Some pets love cars – others would much rather stay put for the rest of their lives, especially if the end destination is the vet.
Here are some pet travel tips – many of which have been provided by the Cybervet forum users on Health24.com.
Train them young. Cats generally don't like cars, but puppies can be trained fairly easily to become good travellers. Play with the puppy inside the car when it is stationary. Then switch the engine on. When it is used to this, start taking the dog for short rides.
Crate them. For larger dogs, it is a good idea to crate them, especially for long journeys. This will also protect a dog in case of an accident. Many animals will feel safer inside their crate, and therefore will put up less of a performance.
Pet carriers. If an animal does not like travelling, then it is very dangerous to transport them in a car, unless they are in a proper pet carrier of some sort. A clawing cat, or a yelping puppy can easily distract the driver and cause an accident. Don't use a cardboard box – it is too easy to escape from these. Pets that don't like car rides, are also known to urinate and defecate in the car. If the pet is in a carrier, you can line the bottom with newspapers and a plastic sheet to prevent damage. Remember, a paste of bicarbonate of soda gets stains and smells out of car upholstery.
Pet partitions. When travelling with big dogs, it is a good idea to have part of the car partitioned, so that the driver cannot be distracted. One often sees this when owners travel with more than one large dog – especially if it is a smallish car. But never put an animal in the boot of the car. Many cars, especially older ones, could emit strong exhaust fumes into the boot.
Death traps. Cars can be very hot – a locked car in the sun can reach an inside temperature of over 50 degrees Celsius in a few minutes. Never leave animals inside a locked car in the sun. And remember, even if you park in the shade, the sun moves as the day goes on. If you have to leave an animal in the car, make sure it is inside a parking garage and that the windows are left open a few centimetres.
Window seats. A wide open window is an invitation to disaster. Some pets can be relied on not to jump through the window, but why take the chance? Most dogs like a bit of a breeze when they are inside a car, but ten centimeters will do it. Working dogs are often transported on the backs of bakkies and pickups, but they are trained to deal with this and see this as part of their job.
Long distance. When driving a long way, remember that your dog needs to get out every now and then to answer the call of nature. Also make sure that you give your dog water whenever you stop.
Sedation. When travelling long distances with an animal that is not used to the car, save your sanity – and probably that of the animal – by going to the vet and getting a sedative before the journey. Remember also that you can get anti-nausea treatment if your animal gets car sick on long journeys.
Seatbelts. Seatbelts are not that restrictive, as dogs will still be able to sit up, look out of the window or lie down, whichever they choose. But, they will go a long way to protecting the dog from being injured in case of an accident. Ask your vet about where to get hold of these.
Vet freakout. Make sure your animal is on a leash or inside a pet carrier when you stop at the vet. Most animals do not like this experience and if you open the door, they might just make a dash for it. Into the traffic.
(Susan Erasmus, Health24, updated May 2009)
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- Last updated: June 2010