Archive for the ‘Traveling with Your Pet’ Category

The 5 Things You Should Never Do With a Pet in the Car

Tuesday, November 5th, 2019
Analysis by Dr. Karen Shaw Becker
  • A recent study confirms what almost all of already know — pets riding in cars should be restrained
  • The study showed that free-roaming pets in vehicles increase driver distractions, unsafe driving behavior, and stress for both drivers and pets
  • It’s important to know the five things you should never do with a pet in the car
  • For everyone’s safety, including your pet’s, it’s important to secure him or her with a preferably crash tested harness, travel crate, or travel carrier
  • Other important tips for safe travel include ensuring your dog or cat is wearing an up-to-date ID tag, and bringing along a pet emergency first aid kit

Recent research conducted by Volvo and The Harris Poll confirms what most of us already know — allowing your pet to ride and roam around in your car unrestrained is not a good or safe plan.1 The study showed that “free-range” pets in vehicles leads to an increase in unsafe driving maneuvers, driver distraction, and stress on both the animal and the driver.

A previous report by the same researchers suggested that 32% of pet parents have left a dog at home because they felt their car wasn’t safe enough, and 77% of Americans believe people don’t take vehicular dog safety seriously enough.2 Clearly, pet owners know better than they do, when it comes to traveling with furry companions.

Why Allowing Your Pet to Ride Unrestrained in Your Car is So Risky

The just-released study followed 15 drivers with dogs in their vehicles for more than 30 road hours. The researchers set out to compare how driving with an unrestrained pet vs. a pet in a seat belt, harness or carrier affected driver behavior. A few highlights:

  • Unsafe driving behaviors — including pets climbing on drivers’ laps or hanging their head out the window — more than doubled when pets were allowed to roam freely, with 649 instances vs. 274 with restrained pets
  • Driver distraction caused by dogs jumping from seat to seat or otherwise pulling drivers’ eyes off the road also more than doubled at 3 hours and 39 minutes with unrestrained pets vs. 1 hour and 39 minutes with restrained pets
  • Heart rates increased for both drivers and unrestrained pets, with dogs averaging 7 beats per minute faster and drivers, 28 to 34 beats per minute faster

Beyond these significant issues, free-roaming pets in cars can receive devastating injuries in the event of an accident or can run away from the chaotic, frightening scene of the accident, never to be seen again.

5 Never-Dos When Traveling With Pets

Veterinarian Dr. Elisa Mazzaferro, an expert in emergency and critical care of animals, offers the following tips for driving with pets:3

  • Never drive with your pet in the front seat — In the event of a collision, your dog or cat can be thrown into the windshield, even if restrained. Deployment of the passenger side airbag can also be dangerous to a small pet.
  • Never drive with your pet on your lap — It is not only a serious distraction to driving, but your pet can get caught under the steering wheel and cause an accident or be thrown forward in a collision.
  • Never drive with your pet unrestrained — Not only can your pet be a distraction, but an abrupt stop can cause him to fall and be injured. In the event of an accident, your frightened dog or cat may jump from your vehicle and run into moving traffic, be hit by other vehicles, or become lost.
  • Never allow your pet to lean out your car window — Debris can fly into your pet’s eyes and cause abrasions or punctures that could result in blindness.
  • Never leave your pet unattended in a vehicle — Depending on the breed, level of anxiety, and the time of year, some people may be tempted to leave their pet in the car while running a short errand. Even during cooler months, never leave your dog unattended in your vehicle, no matter how short a period of time, to avoid extreme temperatures and hyperthermia/ heat stroke.

Pet Restraints: Harnesses, Travel Carriers, and Travel Crates

Putting your pet into a crate, carrier or secure harness is for their safety as well as yours. As discussed above, an unrestrained dog or cat can be a distraction while you’re driving, and more than a few have crawled under the driver’s feet, causing an accident, and an unrestrained animal can become a projectile, which is life-threatening for both your pet and other passengers.

