Each year, about 30 million Americans take their pets along when they travel, with a whopping 76 percent traveling with their companion animals by car or other motor vehicle, according to the Travel Industry Association of America. The majority of the pets who hit the road are dogs, and those who plan to rove with Rover are well advised to plan ahead and take along certain first aid and safety items, and also to expect the unexpected.
First, learn how to securely restrain dogs in a vehicle
Before I list the first aid items you should take along for car trips with your pooches, I can’t overemphasize the importance of properly restraining dogs when traveling. Indeed, dogs who are permitted to sit on drivers’ laps, poke their heads out of car windows and otherwise move freely about a vehicle are responsible for causing tens of thousands of accidents each year.
Aside from distracting drivers, AAA points out that in the event of a collision, your pooch can act as a furry projectile with forces of 500 pounds or more. Many states have passed pet restraint laws and will heavily fine drivers whose pets are not properly secured in a vehicle. In New Jersey (where I live), pet parents can be fined from $250 to $1,000 for traveling with pets who are not properly restrained.
There are now a wide number of pet car-restraint products on the market, such as those available from companies like Kurgo and K9 Car Fence (pictured above), just to name a few. So please research and invest in a sturdy restraint expressly designed for traveling by motor vehicle with dogs.
Now, let’s get to your first aid kit:
Research dog first aid
The first things you should have in your dog first aid arsenal when traveling with canines by car is a good first aid manual. My friend and colleague Amy Shojai put out the comprehensive The First Aid Companion for Dogs and Cats. There’s also the handy “Pet First Aid” guide released by the American Red Cross, which is now available as an app. In addition, you should record the names, addresses and phone numbers of emergency veterinary facilities along your route and destination, as well as the number for a pet poison control hotline. The ASPCA operates a 24-hour Animal Poison Control Center helpline at (888) 426-4435.
Items for your DIY dog car first aid kit
As I have traveled with pets by car on numerous occasions, I put together my own first aid kits with items I bought at dollar stores, pharmacies, and health food stores and keep them in a waterproof tote. You could also purchase a cute waterproof fabric lunch carrier with a dog motif so that you can easily store and identify this among your other travel effects. You might want to buy travel sizes or smaller travel bottles, which are less bulky, to store supplies in the kit.
Among the items your dog first aid kit should contain are:
- Small scissors, to cut the bandages
- Hydrogen peroxide for accidental poisoning*
- Styptic swabs, to stop bleeding
- Tape and/or stretchy wrap
- Thermometer (I prefer ear as opposed to rectal devices)
*A very important note about hydrogen peroxide: Always check with a poison control hotline before administering this, as some toxic substances should not be regurgitated.
My good friend, holistic veterinarian/author Dr. Cathy Alonovi of Indiana — who helped to develop a pet first aid kit for BARF World — also recommends adding some homeopathic apis for insect bites to your doggie kit. She further suggests the natural Bach Flower calming aid Rescue Remedy, and pure lavender oil to lightly sprinkle on a favorite blanket to soothe nervous dogs.
In addition, it’s a good idea to take along a supply of inexpensive wash cloths and a liquid soap such as castile, which is natural, safe and gentle, for cleaning cuts and abrasions, as well as dirty paws and other soiled doggie body parts. It’s best to avoid baby wipes, because these often contain harsh chemicals that may irritate a dog’s skin.
Water should be a part of your dog travel supplies
This is one suggestion you might not even have considered. It’s important to bring along water from home, as pooches (and other pets, for that matter) may develop upset tummies from drinking water that they are not used to. Or you could bring along bottled water. Don’t forget to pack some collapsible bowls for the water, and be sure to clean them thoroughly after each use.
Hitting the road with pooches can be a real adventure, and great fun — as long as you plan ahead, bring the right supplies and anticipate the unexpected.
Now that you’re set, get tips on traveling with your dog:
- 5 Ways My Dogs Travel With Me — Even If I’ve Left Them at Home
- Tips for Traveling with Your Dog
- Provincetown Road Trip: 5 Tips for Traveling by Car With Dogs
- Ask the Experts: What Are Your Top Tips for Traveling With Dogs
- PR Maven Andrew Freeman on Traveling With Dogs
- Three Unexpected Benefits of Traveling With a Dog
- Dog Travel Tips: How to Explore a New City With Your Dog
About the author: Alissa Wolf is an award-winning journalist and animal lover whose very first pet was an irrepressible toy poodle named Peppy, whose favorite hobby was going “bye-bye” in the family car.