TOPEKA, Kan. (May 8, 2017) – Memorial Day, the unofficial start of summer, is just weeks away. As Kansas residents make plans for a holiday weekend road trip or an extended summer vacation, they may also be planning to include their four-legged family members. AAA Kansas reminds motorists that keeping their pets safe while driving also helps keep them and others sharing the road safe, too.
“As a proponent of traffic safety, AAA reminds drivers that the safety of their passengers, including those with four legs, should always be a priority,” said Shawn Steward, spokesman for AAA Kansas. “Keeping your animals protected and you as the driver from being distracted is essential to a safe trip.”
AAA Kansas teamed up with the Kansas State University College of Veterinary Medicine to offer tips for safe travel with Fido or Fluffy. There are many factors to consider when planning a road trip with your pet.
"You need to make sure that the trip is suitable for your pet," said Dr. Susan Nelson, clinical associate professor in clinical sciences at K-State’s Veterinary Health Center. "Obviously, they can't tell you in so many words, but if they are a nervous wreck traveling in vehicles or suffer from motion sickness, it may not be a good idea to take them with you. If you have no option but to take them, you can talk to your veterinarian about medications to help ease the anxiety or nausea."
It is recommended that all pets be restrained in some way when traveling with them in a vehicle. Cats and small dogs tend to travel best in secured crates, while specialized harnesses for larger dogs help keep them strapped in the vehicle. Letting pets run loose in vehicles can be extremely dangerous because the animal can get between the driver's feet and the pedals.
The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that in 2015 alone, there were more than 32,000 fatal crashes. Of those, ten percent of fatal crashes, 15 percent of injury crashes, and 14 percent of all police-reported motor vehicle traffic were reported as distraction-affected crashes. Even if your pet is well-behaved at home, in an exciting and different environment, like a trip in the car, they may forget all of their training and become excited or frightened. Having your pet roaming free in the front or back seat, even in your lap, is a huge distraction, especially if they start to cry or try to escape.
Fitting Your Pet into the Proper Restraint System
• The most important aspect of harness restraint systems is making sure they fit properly.Take your dogs’ chest and neck measurements and use the animal’s weight to make sure you have the proper size.
• You want to be able to fit two stacked fingers in between the harness and your dog.
• Make sure the harness does not choke your dog when he or she pulls.
• Acclimate your pet to the crate/carrier so he/she sees it as a cozy den, not a place of exile.
• Make sure the crate/carrier you choose is well ventilated.
• The crate/carrier should have enough room for your pet to stand and turn around in, but not so much room that he/she could be tossed about inside should you stop suddenly on the road.
• Place the crate/carrier somewhere secure in the car to make sure it doesn’t slide around and isn’t placed on top of something from which it could fall.
• Even if you think your cat or dog doesn't like the carrier, he/she will be much more comfortable, safe, and less distracting than if free in the car.
"It's best to leave cats in their crates, unless they are leash-trained,” Dr. Nelson recommends. “If your cat's carrier is too small for a litter box, you can bring one along and let the cat use it inside the car during extended trips. Be sure to line crates with plenty of absorbent material, such as newspaper, in case of accidents — and pack some cleaning supplies just in case."
Preparing Your Pet for Travel
• Get a clean bill of health from your veterinarian and make sure your pet is in good physical shape overall, especially if you are planning an active vacation.
• Obtain a health certificate from your veterinarian, showing proof of up-to-date vaccines, particularly rabies, distemper and kennel cough. Ask your vet about potential health risks at your destination and the necessary preventive measures.
• Many pets take to the car without issue, but some associate the inside of the carrier or the car with a visit to the V-E-T. Get your pet used to the car without actually going anywhere first, then take short trips to places your pet enjoys, such as the park.
• To prevent car sickness, feed your pet four to six hours before departing. Talk to your veterinarian if your pet gets carsick.
• Don’t let your dog stick his/her head out the window, no matter how enjoyable it seems. Road debris and flyingg objects can injure delicate eyes and ears, and your animal is at greater risk for severe injury if the vehicle should stop suddenly or be struck.
• Because heat stress and heat exhaustion are a common concern during the summer, do not leave pets in the car.
• Stop every two to three hours to let your pet relieve itself, have a drink and get some exercise.
• Be sure your pet is leashed BEFORE opening the door at your rest stop. It will prevent him/her from unexpectedly breaking free and running away.
• If your pet does not enjoy a car ride, leave him/her at home.
Dr. Nelson suggests that it is also a good idea to bring along a supply of tap water that your pet is used to drinking. This can help minimize gastrointestinal distress that can be caused by consuming water the pets are not used to drinking. The same goes for food and treats.
No matter what form of travel you may be taking this summer, Dr. Nelson reminds pet owners to have some form of identification for their pet. Ideally, a pet will have tags and a microchip, and any crates or carriers also should be labeled. Consider carrying a picture of your pet in case it should get lost and you need proof of ownership.
“Being prepared and keeping your pets safe while traveling is extremely important and will make the trip more enjoyable for all,” said AAA’s Steward.
With so many travelers bringing their furry family members with them on trips away from home, AAA offers the PetBook, containing more than 12,000 AAA Approved and Diamond Rated hotels, with specific pet policy details including deposits and fees, size restrictions, housekeeping and pet care services and designated rooms. The PetBook also lists close to 1,000 AAA Approved and Diamond Rated restaurants that allow pets in outside dining areas.
Find more pet travel tips, videos and helpful links at aaa.com/pettravel.
AAA provides automotive, travel and insurance services to 56 million members nationwide and 331,566 members in Kansas. AAA advocates for the safety and mobility of its members and has been committed to outstanding road service for more than 100 years. The not-for-profit, fully tax-paying member organization works on behalf of motorists, who can now map a route, find local gas prices, discover discounts, book a hotel and track their roadside assistance service with the AAA Mobile app for iPhone, iPad and Android. For more information, visit www.aaa.com.