Driving with Pets

In common with children, some animals can get nervous, upset and disoriented both before and during a car journey. Here are some tips to help make travelling with animals more secure and comfortable.


There are certain things you need to consider when travelling with your Pet.

Pet Restraints

Many animals particularly dogs have been killed during vehicle collisions. Animals need some form of safety restraint when travelling in a car. Pet barriers merely contain your pet in the boot; they offer very little protection for your pet in the event of an accident.

Special restraining harnesses can attach a dog to the cars safety belts restricting their movements but for long journeys pet carriers offer the best protection.

Carriers are designed to confine and secure your animal. They come in different shapes, sizes and materials, but all should be well ventilated and have a secure door and latch. They should be large enough for your animal to sit or lie down. You can make the carrier more comfortable by lining the bottom with a blanket or cushion. It is important to secure the carrier to the car otherwise in a collision it can become a projectile which could injure both your pet and the car's occupants.

It is a good idea to fit your pet with a microchip or tag for identification purposes. The tag should have your pet's name, address and phone number. If you are taking your dog with you on a long journey, it is advisable to bring a fully stocked canine first aid kit. 

The PDSA recommend a travel canine first aid kit should include:

  • Bandages - adhesive and open weave
  • Cotton wool
  • Swabs
  • Clean pieces of sheeting
  • Water wash bottle
  • Tweezers
  • 5" flat scissors with round ends

Canine first aid kits can be bought from most good pet stores.

Travelling for the first time

To help your dog enjoy travelling by car, start with short trips. Teach your pet to sit or lie quietly in its carrier so as not to distract the driver by barking at other vehicles or passers-by. Graduate to day trips and then to overnight or weekends.

Long car journeys 

Before you set off on a long journey, take your dog for a walk to work off some energy and to take care of his toilet needs. Don't feed your dog a big meal or give him too much water before the trip, especially if it's his first long journey, like children, animals can get car sick.

During the journey

We have all seen dogs with their heads out of car windows enjoying the fresh air. Don't be tempted to let your dog ride unrestrained with his head out the window; their eyes can be injured by grit or debris thrown up by other cars. They can also become ill from having pollen and cold air forced into their lungs. Make sure your pet's area is well ventilated, if it is warm; make sure the air-conditioning is circulating to the area where the dog is restrained.

Rest Breaks 

  • On long trips take frequent breaks so your dog can toilet and run around to burn off some energy.
  • As you are likely to stop at an unfamiliar area, make sure your dogs leash is fastened before you open the car door.
  • Don't let your dog run loose in an area where there is traffic, they could get hurt or lost.
  • Don't let strangers, especially children, pet your animal, they may be nervous from the car ride.
  • Always clean up after your pet.
  • Even with the windows down, never leave your pet in a hot car. On a hot day the inside temperature of a car can quickly rise to unbearable temperatures.
  • If you have to leave your pet in the car, if possible, park in the shade and leave the windows on both sides of the car open for cross ventilation.
  • Make sure to leave a bowl of cold water in the car if you have to leave your pet unattended.

Driving with Pets - Tips and Advice- Article No 39 RoadDriver 2010

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