How to Keep Your Pets Safe While Traveling in a Vehicle

CitizenShipper CitizenShipper · Updated February 23, 2024

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A dalmatian safely traveling in a car.

We’re getting increasingly accustomed to the idea of being able to take our beloved pets with us wherever we go, even long distances.

You only have to see the massive growth in options offered for pet-friendly holidays to realize that the tourism industry too, is keen to accommodate this trend, where possible.

But this trend brings with it a whole new range of considerations on the actual logistics and welfare aspects of ensuring that our pets don’t suffer on the trip, and arrive at their destination ready to enjoy themselves to the full.

National specialist vet care provider BluePearl Veterinary Partners has published an easy guide outlining some of the main rules you should follow to ensure a safe, stress-free journey.

It points out that we take every reasonable care to protect ourselves – buckling up our seatbelts, making sure our seats are properly adjusted, tweaking the air-con to get the interior temperature just right, etcetera – but then, if we’re moving with a dog, say, we might be happy to just let them lie loose on the back seat, or in the trunk if we’ve got a sedan car.

Dr. Kristopher Sharpe of BluePearl Veterinary says, though, that this could be a big no-no, for a few reasons.

Just imagine what might happen if you have your dog loose in your car, and you need to hit the brakes without warning. You could suddenly have several pounds of solid canine flesh and bone hurtling towards your head at high speed.

That’s why Dr Sharpe strongly recommends one of two ways of securing a dog while they are traveling. If your dog weighs under 15lbs, he suggests using a crate made especially for the purpose, which you can find in many pet stores and online outlets.

This could then be put either on the front or back seat. Although the latter is most usually preferable, the former can be used if your dog is a nervous traveler or you are taking them to the vet and want to be able to reassure them. In such an instance, though, you must make sure that the crate you put your dog in is held firmly in place by means of the passenger seat belt or another appropriate harness. Take time to make sure that the bottom section of the belt wraps tightly around the lower section of the crate, ideally about half way down. “If [your pet] is next to you, it is easier and safer to check on him rather than turning your head around to the back of the vehicle,” points out Dr. Sharpe.

Under no circumstances should you ever travel with a dog on the lap of anyone in the front of the vehicle. “Not only is this distracting, but it can also cause crushing damage to the pet if the airbag deploys,” Dr Sharpe notes.

Also, he says many people think it would be safe to transport a dog loose in the bed of a truck. But this too would be a no-no, unless you put Fido in a crate which can then be anchored safely to that truck bed. Just imagine the chaos which would follow if he were to be startled and leap out of the bed and into the road, or possibly be left dangling by his collar and leash.

Dogs might also like hanging their heads out of the window while you drive along, but this too is absolutely frowned upon. Their noses might love the strong breeze and fresh air, but that breeze also carries all kinds of airborne debris which could very easily hurt their face or, even worse, get lodged in their eyes or up their nostrils – ouch!

Supply checklist

You take the time to make your own ‘must-have’ list when you’re heading out on a long journey – so the least you can do for your dog is the same if they’re about to be transported. We suggest at least the following essentials:

  • Large bottle of water
  • Suitable travel or collapsible drinking bowl
  • Large towel – your car’s upholstery will thank you!
  • Hygienic wipes
  • Poop bags and a scoop for those all-important rest stops
  • Folder containing your pet’s medical documents

You might think that the last of these is going a little over the top – “but transport-related emergencies do happen and it’s essential to have the proper constraints in place,” sums up Dr Sharpe.

Beware of the heat/sun

Extra tips come from another vet, Megan Jerred, who gives advice on Against a backdrop of a 20% rise in dogs suffering from sun and heat-related conditions between 2014 and 2017 – and a resulting average cost of $734 (£528) for veterinary treatment, she urges anyone having a pet transported to always pack a tube of pet-friendly sun cream. Widely available online and from drugstores, it’s particularly recommended if your dog has short or light coloured hair, and areas of exposed skin (think especially of the tips of their ears!).

If you can’t get hold of any specialized product, you can use sun cream formulated for babies – but you must make sure it doesn’t contain any zinc oxide, and Megan strongly recommends testing it on a patch of your dog’s skin to test for any adverse reactions.

Dogs, with their fur coats, get hot much more quickly than we humans, and importantly, they can’t take off their coats, so will stay hotter for longer.

Signs you should look out for include excessive drooling, fast breathing, and uncoordinated movements. Test the top of your dog’s head, and if it’s very hot, get them into some shade ASAP. Heatstroke in dogs can lead to brain damage and even death, so you’ll have no time to lose. The phrase ‘dogs die in hot cars’ is unfortunately all too true – and it even happens if you’re keeping a close watch on them at all times.

Transporters on our platform take great care

If you book pet transportation through us at, you’re likely to be able to choose from a number of specialist transporters.

These people are often earning a good living from looking carefully after other people’s precious pets while on the move and will have their vehicles extensively equipped, for example with proper crates, harnesses, protection bars to separate the passenger compartment from the back seat or trunk, sun blinds, and seat and trunk protectors.

Carrying an animal to them is just like transporting a member of their family – and they will take just as much care over keeping their traveling companions comfortable as they would if it was their own.

We ask you to fill in a detailed shipment form when you need your pet sent across the country, and on that, you can give us as much detail as you’re comfortable with about your pet and their needs on the journey.

That information is then circulated throughout our nationwide network of carriers, and members who are interested in fulfilling your request will contact you directly, with details of their cost quote. You do the rest by direct liaison with your chosen carrier, and you can discuss your exact requirements with them, person-to-person. We realize that this also helps you build up a rapport with your shipper, but we also find that it leads to you getting more personalized service, and results in a transaction that everyone is happy with.

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