Road tripping with your dog
There’s more to it than letting Rover jump onto the back seat and pant out the open window. Here’s some great advice from Dominique Kuhlmann, General Manager of the Pet Food Industry Association of Southern Africa (PFI), who says there are various ideas that owners can make use of to make their pets more comfortable on the road.
Dogs thrive on routine, and while trips disrupt this, travelling with all the comforts of home will help. So pack his favourite blanket, toys and his own feeding dishes. Especially important is your dog’s regular food to avoid any possible digestive disturbances that switching may cause (not what you want on a long road trip!). And although most foods are stocked nationally, it is possible that your more remote destinations may not have what you’re looking for, so be sure to check this ahead of time, or pack a bag in the boot along with your suitcases.
Seeing the vet before a long journey with your dog is never a bad idea. Certain vaccinations may be required for the destination and the vet should give your dogs the all clear for travel. Plus it gives you a chance to chat about sedative options for nervous and restless travelers or car sickness remedies.
When planning, obviously make sure the destination is pet-friendly. Once there, your dog should wear a sturdy collar with an information disc containing your contact details (especially your cellphone number). Microchips are becoming the most popular method of identification, but a tag offers an immediate solution, and owners can often be located before needing to take the pet to the vet to read the microchip. It’s also a good idea to travel with a photo of your pet in case he gets lost.
On the day of travel, get a walk in before you leave. Only feed a small meal a few hours before you leave to limit the effect of car sickness. Be prepared to stop often, to allow your dog to toilet and stretch his legs (but secure your pet on a leash before opening any doors). You’ll need to offer him small amounts of water at regular intervals to prevent dehydration. Although your dog may love sticking his head out of the window, it really is not recommended – the risk of injury is high, with debris and insects flying by, cold wind being forced into their lungs and electric window controls easily stepped on.
Finally, be aware of the temperature in the car. Blankets may be needed in cold temperatures and open windows or air conditioners (with vents in reach of your dog) are needed when travelling in very hot weather. And it goes without saying, never leave your pet in the car as the car’s internal temperature could rise to fatal levels very quickly.
What to pack …
Your pets’ veterinary certificates
Seat covers – to protect your car seats
Pet car seat
Window Bumper, which clips onto the window so that your dog can rest its head on the soft padded bumper, instead of directly on the hard window ledge, for those who like to watch where they are going
Safety belt attachments – this allows your dog to lie down on the back seat, get to the window for air BUT stops him from lunging onto the front seat
Safety Sitters – these allow you to buckle your pet in to prevent him from jumping out and disturbing passengers or pedestrians
The Pet Food Industry Association of Southern Africa (PFI) is a non-profit, industry association, made up of industry players that, by becoming a member, commit to the same principles and ethics of the PFI – to uphold safe, quality pet nutrition, which has the best interests of the pet as its sole purpose. A list of members is available on http://pfisa.co.za/membership/