by Karen Geissert, D.V.M.
Q: I would like to take my three-year-old dog, Max, on a car trip with me this summer. What advice do you have for traveling in the car with a pet? What supplies should I take along?
A: You are very smart to think about your trip well in advance. Here are several things to consider before leaving town. First, is Max healthy enough for extended travel in a car? Is he up-to-date on all his vaccinations? Is he current on heartworm and flea and tick preventive? How does Max behave in the car? Is he calm while you are driving or does he become overly excited? Does he become ill from motion sickness? You may want to consider placing him in a pet seat belt or a crate during your travels, not only for his safety but also for your safety and the safety of any passengers traveling in the car.
Prior to leaving, you should obtain an interstate health certificate from your veterinarian. Any time a pet crosses a state line, it is required to have this document with you. This is more strictly enforced during air travel, but is technically required even for car travel into other states from your residence. If you pet needs veterinary care during your road trip, a copy of any current medical records would be very helpful. Be sure to include a copy of your pet’s vaccinations, particularly the current Rabies vaccination.
Make a travel box for Max so that you can quickly access his supplies while you are on the road. This includes: dog food, water for the car, any daily medications, heartworm and flea/tick protection, harness and a couple of leashes, food and water dishes, pet mat or blanket, a favorite chew item or toy, and possibly a car window screen to shield your pet from sun glare and heat.
It’s wise to carry a pet medical kit in case emergency veterinary care is not immediately available. Be sure to include a gauze bandage, a self-adhering bandaging roll, scissors, tweezers, saline eyewash, and a cold pack. Helpful medications include: Diphenhydramine (Benadryl), adult or low-dose aspirin, depending on the size of your dog, and Dramamine or Bonine for motion sickness. Your veterinarian can explain what doses are appropriate for different problems and how to administer them, if needed.
Plan your travel itinerary and research which hotels are pet friendly and will allow Max to stay overnight. If you are planning to camp, check ahead to ensure your pet will be welcome at the campsites you are planning to visit.
Once you are on the road, schedule frequent rest stops for meals, rehydration, bathroom needs, and chances to stretch for both you and Max. Sharing fun and adventure with your canine travel companion along the way will make the trip a special memory for you. Happy trails!