Traveling With Your Dog: How to Protect Your Pooch on Vacation

Dog in Car Harness
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The days of letting our dogs roam free in the car are long gone. Now we know that using crates or a harness that locks into the seatbelt is much safer.

Safety in the Car

The dog with her head hanging out the car window is a fun image, but unfortunately one that we really need to relegate to the past. We don't drive with kids loose in the back of a station wagon anymore, and our furry kids need to be restrained too.

"Dogs can become not only a flying object in the case of a wreck, but also a distraction when they're running from one side to the other and they get agitated," he says. "You find yourself looking back, away from the road."

Dr. Becker recommends crating or using devices that hook the dog to the seat belt. If you use a crate, make sure it's flat for the dog's comfort — a crate set sideways on a car seat will usually be tilted. Use something like rolled-up towels underneath to even it out.

Emergency Prep

Your trip will probably be full of only fun and happy memories, but it's best to be prepared for emergencies. Dr. Becker packs a first aid kit with supplies that are useful for both humans and pets, including bandages, tweezers and antihistamine for allergic reactions, say to an insect bite. Ask your veterinarian to recommend an antihistamine and dose for your dog.

He also recommends packing a jar of petroleum jelly, which you can put on a cut to help keep it from getting dirty until you get to a vet, and something to stop bleeding, which can be as simple as a cotton swab. "Sometimes pets may break off a nail — it's almost impossible to put pressure on it," he says, but the tip of a cotton swab is just the right size.

Make sure to pack your vaccination and medication records, which you'll need if a vet you've never seen before is treating your dog. It's also a good idea to locate vets at your destination before you need them. If you can't get personal recommendations, Dr. Becker notes that an emergency clinic is a good choice, aside from the fact that it may have longer hours: "They have the equipment, technologies and training and experience to handle more emergencies."

Also, make sure you're prepared with microchips, ID tags and photos in case your dog escapes in a strange place.

"I have our cell phone number on their tags, but it doesn't hurt to get an extra ID tag to say where you're staying," he says. "Make sure you have current photos of your pet — you probably have them on your phone. Take some close-ups and also anything distinctive about your pet, like ours have distinctive colored nails."

What Else to Pack

It's best to pack your pet's regular food to avoid stomach upset, but Dr. Becker is skeptical of the oft-repeated recommendation to bring along water from home.

"I can't even think of a time when someone called me and said the dog's on a different water and it got sick," he says.

He does suggest bringing along some probiotics (again, ask your veterinarian for a recommendation), which are good for the health of more than just the tummy. "Eighty percent of the immune system is in the gut, so a healthy gut is a healthy immune system," he says.

Probiotics may also help avoid loose stool from the stress of travel — and from those extra treats. Because let's be honest, we all eat those on vacation, humans and dogs alike. And Dr. Becker thinks there's nothing wrong with that: "Of course! That's why it's fun."

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