In the adult cartoon series Family Guy, one of the running jokes is that Brian, the level-headed family dog who frequently drinks martinis and attended Brown University, can't stand up in the car.
Brian can run a marathon, solve the family's problems and even drive a taxicab, but when it comes to staying on his feet in the back of the family sedan, he's all thumbs — er, paws.
If you're reading this and you have a pet, you might be nodding in understanding. Pets — whether they went to college or not — sometimes have trouble traveling in a car. No matter which animal you own — the barking kind or the meowing variety — it requires daily care. This means you have some planning to do if you want to bring your pet along for a vacation.
Before you even think about putting pets in the car, book lodging that allows them. Find a hotel, condominium or bed & breakfast spot by visiting sites such as: www.petswelcome.com, www.doginmysuitcase.com or www.petvacationhomes.com.
The next step is to get each animal a collar and ID tag. You might think your pet would never run off, but thousands of animals end up in shelters each year simply because they got away from their owners.
Of course, pack everything your pet would need on your trip — food, bowls, leashes, toys, medications, treats and a copy of its medical records, just in case. From there, pet travel instructions are a little more specific based on each species' needs.
Carpooling with Cats
For cats, the problem-solving involves less maintenance but possibly more expense than for some other pets. Cats typically feel most comfortable in their own environment, so your first resort might be to hire a pet sitter instead of boarding your cat at a local kennel.
If you decide to take your cat along for the ride, put him or her in a pet carrier or crate in the backseat, and cover it with a breathable blanket. Unlike dogs, "scaredy-cats" feel calmer when they can't see the road whizzing by out the window. Plus, the constant visual motion might actually make them carsick. If possible, buckle up your cat in its carrier as you would a child in a car seat.
If you so choose, talk to your vet about getting a prescription for "kitty Valium," a smaller dose of the human tranquilizer that relaxes cats and lulls them into a gentle slumber for the course of your trip. Some might be reluctant to medicate their animals, but in this case, it could provide for the least amount of stress on your cat — and you.
Driving with Dogs
As with cats, put small dogs in a crate or pet carrier with some sort of padding on the bottom, and buckle them up. For bigger dogs, use a special restraining harness that you can purchase from your local pet store. This wonderful pet safety belt can be fastened into regular seat belts.
On that note, make sure there's plenty of room for your animals if they're riding amongst your luggage. Also, securely fasten your luggage so it won't fall on your pets.
As with children, activate the safety locks for your car's doors and windows. Some dogs have actually strangled themselves by stepping on and off the automatic window control.
Make sure there are no small objects scattered around your car, and throw out your leftover food immediately. Some dogs will eat anything — including leftover human food, trash and even coins.
Finally, and most importantly, stop frequently for doggie bathroom, feeding and exercise breaks. Just as you need to get out and stretch your legs, your dog does, too, so take it out on its leash (which should be fastened before you exit the car) for a quick run at intervals along the way.
Passage for All Pets
If your pet usually gets car sick, give it a small meal a few hours before the trip and keep feeding it minimal amounts of food along the way. Offer small amounts of water as well — large gulps of water can contribute to your pet's illness.
Of course, be careful about leaving pets alone in the car, especially during the summer months. Always be conscious of heat buildup inside a car, since the temperature inside a car can rapidly increase up to 40 degrees higher than outside it.
If you and your pet are often on the road, think about getting pet insurance. Some auto insurance companies offer additional coverage for our furry friends, which is available for free, or for a nominal fee.
Now that you've got your paws on the knowledge of how to travel comfortably with your pet, the only thing that might stand in your way for a great pet-and-family vacation is how many bathroom breaks Fido will need to take along the way. And, well, we just can't help you there.
Reprinted with permission from Autotrader.com. For more pet friendly travel ideas, visit RTM's Pet Travel section.