Dog Car Safety Tips to Protect Your Precious Pooch

Man petting dog in the trunk of an SUV

A summertime family trip often includes our pets. In fact, nearly one in five adult American leisure travelers usually take their furry friends with them when they travel, according to the U.S. Travel Association.

But accommodating these companions requires planning. National pet-safety awareness group founder, Christina Selter, offers these suggestions:

Be ID ready

Make sure your pet’s ID tag is current and accurate so you can reconnect if you get separated. Also, consider having a microchip implanted under your pet’s skin—and then keeping your contact information up to date in the chip manufacturer’s database.

Strap ’em in

Many jurisdictions require pets to be strapped in while in a moving vehicle, and crates or specially designed seatbelt harnesses for dogs are readily available. Need a winning argument for restraints? During an accident, a 60-pound dog becomes a 2,700-pound projectile—at just 35 miles an hour. “This can present an injury risk to you, passengers and the pet,” Selter says.

Roll up the windows

While it may look cute to fellow travelers, Rover shouldn’t stick his head out an open window while you drive. Flying debris can cause injury and, if the window is open wide enough, he could be ejected from the vehicle.

Keep a short leash

Many states require a 6-foot leash, so make sure you have one. “The leash allows plenty of room for you and your pet to walk,” Selter says. It’s also short enough that—if you encounter another pet who’s not so friendly—you can gain quick control of the situation.

Watch the weather

Clearly, you don’t want to leave a pet in a hot car unattended. Not even for a “quick stop.” But even if you’re cautious, pets can encounter heat-related problems on the road. Danger signs include heavy panting, rapid heartbeat, lethargy and glazed eyes. In this case, move your pet to an air-conditioned area, apply ice packs or cold towels and provide small amounts of cool water or ice. Find a local vet to check your pet out, too, because heat stroke can affect internal organs even after your dog seems to have cooled down.

Don’t forget the food

Bring a travel bowl, bottled water and food to keep your pet nourished and hydrated. If you’re going camping, consider a doggy backpack. “It’s a great way for pets to carry their own snacks and water,” Selter says.

Explore other outdoor protection

There are pet-friendly reflective safety vests and “doggie boots” to protect feet from salt, sharp rocks and scorching sand. “A pet with sore feet is an unhappy, and unmovable, animal,” Selter says.