Traveling With Dogs

Traveling With Dogs

Traveling with Dogs: Summer and fall often means travel as we head out on vacations, visit family and friends, and take time to explore during those precious days. Many people bring their pets with them on road, but before you go, check out our travel tips.  They will help ensure a safe journey for your pet.

Written by Crystal Ward Kent

Woof Magazine spoke with Rob Halpin, director of public relations with MASPCA Angell Animal Medical Center in Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts, and Dr. Alexandra Settele of VCA Medical Center in Portsmouth, New Hampshire for their recommendations. 

Traveling with dogs
Traveling With Dogs

Traveling Smart & Safe With Dogs

1. Pet Carriers

traveling with dogs | pet carrier
This Pet Carrier was rated by

Are you traveling with dogs this fall? All pets should travel in the right pet carrier. While there are seat belts for dogs, most veterinarians recommend carriers as the safest mode of travel. Halpin notes that the MSPCA recommends that pet carriers have a waterproof bottom, adequate ventilation, and be fully secure so that pets cannot open it during travel. Dr. Settele cautions that a loose pet in the car can quickly turn into a dangerous situation, and that the pet can also become a projectile if you get into an accident, causing injury to your pet and to passengers. “Pets should travel in crates, or at least with a seatbelt to minimize that risks,” she says. “I also do not recommend having pets sit in the front seat as it increases the danger.”

Here are some pet carriers for air travel (in-cabin only):

2. Dog Product Safety

traveling with dogs | make a plan
Traveling with Dogs: Make a Plan

Dr. Settele urges that pet parents do their homework in terms of product safety. “Make sure you are using a legitimate product with adequate safety standards as there are a lot of substandard products out there. I also recommend testing the product with your pet prior to any long road trip to make sure it works well in your situation.”

Both Halpin and Dr. Settele advise that pet parents keep the length of the trip in mind and plan for breaks so pets can stretch their legs and go to the bathroom. Be sure to also note the locations of rest areas so you can walk your dog safely, as walking along the side of a highway is dangerous. Dogs should always be leashed when being walked in a strange place, and consider using a harness to avoid your dog slipping his collar and getting loose in a strange area.

Halpin also suggests that pet owners pack an abundance of food, water, treats and toys for trips. “Never take this for granted and assume you can buy stuff along the way,” he says. “You don’t know if you might be delayed or find yourself in an area where supplies are limited. Stock up in advance!”P

3. Pet-Friendly Hotels

Traveling with Dogs | Pet Friendly Hotels
Traveling with Dogs | Pet Friendly Hotels

More and more pet-friendly hotels are cropping up, but they are still less numerous than “regular” hotels. Research pet-friendly hotels before heading out, and ideally, book ahead as they fill up quickly. “Pet-friendly overnight stops are especially important for cats,” says Dr. Settele. “When I moved cross country, my cat refused to eat or use the litter box while in the car all day. We had to find a hotel or stay with friends so she could have a break. I shut her in the bathroom or a small room with her food and litter box for a few hours so she could unwind.  When making overnight stops, I don’t recommend giving your cat full run of the house or hotel room. Most cats are frightened of new places and may decide to hide or try to run away. Enclose them in a small area—like the bathroom or bedroom—for the night.”

4. Long-Distance Drives

Traveling with dogs | long distance drives
Traveling With Dogs | Car Safety

If you are planning a long road trip, it is a good idea to train your dog for the journey ahead of time—especially if he gets nervous in the car. Start by putting your dog in the car and just sitting in the driveway. Provide lots of treats and praise. The next day, take a very short drive; continue to extend the length of the drive until the dog is comfortable with longer durations. “Frequent stops, not just for pee breaks but to walk around a new park or other stimulating area. can be a wonderful way of making sure that your dog associates travel with fun and adventure,” says Halpin. “Most animals associate cars with trips to the vet, so teaching them that a car ride can mean fun will make your journey easier.”


