Pet safety on the road

dog in backseat of car, keeping your pet safe on the road

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on how we work and travel: for many, the daily commute to work now spans only the few steps from the bedroom to the living room, or to whatever improvised office space they may have. And for most of us, extensive travel has (temporarily) become a thing of the past.

While hardworking humans have generally mixed feelings about spending so much time at home, our four-legged friends have been lapping it up. From spontaneous Zoom meeting cameos to lounging across laptops, our pets have arguably become a bigger part (of every part!) of our lives than ever before.

For many of us stuck at home, our pets have kept us sane. As travel plans start to open back up and you head back out on the road, return the favor by keeping them safe. According to a AAA/Kurgo survey, a massive 84% of dog owners bring their dogs along for the ride without using proper restraints. If that doesn’t give you pause, think about it this way: imagine if that number referred to the amount of people who don’t use proper car seats for their children, or who let their kids ride in the car without seatbelts. Yikes!

Many pet owners refer to themselves as pet parents, and to their pets as their fur-babies. So why the general nonchalance when it comes to pet safety on the road? According to the same Kurgo survey, of dog owners who do not use car restraints, 42% decline to do so because their dog is calm and they don’t think they need a restraint, 29% because they only take their dog on short trips, and 39% because they’ve just never considered it.

We want to change that. On average, there are about 6 million car crashes in the US every year. Should you get in an accident, no matter how minor, we want your pets to be safe, and we’re sure you do too. We’ve written up a summary of the best tips from around the web with roadside pet safety in mind.

Distracted Driving and Your Dog (Or Cat!)

There are three different types of distracted driving: manual, visual, and cognitive. Manual distractions involve the driver removing their hands from the wheel. Visual distractions occur when the driver focuses their eyes anywhere other than the road. And cognitive distractions are when the driver allows their mind to wander away from the task of driving.

If you’ve ever driven with your dog or cat in the car, you know — pets are distracting! Maybe your pup tries to wiggle their way into the front seat with you. Maybe you have a chatty cat who likes to meow at you from their carrier, leaving you worried about calming them down. Or maybe you’re on the receiving end of some truly precious puppy dog eyes and just can’t resist reaching back to give your dog the pets they’re begging for.

Any of these situations, or any other trouble that a loose dog or uncomfortable cat can get themselves into, checks pretty much every box for distracted driving. To cut down on distractions and maximize pet safety, using the proper type or carrier or restraint is essential.

Restraint Options for Dogs

Fortunately, there are plenty of options out there when it comes to keeping your dog safe and comfortable in the car. Different kinds of restraints for your pup include harnesses, crates, carriers, and car seats.

Safety Harnesses

Pet safety harnesses usually consist of a wearable vest used in conjunction with your car’s seat belts or a car seat to keep your dog from roaming around the car and keep them safe in the event of a crash.

What to Look For

When choosing a harness, you want to make sure that the one you choose is designed with your dog’s weight in mind. Just as with a child’s car seat, a dog’s safety harness needs to be the correct size to keep your dog safe. You can look for options that give your dog a little more freedom of movement, or harnesses that clip more closely to your car seats. Finally, make sure that whatever harness you choose is crash-tested by the Center for Pet Safety (CPS).

Crates and Carriers

A travel crate is a great option if your dog has been successfully crate trained and associates their crate with comfort and security.

What to Look For

Again, look for the crucial CPS crash-testing and high safety rating. Consider whether your pup would prefer a hard-sided crate or a carrier with soft sides. Above all, make sure you’ve introduced your dog to their crate or carrier gradually in your home before locking them in for a long car trip.

Restraint Options for Cats

Cats don’t generally enjoy car rides nearly as much as their canine counterparts, but sometimes you don’t have a choice but to take your kitty along for the ride. For those situations, look for a sturdy, comfortable carrier to help your cat feel calm and safe.

No matter if you have a dog or a cat, or which car restraint option you choose, always remember to secure your pet in the back seat of the car, never the front. Just like young children, pets can be seriously injured or even killed by the passenger side airbag in the event of a crash.

Long Trips With Your Pet

Whether you have a cat or a dog, you need to keep their needs in mind when planning a long car trip. Know that your pet will need more breaks than you will, and be prepared to stop every few hours to let them stretch their legs and use the bathroom. Also, just because you can push yourself to keep driving for long distances without a break doesn’t mean you should. Use your pet as a healthy motivator to stop and rest.

If your cat, like most feline companions, isn’t a fan of car rides, there are various calming sprays you can use on their carrier to help them feel more comfortable. If your dog is an anxious passenger, ask your vet about oral calming options. There are plenty of calming treats on the market, some of which are formulated specifically for car trips, and even some including CBD.

Most importantly, never leave your pet in the car in the heat, even if you’ve cracked the windows. Cars heat up rapidly even in only mildly warm weather, and pets can overheat quickly. Make sure your pet has access to fresh water regularly as well.

What to Do in Case of an Accident

Obviously everyone hopes to never be in a car accident. But odds are you’ll be in at least one minor accident in your pet’s lifetime. It’s important to have a plan in place to keep yourself and your pet safe.

If you and your pet get in a car wreck, first make sure that you aren’t hurt and that you aren’t in any further danger. Just as you are instructed to put on your own oxygen mask on a plane before helping anyone else with theirs, you need to make sure you’re okay before you can help your pet.

Once you know you’re uninjured, check on any other passengers, as well as your pet. Both dogs and cats are highly likely to run away from the scene of an accident, so keep your pet under control by leaving them in their carrier or keeping a firm hold on their harness.

By this point, if you haven’t already, move to safety if you are in or near the road. You can then check your pets for any serious injuries. If they’ve lost the use of their legs or seem to be having pain in their back or neck, they could have sustained a spinal injury and you should call an emergency clinic right away. If they’re breathing rapidly, or have a faint heartbeat or pale gums, they could be in shock. If that’s the case, lay them on their side, cover them with a blanket, and watch their breathing. If they are bleeding profusely or have a broken bone, try to stop the bleeding with a tourniquet and stabilize the break as best you can. Finally, if they have shrapnel
or glass in their skin, leave removal to the vet.

Be Prepared With Pet Injury Coverage

You can’t stop accidents from happening, but you can be prepared when they do. Elephant offers a wide variety of insurance options to keep you covered and with pet safety in mind, from comprehensive and collision coverage to Pet Injury Coverage.

Keep yourself and your pets safe. Contact us and check out our discounts, or get a quote today.

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