some pet owners cannot imagine making long road trips with their pets in crates. But crating pets during road trips is entirely possible without making pets uncomfortable. The ASPCA advises purchasing crates that are large enough to allow pets to stand, sit, lie down and turn around. It’s also important to secure the crate so it does not slide around in case of sudden stops or when driving on curvy roads. Pet owners who don’t want to put their pets in crates should keep pets harnessed in the back seat at all times, never letting the animal hang its head out the window while the car is in motion.
  • Pack some travel items. Human beings tend to bring snacks and beverages along on road trips, and such items are necessary for pets, too. Pack water, food and some snacks for pets, but never feed them in a moving car. Take some time to feed pets at rest stops. The ASPCA advises feeding pets a light meal three to four hours before beginning the trip and serving pets only bottled water to reduce the risk of stomach problems. In addition to food and water, pack some toys to keep pets occupied during the trip. Such toys can also calm animals’ anxiety by providing them with something familiar.
  • Do not leave pets alone in the car. Leaving pets alone in a car is unsafe no matter what the temperature is outside. Pets are susceptible to heatstroke when left in hot cars and can freeze to death when left in cars during winter. When planning your road trip, confirm that any hotels you plan to stay in accept pets.

Family vacations may not be complete without the family pets joining in the fun. But it’s important for pet owners to plan ahead when taking their furry friends on vacation.

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