Pet Care Pointers

Tips for auto travel with your pet

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The image of a dog with his head sticking out the car window, ears flapping in the wind and tongue hanging out, is irresistible; but a moving car is not a safe place for a free-roaming dog.

Another unsafe practice is a dog riding untethered in the back of a pickup truck. Yes, the warm summer days have us all on the go for a wide array of outdoor activities, many of which involve bringing the family pet. However, there are a few simple ways to make sure that you and your pet arrive safely at your destination whether it is near or far.

First, let's look at travel in the back of a pickup truck. This is one thing that I observe almost on a daily basis during my commute. I have seen this done the correct way, but for the most part I see too many dogs traveling unsafely.

In most states, the law requires your dog to be tethered or in a crate if he is in the back of a pickup truck. Proper tethering allows your dog to move about, but prevents the dog from getting to close to the sides and especially the rear by the tailgate to prevent falling or jumping out. The other option for the back of pickup truck is to use a crate, which is probably the safest mode. However, be sure to consider temperature extremes of heat and cold that can make crate travel dangerous.

Please, for your dog's safety and the safety of other drivers, provide appropriate tethering or an adequate crate for your dog to travel to and from your destination.

For those of you who travel with your dog or cat inside of the car/SUV, here are a few tips to make sure that you consider all aspects of safety.

The best way to transport your cat is inside an appropriately sized crate. Many cats do not travel on a regular basis inside of a vehicle unless it is to go to the veterinarian or to the boarding facility. These are usually short distances and it is not worth the risk to allow your cat to roam freely. If your cat tends to urinate and or to defecate while en route no matter how long the trip, remember to place a shoe box with some litter inside of the crate to allow for proper elimination and to avoid a definite mess upon arrival.

For dogs, there are a couple of options available for safe travel. A crate is also an ideal option for many. This will keep your dog in snug comfort and prevent him from getting underfoot, jumping in the driver's lap or being tossed out of the car in the event of a wreck.

Other options are specially made seatbelts or raised car seats with restraints that will offer your dog a view while still keeping him in one place. Another great alternative for SUV's is to use a vehicle barrier that creates a travel space in the rear utilizing the cargo area. I have used one of these for many years and love the large space it provides my "crew" to comfortably travel in, while at the same time prevents them from sitting beside me or in my lap.

Dr. Tracy Acosta is a veterinarian at Biloxi Animal Hospital. Questions for this column are encouraged. Write to South Mississippi Veterinary Medical Association, 20005 Pineville Road, Long Beach, Miss. 39560 and include a self-addressed stamped envelope.

© 2007, The Sun Herald. Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.