Pet Transportation Safety

Small dog maltese sitting safe in the car on the back seat

The holiday season has ended, meaning most families are returning from their travels. For some people, pets are a part of the celebration and are included in travel plans. While some pets are easy travel companions, others are better left at home in the care of a trusted friend or neighbor. Even if visiting your veterinarian is the most you travel with your pet, every owner should understand pet transportation safety.

When making travel decisions, it is important to consider your pet’s behavior, health, and daily needs. For example, if your destination will not allow you to spend time with Fido and include his daily exercise, then it is best he stay at home. As a general rule, most cats are more comfortable in their home environment and should probably stay home during family trips.

Taking your pet to the veterinarian for a quick check up will also help you decide if your pet is healthy enough for travel, especially if your pet will be traveling by airline. Your pet’s behavior is also a deciding factor in allowing them to travel. For instance, a playful and energetic puppy may not appreciate riding in a kennel for several hours.

Traveling by car is the most common way to transport pets, but many owners do not know the safest way to allow furry friends to ride in the car. Dr. James Barr, clinical assistant professor at the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, explained the best way to transport your pet by car. “The best way to transport pets in a car is to restrain them in some way,” he said. “If you have a small dog or cat, then they should be placed in a pet carrier. They will be safer and less likely to climb in your lap and interfere with driving. Although this may not be feasible in larger dogs, there are a number of seat belt devices that can be used for dogs to limit their mobility in the car.”

In addition, it is also recommended to keep pets in the back seat to prevent them from being a distraction from the road. You may also consider inviting a friend or family member along to help watch the pets. On long road trips, this will allow you the opportunity to buy snacks or refuel while your pets are under the supervision of your friend.

It is common for pet owners to allow their dog to put their head out the window, but the reality is that this can be dangerous. Although Fido may enjoy the fresh air, he can potentially be injured by debris. “There are a couple of problems that arise when a dog has his head outside of a moving car window,” Barr said. “The first is the possibility that something could hit them at high speed, such as bugs, sticks, or other debris. This is especially problematic for the dog’s eyes. The next problem is with the possibility that the pet could jump out of the window and severely injure themselves.”

In addition to these travel safety tips, it is also important to never leave your pet unattended in the car. Having a friend with you to help watch the pets while traveling will solve most dangers associated with leaving pets alone.

Although some veterinarians may not recommend allowing your pet to travel by airline, it is not impossible. “The most important thing when it comes to airline transport is to ensure your pet is healthy enough to make the trip,” said Barr. “Airlines generally require that you have a veterinarian sign a health certificate to prove your pet is healthy enough for travel. If the pet is to ride in the cabin, then it will need to be calm enough to be carried through security. In the baggage area, your pet may get hot or cold, so the health of the pet needs to be good to enable them to withstand that.”

No matter the occasion, knowing the basics of pet transportation safety is a must. Whether you’re traveling by car or airline, it is important to first consider the health and safety of your pet.

Pet Talk is a service of the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences. Suggestions for future topics may be directed to

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