You’ll want to choose a crate or carrier that fits your dog or cat snugly, with enough room to be comfortable but not excess room (which poses a risk in the event of an accident). The crate or carrier should then be secured into the back seat or cargo area of the vehicle — not the front passenger seat.

While you can fasten almost any crate or carrier in your vehicle using elastic or rubber bungee cords, this method may not be secure enough in an accident, putting your pet at risk of injury. In addition, many pet restraint manufacturers claim their products are crash-tested and safe for use in a vehicle, but there are no established test protocols or standards required to make such claims.

Fortunately, the Center for Pet Safety (CPS) and Subaru have collaborated to perform crash tests on a wide range of harnesses, carriers and crates on the market. CPS actually provides a list of crash test certified pet restraint systems (up to date as of November 2018). The links below take you the test pages, including videos, for each product:4

Safety Harnesses Travel Carriers Travel Crates
Sleepypod Clickit Sport (Sm, Med, Lg, XL) Gen7Commuter Carrier Gunner Kennel G1 Small with Strength Rated Anchor Straps
Sleepypod Clickit Terrain (Sm, Med, Lg, XL) Gunner Kennel G1 Small with Strength Rated Anchor Straps Gunner Kennel G1 Medium with Strength Rated Anchor Straps
ZuGoPet The Rocketeer Pack Sleepypod Carriers Gunner Kennel G1 Intermediate with Strength Rated Anchor Straps

The CPS and Subaru also crash-tested pet travel seats. These are portable booster seats for small dogs that are placed on the passenger seat or console to elevate small dogs so they can see out the windows. None of the four tested seats safely restrained the (stuffed) dogs in the crash tests,5 so while they may be fun for dogs, they shouldn’t be considered effective safety restraints.

10 More Important Tips for Safe Road Trips With Your Pet

  1. Make sure your dog or cat is wearing a collar with a current ID tag. If your pet is microchipped, make sure the information is current in the microchip company’s database.
  2. Put together a travel kit for your pet. Include appropriate paperwork, food, fresh bottled water, bowls, treats, a harness and leash, and any supplements or medications your pet is taking.
  3. A first aid kit for emergencies is also a good idea. You can include a comb or brush, some toys, and, bedding. It’s also an excellent idea to include some recent pictures of your pet from various angles that would show any unique markings or any unique characteristics about her in the event (heaven forbid) she gets separated from you while traveling.
  4. If you plan to feed fresh or raw homemade food during the trip, obviously you need to pack an ice chest or some way to keep the food frozen. If you opt to switch to canned food for your journey, it’s important you make the dietary transition a week or so before you plan to leave, so you don’t encounter any unexpected bouts of diarrhea during your trip.
  5. Have clean up supplies on hand. Sometimes, there are potty accidents or vomit episodes that need cleaning up.
  6. Most cats won’t use a litterbox in a moving vehicle. If you make stops along the way, you can try to entice him to use the box at rest areas. It’s important to have a litterbox available when you make stops, but it also means that you’ll need a litter scoop and some plastic bags for used litter if your cat does decide to take advantage of the litterbox.
  7. Never open your cat’s carrier while there are any car doors or windows, even a sunroof, open. It’s a precaution you should follow religiously at all times when traveling with your cat.
  8. If you’re traveling with a dog, make sure his leash is attached to his harness or collar before allowing him off his travel harness or out of his travel crate.
  9. Don’t try to feed your pet while the car is moving. It’s best to offer a light meal a few hours before departure. If you’re traveling some distance and will be staying at a hotel in the evening, feed a second meal once your dog or cat has settled down in your room for the night. In the morning, feed some breakfast a couple hours before you get back on the road.
  10. Never leave your pet unattended in your car for any reason.

Prepare for Your Dog Becoming Lost

Saturday, January 5th, 2019

Microchips are the best insurance if pet goes missing

Tuesday, August 20th, 2013

animal microchipMicrochips can mean the difference between being reunited with a lost or stolen pet or losing that friend forever. An estimated 10 million-plus U.S. pets go missing annually, but about 94% of animals with microchips are reunited with their owners. Once the microchip is implanted, a quick and relatively painless procedure that can be done during routine veterinary exams, a pet owner’s most important task is keeping contact information current so he or she can be quickly located if a lost pet is found. The Huffington Post/The Blog (8/12)

The picture above is meant to compare the size of the microchip with a grain of rice.

