On the road with your pet.
If you’re looking to hit the road with your canine companion or feline friend, follow this advice to make the trip as smooth as possible.
It is of the utmost importance that the driver of the vehicle is not distracted by fellow passengers – irrespective of whether these are humans or animals. Pets must be under control whilst in the motor vehicle at all times.
Trial run. Before embarking on a long trip, take some shorter drives to see how your pet reacts. Does he or she get anxious or car sick? Early acclimation to car travel is the answer. If your pet dislikes travelling by car, it might be worth taking him or her out for a few trips in the car before you set off to try to prepare it for the journey ahead.
Once you are on the road, be aware that pets need regular breaks and can get irritable just like humans. Fresh air is vital so leave the window down five to ten centimetres. If you are going to be driving in excessive hot or cold temperatures, protect your pet and yourself from becoming too hot or too cold by using your car’s heating and cooling systems. Never leave your pet alone in the vehicle as they dehydrate more quickly than people.
Dogs generally travel well in the rear section of a station wagon or 4WD as long as they can see what’s going on around them. Instead of having your pet loose and roaming the car causing stress to you and your pet, have him/her restrained. Whether you put your dog in a dog carrier, a dog crate or harness, ensure your dog is kept in place. This will be less stressful for your dog and prevent injury as well as keep you focused on driving safely. Safety harnesses, available from pet shops, are advisable but not legally required. Cats, however, need to be transported in a well-ventilated cat-carrier that's shielded from direct sun. Feed your pet dry food before your trip to settle its stomach and provide dry food and water at rest stops.
Keep heads and paws inside. Your dog may enjoy sticking his head out the window, but riding this way could cause ear damage or expose your pet to lung infections.
Consult your veterinarian before embarking on a trip, especially if your pet hasn't travelled before or if you have any health concerns.
Stop somewhere with space to let your dog have a run or to walk your cat or dog on a lead. If you travel regularly your pet will learn these breaks are their chance for a toilet break - but be responsible with any droppings by collecting them with a shovel, poop-scoop or a plastic bag. This applies when you are camping in caravan parks and camping grounds as well.
1 in 3 pets will get lost in their lifetime. Most pet experts agree that dog name tags are absolutely essential to a safe return. Collars should have a tag with the animal's name and your contact details on it. Studies suggest that lost pets are over 90% likely to be returned if they are wearing dog name tags. You must ensure you update the tag when you contact information changes. Don't forget that you'll need to take some pet ID with you on your holiday. Take your pets’ inoculation card as some establishments may wish to see it.
Like children, pets enjoy having familiar items with them even when on holiday. Toys, food - even your pet's litter box - add comfort and security. This is particularly important for cats. Maintain the same behavioural patterns you keep at home. Keep feeding times regular and sleeping arrangements the same. If your dog requires a muzzle, bring it with you.
Photo: Author unknown.
Drive with reason this holiday season.
"Properly trained, a man can be a dog's best friend." - Corey Ford