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5 safety tips for summer road trips with dogs

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Pet owners plan plenty of summer road trip vacations. Lots of dog lovers take their canine companions along for the ride. Professional pet sitters and boarding kennels can be costly, and many folks choose to include their dogs for family vacations, especially in the summer.

How can pet lovers travel safely on the road this summer with their canine companions?

Here are five tips for safer summer road trips with dogs.

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1. Choose and use secure seating for a traveling dog.

Each year, countless dogs are injured inside moving vehicles, particularly during sudden stops and vehicular accidents. An untethered animal may stumble, fall, or be catapulted through the interior of a car or truck, winding up with broken bones and other injuries. Others may be harmed by loose objects that fall upon them inside a vehicle.

Do dogs need seat belts inside vehicles for on-the-road safety? Vehicular safety belts and harnesses are available for pets. Some of these products attach to existing seat belts, while others may be factory installed. Although pet seat belts are not legal requirements, many dog owners do choose to use them to prevent injuries. Other pet owners put their smaller dogs in airy pet crates to keep them secure inside moving vehicles.

Dogs should not be held on drivers’ laps during on-road travel, as this can be both dangerous and distracting. In addition, a pet may be crushed by a sudden release of a vehicular airbag.

2. Don’t put dogs in pickup truck beds.

In many regions, humans may not legally ride in the back of a moving pickup truck. However, few areas have laws restricting this practice with pets. Animals (particularly dogs) are often seen traveling in the open beds of pickup trucks. This form of canine transport can be extremely hazardous, as dogs may fall or fly out of pickup truck beds on bumpy roads or with sudden stops.

Similar hazards may occur with sudden stops in vehicles with convertible tops or sunroofs.

3. Take lots of water breaks when traveling with a dog.

Long-distance road trips may take several hours, and dogs undoubtedly require water breaks. Compassionate and cautionary pet owners will offer dogs fresh, clean water (not roadside puddles, which may be contaminated with chemicals or other hazards) and an opportunity to potty outside their vehicles. (Of course, dog owners will want to pick up after their pets, if necessary.)

4. Use a collar and leash during road trips with a dog.

Far too many dogs may be endangered, injured, or killed in roadway accidents annually. Others may be bitten or maimed (or even bred) by unfamiliar dogs in rest areas, parks or other roadside stopping points.

Many of these tragedies could be avoided by the use of collars and leashes (or pet harnesses) during road trips. Even the most obedient dogs may become confused or overexcited in unfamiliar surroundings, so compassionate restraint is well advised.

5. Never leave a dog unattended in a vehicle.

Although most dogs seem to enjoy traveling in moving vehicles, a parked car presents a completely different scenario.

Within just a few minutes, the interior of a stationary vehicle on a hot day may reach dangerous levels. Even with the windows open, a car’s inside temperature may quickly exceed 120 (F) degrees – potentially causing heatstroke, brain damage, heart failure, or even death for pets trapped inside.

By taking a few precautions, pet lovers can enjoy summer road trips with their canine companions. Of course, it’s also a good idea to take along each dog’s health records (including verification of current immunizations) and to affix identification tags on each dog’s collar, whether or not the pet has been microchipped.

The dog days of summer can be an ideal occasion for traveling with treasured pets, especially when these basic on-road safety precautions are taken.

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