Last weekend Wellington, my 9-year-old Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, provided me with a somber reminder of why it is so important that we provide our pets with some type of identification. In the midst of a furniture delivery he decided to take a walk on his own. By the time we noticed that Wellington had gone missing he was nowhere to be seen. With my heart in my throat I ran down our driveway, only to find one of my neighbors walking a contrite-looking Welly back to the house.

The prospect of losing a beloved pet is every pet parent’s worst nightmare. But pets do go missing every day, and despite the best efforts of owners and local animal control, many of these pets are never reunited with their families.

If accidental losses weren’t enough to be concerned about, a disturbing new trend of pets being stolen is cropping up in news reports this summer. The American Humane Association estimates that more than 10 million dogs and cats are lost or stolen in the U.S. every year. Some of these pets wind up for sale on local Craigslist boards and sadly, others are sometimes sold to medical laboratories, where they become unwitting test subjects in the name of science.

Protecting our pets from loss and theft is fairly simple, but hardly foolproof. As pet parents, we do everything we can to keep our furry friends out of harm’s way, but there are times when even the most vigilant among us become distracted; furniture deliveries being a case in point. On warm August nights, it can be tempting to just open the back door and let our pets roam in the yard unsupervised. Or you may think, “What’s the harm?” and tie Fido up to pop in a shop for an iced coffee. It only takes a split second for a thief to snatch your pet, and once he is gone, your best chance of recovering him may be his microchip.

Microchips are the only permanent method of pet identification, and not only are they extremely helpful in the event your pet is lost, but having your contact information linked to your pet’s chip can help you prove rightful ownership in the event that your pet is stolen. One of the very first things I did when Welly joined the family was get him microchipped.

Don’t have your pet microchipped yet? Here’s what you need to know:

• It is estimated that more than 94 percent of lost pets who have a microchip are successfully reunited with their families.

• Microchip scanning devices are available to all U.S. animal shelters and veterinary clinics. If you’re not sure whether your pet is chipped, have him scanned.

• Injecting a microchip into your pet’s back takes less than 10 seconds and is only as painful as a vaccination.

• Microchips are made of biocompatible silicon and encased in glass, and rejection and infection are rare.

• The biggest reason microchips fail to reunite lost pets with their owners is that the owner information either was never registered or it wasn’t current. Register your pet’s contact information immediately when you get the new chip. If you already have a chipped pet and are unsure of your pet’s microchip number or manufacturer (info you will need to update your contact details on the chip), take him to your local vet clinic or animal shelter to be scanned. Don’t take any chances!

While microchips are the only permanent form of identification for your pet, there are some promising new options for pet identification that can work in tandem with a chip to make sure you always know the whereabouts of your best friend.

GPS-enabled collars can help you find your lost pet using your smartphone. When your pet goes missing, you get a text message with the GPS coordinates of the collar. The message contains a link to the coordinates on a map, which you can open on your smartphone and use to start your search efforts. Some models even act as a virtual fence, sending you an SMS message when your pet leaves a predefined zone. In other words, as soon as your dog leaves the yard, you can be notified of his location. While the technology can be pricey (some models fetch close to $500), it can be well worth it for the extra peace of mind.

After Welly’s escapade last weekend I am investing in a GPS collar; next time he may not be so lucky as to end up in the arms of a friendly neighbor! No one wants to think about their pet being lost or stolen, but being proactive about protecting pets against the unexpected can help create a happy ending for everyone.

