Ben Parker

Vital Tips and Tricks for Road Trips with Your Pets

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Black and white dog sitting in a bed in the back of an SUV
This is Ellie, a diva who loves having a bed in the car
Photo: The News Wheel

As soon as my wife said I’d need to have our two dogs in my SUV for our move from Ohio to Philly, I was a nervous wreck. Sure, I had taken them to a dog park or a local trail before, but never on an extended drive like this. Before heading out, I made a list of everything they’d need as well as what I would need to do to make their ride as comfortable as possible. Check out these tips if you’re planning on taking a pet for a road trip any time soon.

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Pack everything your pet will need

Just like you’ll need to stop for snacks along the way, you’ll want to be sure to pack your pet’s food in your vehicle. While they may not want to eat that much — especially if they’re nervous — you still want to be prepared in case they do have an appetite. Bring a lot of water, too. Packing a couple of gallon jugs is your best bet for easy storing and pouring. If you’ve got collapsible bowls, those will work wonders for saving space in the back.

Most importantly, don’t forget to pack any medications your pet may need. We gave both of our dogs some anxiety medication ahead of time, but I also had to bring along some antacids for our pup (Ellie) with a sensitive stomach. I also packed a handful of treats to help coax both of them back into the vehicle after making pit stops to go to the bathroom.

If you’ve got a dog that likes to chew, bring their favorite toy. We brought a rope for Watson and a pillow and blanket for Ellie. Depending on your destination and how long you plan on stopping along your journey, you may want to bring a harness, extra leashes (including shorter traffic leashes), or a tether for confining your pet while you’re busy.

Black dog and white dog sleeping in back area of an SUV
Ellie and Watson snoozing after a trip to the dog park
Photo: The News Wheel

Make safety a priority

My anxiety about having the dogs in my car was all safety-related. Before we even left, I purchased a barrier that attaches to the front headrests across the cabin to prevent anyone from coming up front. If you’ve got a smaller pet like a cat, a crate or carrier will help protect them and keep you safe from anyone getting under your feet while driving.

As much as your pup will want to stick its head out of the window, doing so could be incredibly dangerous. It’s better to blast the A/C and keep the windows up so everyone stays inside the vehicle while it’s traveling at highway speeds.

Finally, you’ll want to be sure your pets are up-to-date on all of their shots, that their tags are updated with accurate contact info, and that they’re microchipped. If you know exactly where you’ll be stopping, look up emergency vets in those locations. As the old adage goes: Better safe than sorry!

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One thing to note is that not all animals love car rides. Be ready for the possibility of a sick pet and have items like paper towels and disinfectant with you. If you follow these tips, you should be well-prepared for your journey with Fido in tow. For more safety tips and tricks, visit the ASPCA website.