Summer is on its way, and with it comes the peak holiday season. Lots of us include our pets on vacation - okay, mostly dogs, but sometimes an intrepid cat or other pet too. Here are a few pet safety tips to remember when you're getting ready for your holiday together.
Sometimes it's not in the best interests of the pet to bring him along when you travel. For example, pets who are ill, aggressive, or who don't enjoy travelling should be allowed to stay at home with a trusted pet-sitter, friend, or family member (or boarded at a good facility).
On the other hand, some pets love to explore new places and embark on a new adventure. Consider what you plan to do on holidays; will you mostly be engaging in activities that don't welcome pets? Or will you be doing pet-friendly activities like hiking, relaxing in a park or by a lake, and just general 'hanging out'?
There is no point in bringing a pet along if you're going to simply leave him alone all day to sit around in an unfamiliar place, all by himself. It's your pet's holiday, too, and pets love nothing better than to spend time with their families.
You might feel guilty about leaving a pet behind - but sometimes it is truly kinder and in the best interests of the pet to leave him at home where he's comfortable.
Pets need to be restrained or kenneled in the car to keep them safe, as well as keep everyone else in the vehicle safe too. It might be a strange thought at first, but remember, there was a time that kids often didn't wear seat-belts, either! Pets are part of our families, and the same safety precautions should be taken with them too.
The back seat is the best place for pets. Pets in the front seat can be injured if airbags deploy. And never allow pets to ride loose in the back of a pickup truck; too many have fallen out and been injured or killed. Keep your pet inside the vehicle.
Pets who are unrestrained in the car can easily get injured if the car has to make a sudden stop, a sharp maneuver, or is involved in an accident. Unrestrained pets can become projectiles in these cases, and can injure themselves if they hit another object in the car, whether that's the seat, a person, or a windshield, for example.
Unrestrained pets might also be tempted to jump out an open window. That might seem unlikely, until a squirrel runs across the road, or some other interesting or fun distraction appears out the window!
Keeping pets safely restrained will also prevent them from sticking their heads out the window. Yes, many dogs greatly enjoy the wind-in-the-face experience but the reality is that flying debris can hit the dog and may even result in injury (including to the eyes).
There is also the possibility of pets escaping out an open car door. When restrained in the car, pets can be leashed or harnessed before letting them safely out of the car.
Pets loose in the car can become a hazard in a number of ways:
Seat-belts: Seat-belts specially made for pets are available at pet supply stores as well as online. Although there are many different manufacturers, most follow the same basic design: a harness (often with a padded chest piece, for comfort) with a strap that clicks into the car's existing seat-belt buckle. Don't just get a strap and attach it to a dog's collar; it may choke him if you have to make a sudden stop or a sharp maneuver.
Crate or kennel: A hard-sided crate (not collapsible) is the safest. Make sure there's plenty of soft bedding inside, and that the door latches securely shut. Tie down the crate so that it can't bump or slide around the car, or go flying if the car stops suddenly.
If you absolutely must transport your dog in the back of a pickup truck: use a kennel to keep your dog safe. Securely strap down the kennel so that it cannot move or get bumped out of the truck. Don't just tie a leash to the dog and leave him loose; he can still fall out of the truck and end up hanging himself or being dragged.
Even if your dog already wears a municipal dog tag, make sure he also wears a simple ID tag with his name and your phone number too. A cell phone number where you can always be reached is best. Don't have a cell phone number? Attach a temporary tag with a number where you can be reached while traveling, such as the phone number for the place you'll be staying.
A microchip can also be a lifesaver. Many pets have been reunited with their families due to this tiny piece of technology! Ask your vet for details. And of course, be sure to keep your contact information up-to-date.
Consult with your veterinarian beforehand to see if your pet requires flea or tick repellent. Fleas and ticks may be tiny, but they can cause all sorts of problems in pets.
Planning to go boating with your pet? He or she also needs a life jacket!
Call ahead to book pet-friendly accommodations. Many places have a limited number of pet-friendly units available, which can book up quickly especially during peak travel times. It's especially important to book early if you are traveling with a pet other than dog; if you're traveling with a large dog; or if you have multiple pets with you. Booking ahead will ensure both you and your pet have a place to stay for the night, rather than scrunched up together in the car fighting for space! Here is a list of questions to ask when booking a pet-friendly accommodation.
"The best things in life are the people we love, the places we've been, and the memories we've made along the way."