 

Pets on a plane: Decrease their risk

Monday, February 18th, 2013

While most pets who fly the friendly skies arrive at their destination unscathed, there have been cases of injury and death in some, and this article provides some tips for owners to help ensure the safety of their animals during flight. Veterinarian Jay King suggests getting pets used to the crate they will fly in beforehand, and he says pets’ disposition and the weather should be taken into consideration before putting animals on a flight. The ASPCA recommends ensuring your animal is up to date on vaccinations and that the collar and crate are labeled appropriately. Freezing a dish of water ensures pets have water to drink when they’re ready for it. St. Louis Post-Dispatch/Along for the Ride blog

In November 2010, a French bulldog died sometime during a pair of Continental Airlines flights between St. Louis and Seattle.

During a necropsy of the 11/2-year-old dog at the Washington Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory, a “small amount of shredded newspaper” was found partially obstructing the opening of the dog’s larynx. The dog’s death was determined to be unrelated to the airline’s handling of the pet.

The cursory account is one of dozens that airlines have filed with the U.S. Department of Transportation in recent years in response to federal reporting rules.

First, it should be noted that the overwhelming majority of pets and other animals that travel by air suffer no serious consequences. Continental shipped 6,725 animals in November 2010 with only one incident.

Still, there are enough reports of animal injuries and deaths to gain some insights into these worst cases. During 2012, for instance, 58 animals were lost, injured or died, during air transportation. In 2011, there were 46. In 2010, the number was 57.

Dr. Jay King of the Watson Road Veterinary Clinic said that “99.9 percent of the time, it is noneventful” to fly with your pet. But there are steps you can take to prevent harm from coming to your family pet during a flight.

If your pet is flying in a crate, take the time for the animal to become familiar with it beforehand.

Drive the pet around town to get accustomed to the notion of travel. Tranquilizers may help your dog or cat handle the stress of air travel, King said, but they can also affect an animal’s ability to regulate its body temperature.

In one case, records show, an English bulldog died after its owner administered a dose of Xanax before a flight in late December from Orlando, Fla., to Seattle.

Recognize that some pets — just like some pet owners — are not comfortable with air travel. They can suffer panic attacks or separation anxiety, King said.

“They are in a weird situation,” King said. “They are put in a cargo hold. Their ears pop. Sometimes they will really freak out.”

Take weather into account, he said. If it is too hot or too cold, the airline may not let your pet fly if the animal is going to be shipped in the cargo hold.

Many of the reports filed during the last three years involved dogs that injured themselves while trying to chew their way out of transport crates. After one Alaska Airlines flight touched down in Seattle last December, ramp workers noticed that a dog’s mouth was stuck on the metal wires of the kennel door, according to one report. Workers had to cut a few of the wires to free the dog’s mouth.

The owners told the airline the dog suffers from “extreme separation anxiety,” and that they would be taking it to a veterinarian to check for any injuries to its mouth.

Many of the mishaps involved international flights, which King said can amount to “a nightmare” because of the extra steps required.

In June 2011, an 8-month-old chinchilla that was originally loaded onto a Delta Air Lines flight at Lambert-St. Louis International Airport was discovered dead at its ultimate destination, Moscow.

Delta officials reported that the chinchilla was “in good condition” at JFK International Airport in New York before it was loaded onto the final flight to Moscow. Once it got there, however, the chinchilla was dead. During a necropsy, the doctor determined that “to the best of our knowledge, cause of death was due to a septic gastroenteritis or acute heart failure from stress,” the report showed.

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals recommends against flying with your pet — unless it is going to fly with you in the cabin. If you must transport a pet as cargo on a commercial flight, here are some tips:

  • Make sure all vaccinations are up to date and get a health certificate from your veterinarian within 10 days of the trip.
  • Don’t forget to make sure your pet has a collar and an identification tag, and a microchip if possible. The collar should include information about your destination, in case the animal escapes.
  • Choose a direct flight whenever possible.
  • Pick a USDA-approved shipping crate, and write “live animal” in one-inch letters on the top and at least one side. Affix arrows to show the upright position of the crate.
  • Freeze a small dish of water the night before the trip so it won’t spill while loading. It should be melted by the time your pet is thirsty. King says ice cubes work too.

Your pet is family, so take the extra time to ensure the flight ends happily.