Driving in a car with a dog is usually fun for both the dog and the owner, but it can be dangerous for a variety of reasons. However, safe transport of a dog can be possible by following these recommendations.
1. Use a carrier or harness seatbelt
- The safest way to securely restrain your pet is a good dog crate
- A loose small pet can crawl under the brake or accelerator
- A large dog can block vision from rear view mirror
- A pet moving around may distract the driver. About 1 out of 5 car accidents occur from distracted driving.
- A pet could be thrown into the dashboard, windshield or seat during a quick stop or collision
- Pets should never be put in the bed of a pickup truck, even if in a crate. Exposure to airborne hazards can be very dangerous and in the event of a collision they can be killed on impact
2. Do not allow your dog to hang out the window, despite how much they enjoy it
- The pet is at risk of objects hitting its face or other body parts, most commonly causing injuries to eyes
- The pet is not restrained causing driver to be more distracted
- The dog could be thrown out the window during an abrupt turn or collision
- Some dogs have jumped out of the window when excited by seeing another dog or person
3. Never leave your pet unattended in a vehicle
- Heat exhaustion happens very quickly, as the temperature in a car can rise 20° F in 20 minutes
- It is very dangerous to leave pets in a car even with the windows cracked once the temperature is 70° F or higher
- While this is the most serious in bright daylight on hot days, it’s best to be cautious anytime
- Pets have been stolen from cars
4. If your pet is stressed on car rides, get them used to it before a long car ride
- Take pets to fun places like new walks instead of only going in the car to a veterinarian, groomer, boarding facility etc.
- If you have another dog who likes car rides and is friendly with the other dog, take them together
- Sit in the car without driving and give dog treats
- Some dogs may need calming supplements or prescription medications if stress is excessive
5. Help a carsick dog
- Most dogs will be less carsick if you position them to see the front of the vehicle
- Stress contributes to sickness in the car
- Young puppies often have carsickness and outgrow this. Like children, who are more prone to motion sickness than adults, puppies have not fully matured their ear canals.
- Some dogs may need anti-vomiting medications prescribed by a veterinarian if carsickness is difficult to manage
- Davis, Kathy Diamond. Car Rides for Dogs. Veterinary Information Network, 4 June 2014.
- “Hot Cars and Loose Pets.” American Veterinary Medical Association, 2018
- Houston DM, Fries CL, Alcorn AM, et al. Injuries suffered by dogs from riding in the back of open pickup trucks: a retrospective review of seventy cases. Can Vet J 1995;36:510-512.
- “Pets in Vehicles.” American Veterinary Medical Association, 2018.