Positive Paws Pet Services

Serving La Plata, MD and surrounding communities

(804) 393-0998

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  • Alyssa Cary, LVT

Pet Travel Safety

January 2 is National Pet Travel Safety Day – so now that everyone has (mostly) returned to their normal routine from the holidays, let’s talk about traveling safely with your pets. Chances are, if you travelled with your dog or cat over the holiday, you may have encountered some issues along the way.

Here are some helpful tips for traveling with pets, whether to the vet, groomer, dog park, or across the country:


  • For the safety of both humans and animals alike, pets should not be allowed in the lap of the driver or passenger(s).

  • The safest place for cats is in a hard plastic carrier on the floor behind the driver’s seat.

  • Dogs should be restrained in the back of the vehicle.


  • Many devices exist on the market, and while seatbelts for dogs seem like a great idea, only 3 have been crash tested and approved by the Center for Pet Safety. You can see the approved devices and their crash test videos and information here.

  • Alternatively, a crate in the back of an enclosed area of the vehicle (read: NOT in the bed of a pickup truck, ever!) that has been secured to avoid shifting during the trip may be used for safe transport. As addressed above already, cats should be in carriers.

  • A free-roaming or loose pet can be a distraction, and in an accident becomes a dangerous projectile. Can you imagine a 10 pound animal flying into your head going 60 mph or more? What about a 50 pound animal going that fast? That can cause some serious injury to both pet and person!

  • If an unrestrained pet survives an accident, chances are she’s terrified – and she may take off and be lost or hit by a car. It’s important to have an ID on your pet, or better yet to have multiple (microchip with up-to-date contact information, collar with ID tag or embroidered name and phone number) so that a lost pet may be returned to you.


  • It’s the picture of summer: A dog happily poking his head out of the window of a moving vehicle, tongue and fur blowing in the wind. Of course, this would mean that the dog is likely unrestrained (unsafe!) and creates the opportunity for injury even if you’re not in an accident.

  • Flying dirt and debris can cause lacerations and eye injuries like corneal abrasions and ulcers.

  • A dog who sees another dog, animal, or person which triggers the dog to want to chase or attack may jump out of the window (or he may jump out seemingly unprovoked) which can cause broken bones, torn ligaments, abrasions, other injuries, and—worst case scenario—can lead to the dog being hit by another car. The same thing could happen if a free-roaming cat decided to leap out of an open window.

  • Animals leaping out of windows also run the risk of getting lost, so again, make sure your pet has multiple identifiers (microchip with up-to-date information, securely fitting collar with tags or embroidered contact information) so that he or she may be returned to you if found.

Anxiety and Nausea

  • Anxious pets can be distracting and downright irritating while driving. They can also suffer mentally and physically from the stress of traveling.

  • Anxiety affects a lot of pets, especially when traveling. You can reach out to me for help with nutraceutical, homeopathic, and calming device options to help your pet travel calmly, but you may also want to talk to your pet’s veterinarian about pharmaceutical options if these do not provide adequate anxiolytic or sedative effects.

  • Nausea can be controlled by several options. Talk to your pet’s veterinarian about your pet’s car sickness before your next trip.


  • Part of being safe is being prepared for both the expected and unexpected.

  • It’s a good idea to have your pet’s basic needs (leash, collar, food, bowls, treats, medications, toys) as well as some additional supplies packed – just in case.

  • Medical records can be helpful if your pet has a pre-existing condition. Have your pet’s veterinarian email them to you and keep them electronically, or print them and keep them in the car where they can be easily located and accessed.

  • Cleaning supplies for any accidents.

  • Cats on long trips should be given the opportunity to stop for bathroom breaks every so often, so keep a litter box, litter, scoop, and bag for disposal handy.

  • A pet first aid kit is nice to have to address any minor injuries prior to getting to a veterinarian. If you’re interested in learning more about pet first aid and what I stock in my own kit, contact me for a consultation.

  • Plan ahead for stops and make sure wherever you are heading is pet-friendly. It is unsafe (and in some places, illegal) to leave pets unattended in locked vehicles, especially in warm or very cold weather.

Many of us take pet travel safety for granted, but think of it this way: What’s the first thing you do when you get in the car? Do you wear a seat belt? Would you let your kids run around the car and hang their heads out of the window? Why should we treat our pets any differently? They’re part of the family, right?

Please share your comments and experiences below! I’d love to hear from you!