Halpin explains that cats can also be tough to coax into a carrier, so pet parents need to be clever about trip preparation. “Leave the carrier out in an open room for several days before the trip so the cat can get used to it. Place your cat’s favorite treats and toys inside, and maybe a beloved blanket. This way, the cat starts to associate the carrier with comfort and fun and not something scary.”

5. Medication for Pet Travel

traveling with dogs | pet medication
Pet Medication for Traveling

Dr. Settele notes that if your pet gets extremely stressed in the car, and training is not helping, then it is wise to make an appointment with your veterinarian to discuss possible sedatives or anti-nausea medication for the trip. “It’s important to discuss the safety of these medications for your pet, and what will be most useful for them, as well as how long the trip is, your pet’s overall health status, and how severe their anxiety is when in the car. Very young or very old pets may not be good candidates for meds. This way, you and your vet can make an informed decision about how to keep your pet most comfortable.”

While everyone wants their journey to be issue-free, things can happen, and both Halpin and Dr. Settele recommend that pet parents research veterinary clinics or animal ERs along your route before you travel. This way, you know where to get help should the need arise. 

6. Microchips

traveling with dogs | microchips

Last, be sure that your pet is microchipped and that the address and contact information on the chip is fully up to date. “No one wants their pet to get lost on a journey, but if that happens, the odds of your pet being found and returned to you are greatly increased if they have the chip,” says Halpin. “Shelters and vets will automatically scan for a chip the minute a pet is turned in.”

Dog Training for Travel

traveling with dogs | dog training for travel
traveling with dogs | dog training for travel

Dr. Settele notes that implementing the aforementioned training plan with puppies can be a wise move. This gets them used to travel from day one.  She also recommends planning extra bathroom and stretch breaks for both young and elderly pets. “Older pets may get sore or uncomfortable after too long in the car, so you may want to ask your vet if pain medications would be beneficial for a long trip. In the case of puppies, plan some distractions! Kongs or other solid toys that allow for treats inside can be useful for keeping their attention on longer jaunts.”


Traveling with Dogs | Vaccinations
Traveling with Dogs | Vaccinations

Halpin recommends that travelers also verify that their pets are up-to-date on all vaccinations and make sure that they have any regular medications with them; this supply should be enough for the journey.  “You should also make allowances for temperature swings or activities that might require a lot of walking, as both can be hard on pets who are very young, elderly or have special health issues.”

Pets are family and we want our family with us. Take a moment to plan ahead so your furry family members can have a fun and safe summer vacation

The Traveling with Dogs Checklist

Today’s pets go everywhere—to the drive-through, the bank, on shopping trips, and short jaunts to parks and play areas. Whenever a pet is in the car, even if it’s just for a short trip, their safety must be considered. Remember these tips:

  1. Never let your pet be loose in the car. All pets should be in a carrier or crate; dogs may ride with a pet-designated seat belt. 
  2. Air bags can kill your pet—never let your pet ride where an air bag can deploy.
  3. Never leave your pet in a hot car. On a 70-degree day, the temperature inside a car can increase to nearly 90 degrees within 10 minutes, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association. Always leave the windows slightly down—or leave your pet at home when running errands.
  4. Most states make it illegal to transport a dog in an open bed vehicle on a public road. One sudden stop, and the dog can be flung from the truck. Dogs can also easily leap out and suffer severe injury from the jump or be hit by another vehicle.
  5. Your pet may love it, but it is very dangerous to have your dog have his head or upper body hanging out of a car window. The airflow dries out his nasal passages, eyes and mouth; he can easily be thrown from the car if there is a sudden stop. He may also be distracted by seeing another dog or animal and try to leap from the vehicle.  Keep your windows up enough that your dog cannot get his full head outside. 
  6. Leave your cats home.  Very few cats enjoy riding in the car, but a loose cat in the car can lead to a lost or injured cat. Cats are master escape artists, and if spooked, can wriggle their way out of even tiny or unexpected openings. Never open the carrier until you are safely inside your destination. 
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