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Old 08-10-2008, 11:17 AM
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Exclamation Road Trip Safety for Dogs-Consumer Reports

For millions of dog owners, family vacations often begin after a trip to the boarding kennel. With proper planning, preparation, and training, however, your dog can enjoy getaways by car with the entire family. There are countless hotels, parks, recreation spots, and even amusement parks across the country that welcome pets. And kids often enjoy having the family dog along for companionship and entertainment.
Before the trip

Taking a trip with your favorite canine might not be so charming if the pooch gets carsick on short rides, or if the animal's only automotive travel experience has involved a visit to the vet's office. Such animals may become panicked or anxious when put into the car. This can result in vomiting, noisy protests, or chewing the upholstery.

If this is a problem, you should plan ahead by desensitizing your canine friend to riding in a vehicle. Take short trips with fun, positive consequences, such as visits to friends and walks in a park, so that your dog learns to associate something positive with a car ride. Get the pet used to traveling restrained—whether by harness, barrier, or crate—to reduce travel anxiety during the big trip and increase safety for all.

If your pet continues to be prone to car sickness, it's probably better to leave it at home. If that's not an option, ask a veterinarian if a medication for anxiety and/or motion sickness would be appropriate. There are both prescription and homeopathic aids that can settle sensitive stomachs or minimize the effects of stress.

Pack mentality

Whether you're taking an hour's drive or a two-day trip, you'll need to pack accordingly for the furry traveler. Just as at home, the most important supplies are food and water. Your local pet store carries an assortment of collapsible and disposable bowls designed for the travel enthusiast, and even bottles of water with built-in bowls.

To reduce your dog's anxiety (and chance of destructive chewing) while on the road, give him an appropriate chew toy. There are a number of hollow rubber or plastic toys available that are perfect for stuffing with treats to keep your dog entertained.

Car safety
The final, critical component for responsible travel with a pet is to properly secure the animal. In an accident, an unrestrained dog becomes a projectile, risking serious injury to the animal and human passengers.

To protect all passengers in a vehicle, it is recommended that pets be restrained by one of three methods. Each type of restraint is available at major pet stores and online supply houses, but there are varying levels of protection and risk.

For crate-trained animals, a plastic or collapsible crate is a natural choice for transportation. A crate offers familiar surroundings, a secure space, and the added convenience of having a place for your dog to sleep once you reach your destination. Unfortunately, many owners make the mistake of loading the crate—and the pet—into the vehicle without restraining the crate itself. Unsecured crates can move during sudden emergency maneuvers and accidents, and the dog might be injured within the crate.

Make the crate a comfy environment. Place a towel or crate mat in the crate for the dog to lie on, according to Dr. Bonnie Beaver, a professor in the Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences at Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas. Give the dog some toys to keep him occupied. Make sure your dog has a water supply to stay cool.

An alternative is to secure the animal using a restraint harness that locks into a seat-belt receptacle, though the safety of these devices has not been tested, according to Dr. Beaver. A harness fitted around the animal's chest may allow the pet to move (sit, lay down, look out the window) within the vehicle while keeping the animal secure in the seat in case of a sudden stop. Look for harnesses with metal buckles, since plastic may break during a collision. A drawback to the restraint harness: If the dog vomits, it will likely get on the seats and carpet instead of being contained in a crate.

For SUVs and wagons, you can also install a wire or nylon mesh pet barrier between the rear cargo compartment and the rear seat. But from a safety perspective, this is the least desirable alternative. While the barrier effectively confines the animal to the cargo area allowing it to stretch and move around, the animal could fly around during a sudden maneuver or accident if it is not secured. In addition, if the rear-window glass should break or pop out in an accident, the dog could get loose on the highway.

Another concern: Before you buy such a barrier, check how it is secured in the vehicle. The installation should be strong enough that it won't become dislodged in a collision, allowing the animal to fly forward and possibly injuring rear passengers. Gates that rely on tension against the vehicle headliner for vertical stability, for instance, might carry an increased risk of becoming dislodged during an accident.

No matter what restraint method you choose, get your animal accustomed to traveling that way before the big family trip. Training, a little preparation, and the right restraint will make for a fun and safe holiday even the four-legged family members will enjoy!

More tips for pet car travel
Here, some additional important information to keep in mind:

Although a dog may love to have the wind in his face, an animal can suffer eye damage and even vision loss from road debris and insects.

Be aware of the temperature where the animal is positioned. If necessary, open a window or adjust the air conditioning to prevent overheating and/or dehydration. Direct sun might adversely affect dark-colored dogs, particularly in the summer, even when the car is moving and the air is cooler. You may need to install sunshades on the side windows.

Don't leave the dog in the car if you will be away from it for a while. Cars can heat up fast when left in the sun. If you're going to an amusement park, zoo, or other place where your dog is unwelcome, try to find a nearby kennel to board the dog while you're occupied. Always have the dog's rabies and other vaccination records with you so that you can show them to the kennel staff. Plan ahead, though, because many kennels are booked in advance for the summer. And if you plan to spend many days where the dog can't visit, consider leaving the dog in a kennel closer to home.

When you're traveling put a piece of tape on the dog's tags with a local phone number or cell-phone number in case the dog gets loose. Your home number won't be much help to someone who finds the dog while you're traveling.

If shopping for a new vehicle, inquire about available pet travel aids. Some carmakers might offer customized accessories for owners who travel with their pets
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