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Safety Tips for Traveling in the Car with Your Pet

Updated on January 20, 2010

Traveling with a Pet

If you have pets, you know how difficult it may be to make reservations at the vet or kennel to board your pet, and it can be hard to find a reputable pet sitter to stay at your home while you are gone. If you don't know anyone who can pet sit your dog or cat and if you don't want to board the pet, then traveling is a little more complicated. But, on the other hand, bringing the pet with you can be just as complicated because you'll need to find a pet friendly hotel so that you can have a place to stay.

Depending on what sacrifices you want to take on, you're going to have to make a decision either way. Leaving your pet behind can be sad and a hassle to make the reservations, but bringing the pet can have just as many problems.

You'll find that there are people who prefer to leave the pet behind, whereas there are people who prefer to bring the pet.

If you think that you want to travel with your pet, definitely consider the below 10 tips to make traveling in the car save for you and your pet.

10 Tips for Car Travel With Your Pet

In order to keep your pet safe and to reduce the stress on you and you're pet, you'll find that traveling in the car is going to be more than just putting your pet in the back seat and taking off. You want to do a little preparation before the ride so that everyone will be comfortable, especially if you plan on driving for a long time.

First off, make sure that you get your pet accustomed to riding in the car. Start with short trips around the block and then around town. You can't expect your pet to be the best car traveler for 5 or more hours without being 'trained' how to ride in a car.

1. Make sure to use a well-ventilated crate. You can choose from a wire crate or a hard plastic one. Make sure that you have the crate appropriately sized so that the pet can stand, turn around, and lay down. The pet doesn't need any more room than that. You may want to add a soft pillow or bedding to the travel crate so that the ride is a little more comfortable for him.

2. Make sure to secure the crate in the car so that it doesn't slide or shift with every turn and stop.

3. Give your pet a small meal before you go, at least 3-4 hours before loading up and leaving. You do not want to feed your pet while in a moving car. He will be fine to eat before you leave and then when you arrive at your destination.

4. Do not under any circumstances, leave your pet alone in a parked car. On hot days, even with the windows cracked or open, your vehicle can become very hot. Imagine being in a locked car within a confined crate. Your pet can easily succumb heat stroke. And, in cold weather, the car can act like a refrigerator, holding in the cold air, potentially causing the pet to freeze. Plus, keep in mind that there are several states that have laws, making leaving pets unattended in vehicles illegal.

5. Make sure that you have a good traveling kit that includes a leash, toy, grooming supplies (if needed), poop bags, bowl, food (for when you arrive at your destination), any medications, a first aid kit, and a dog bed or pillow. Consider bringing things that give your pet a sense of home.

6. Make sure that your pet has his collar and identification tags, especially if he isn't micro-chipped. In case your pet gets away while you're away from home, you want to have some sense of security that you'll get him back. Remember to take the collar off your pet while in the crate traveling, and ensure that dogs have basic flat buckle collars and cats have the breakaway collar to prevent choking.

7. Never allow your pet to ride with his head out of the window. The air flowing through his ears can cause inner ear damage and lung infection, not to mention if he gets hit by a flying object. If you don't have a crate, you can use dog seat belts and dog seats, which are ok for short trips, but not always the best idea when traveling with your pet on a long trip.

8. If you are traveling to another state with your pet, make sure that you bring along the most current copy of your pet's rabies vaccination. Generally, it isn't a big concern, but some states require proof that the pet has been vaccinated when you change state lines.

9. Bring bottled water or tap water from home. Sometimes if you give your pet local water from an area, he's not used to, it may upset his stomach. There's nothing worse than having a sick child with you on vacation, but imagine a sick pet.

10. If you travel short distances frequently with your pet, consider rubberized floor liners and waterproof seat covers. These are best used when you use seat belts and pet seats while traveling. But, remember if you're traveling long distances, your pet is safest while in a crate.

Pet Car Restraints

Pet Seat Belt

There are different brands and styles of pet seat belts, but my favorite are those that have fleece lining. The Solvit pet safety harnesses have heavy duty straps that attach to a fully padded fleece lined vest. The metal connectors are used at all load-bearing points so that your pet is secured into the seat and the seat belt.

The safety harnesses integrate your vehicle's seat belt tension so that your pet gets a little range of motion, but will be locked into place if you have to make a sudden stop.

When you travel with your pet, the safety harnesses are great because they help to potentially reduce distractions for the driver. The driver doesn't have to worry about what the pet is doing in the back seat.

Solvit 62294 Pet Vehicle Safety Harness, Small
Solvit 62294 Pet Vehicle Safety Harness, Small

Small sized pet seat belt that fits pets at 6-25 lbs. I think the booster seats work better on small dogs than the small seat belts.


Pet Booster Seats

These work best for small pets. You probably may find a booster seat for a large pet, but for larger pets, the seat belts generally work better.

The booster seats come in a wide variety to choose from. Essentially, they harness to the seat using the seat belt (you will need to go ahead and lock the tension on the seat belt). The dog harnesses into the seat.

These are great because your small dog can see out of the window on a trip, but will be safely secured in case of hard stops or quick turns.

Solvit 62346 Deluxe Pet Booster Seat
Solvit 62346 Deluxe Pet Booster Seat

This design supports the seat from below with without clumsy straps in the way. The seat is strapped to the car seat, and fully supports pets that weigh up to 18 pounds. The pet seat includes a padded liner, zippered pocket, and a safety leash. You receive a 1 year warranty.


Pet Safety Barrier

If you want to leave your pet in the back of your vehicle, while you drive, without using a crate or seat belt, consider one of the following barriers. Just remember that if you get hit in the back of your car, your dog is there without any protection around him.

These barriers are good for keeping the pet away so that the driver does not have as many distractions.

Highland 2004500 Black Universal Pet Barrier, Fully Adjustable Car Organizer
Highland 2004500 Black Universal Pet Barrier, Fully Adjustable Car Organizer

Keep your pet in the cargo away so that there aren't as many distractions while driving. This barrier installs in minutes without drilling. It's made of a heavy-gauge tubing so that it's durable and secure. The barrier adjusts up to 45"H and 65"W.



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    • oliversmum profile image


      8 years ago from australia

      Hi Whitney05.What great information,thank you.We do travel a lot with our precious dog,do most of the thing's that you suggest,but do not use a restraining harness as yet.:) :)

    • dahoglund profile image

      Don A. Hoglund 

      8 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      I can use some of these tips. We've found Motel 6 pretty reliable to take our dog. We did use a dog harness for quite awhile but now our dog is too old to get up on the seat. It attaches to the seat belt.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      I got the Deluxe Bench seat cover last year, and I love it. Machine washable, it protects my seats like a charm. I have to make the straps shorter because it sags, but besides that I am happy with them. I will look into the Solvit harness for my dog Max, who is an espace artist and succeeds to get out of it once in a while. When he can't, he tries to look miserable and tangled up, LOLL

      Thanks for your great article, very much appreciated.

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 

      8 years ago from Sunny Florida

      I never knew there were so many products available for pets while traveling let alone so much to consider. Very good hub.

    • Hello, hello, profile image

      Hello, hello, 

      8 years ago from London, UK

      Great tips for people travelling with pets.


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