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Tips for Keeping Your Pets Safe and Relaxed on Your Next Road Trip

Guest Contributor July 19, 2021
Girl sitting with a large dog in a tent
Travelling with the family pet isn’t as easy as throwing a leash, a couple of bowls and a big bag of kibble into the trunk. Here’s our checklist for how to be prepared.

1. Build up to the big day.

Encourage your pet to spend time in and around the crate before travel day so he or she knows it as a safe spot. Puppies and kittens should be exposed to the car using small experiential steps as part of a training program. Dr. Jonathan Bloom, medical director of the Willowdale Animal Hospital in Toronto, suggests playing with your puppy in the back seat of a parked car. After a few successful stress-free sessions, do the same with the car engine running. Work up to taking a drive around the block. Increase the distance until everyone is comfortable being in the car.

2. Have the proper identification.

Outfit your pet with a flat collar and a tag imprinted with your home address, as well as a temporary travel tag with your cellphone and destination phone number and any other relevant contact information.

3. Protect your vehicle.

If you frequently hit the road with your pets, it’s worth investing in rubberized floor liners and waterproof seat covers. There are various seat covers in different sizes and styles available at Walmart online. CAA Members also earn 2% back in CAA Dollars when they shop online through our link.*

4. Crate your pet.

Your pet might be your sidekick, but your dog or cat should never ride shotgun. Cats and dogs should be secured inside a well-ventilated crate or carrier in the back seat. Ren’s Pets has a wide variety of carriers for every size of pet, and CAA Members save 10% on carriers and plastic kennels. Just remember that whether you choose a wire, plastic or soft-sided carrier, be sure to secure the carrier to the inside of the vehicle so it doesn’t move if you suddenly hit the brakes. For tips on getting your cat used to travelling – we all know how difficult cats can be! – we have advice from the experts on how to get your cat comfortable in a pet carrier. Whether you’re traveling with a dog or a cat, don’t forget to ensure the pet carrier is the right size. Your pet should be able to lie down, sit and stand up in it.

5. Pack thoughtfully.

Depending on travel restrictions, if you’re travelling across border from Canada to the U.S. by car, bring a valid rabies vaccination certificate and a signed letter from your veterinarian declaring that your pet is healthy. Ask your vet if there are any health risks for you pets in the region you’re traveling too. Make sure to bring your pet’s medication and flea and tick preventatives, especially if you’re travelling to a tick hot spot. For the drive, bring a first aid kit, food, bowls and a familiar pillow or blanket. Dogs will also require a leash and poop bags, while cats need litter, a box and scoop. Toys should be limited to one or two.

6. Create a comfortable interior cabin temperature.

Most cats are familiar with room temperature, which is 22˚C. On cold days, warm the car up before placing your pet inside the car. And on hot days, cool the car down.

7. Put the pet chow away.

Don’t feed your pet in a moving vehicle – except for treats, which can be used for positive reinforcement. Stop frequently for washroom breaks. Bring lots of water and pour some into a bowl whenever you stop, keep pets leashed at all times outside of the vehicle. The RUFFWEAR Quencher Closable Dog Bowl from SAIL is a practical solution. CAA Members can earn up to 5%* in CAA Dollars® when they shop at SAIL online.

8. Never leave your pet unattended in the car.

While Ontario has the PAWS Act, which authorizes police and animal welfare inspectors to enter a vehicle to relieve animals in critical distress, the Atlantic provinces have various rules and laws prohibiting the leaving of unattended pets in parked vehicles in a manner that endangers the health or safety of the animal. In the cold, vehicles can quickly become freezing. “On a hot day, heat stroke is a risk with a potentially fatal outcome,” Bloom says. “When the outside temperature is 30˚C, cabin temperatures can increase 10˚C in just 10 minutes.”

9. Consider leaving your pet at home.

Your pet may enjoy weekend trips to the cottage, but if he or she will be sitting in a hotel all day while you explore museums and other locations where pets are not welcome, leave your dog or cat with a sitter, or have someone come to your home while you’re away.

10. Get peace of mind.

CAA Pet Insurance covers your pets wherever you travel in Canada. Ensure that your pet insurance is up to date before you get on the road.

CAA Members can save money and/or earn in CAA Dollars®on pet essentials from Ren’s Pets, SAIL and more with CAA Rewards.