People take their pets on the road with them for lots of reasons: they help reduce stress and make their vehicle feel more like home. In fact, one in five owner-operators and professional drivers has a pet as a traveling companion.
Whether you're staying local and taking short trips from job site to job site, or long-hauling across state lines, here are some tips that'll give you peace of mind Fido or Fluffy are comfortable and safe when they're along for the ride:
Before you go
Get your pets acclimated to traveling by taking them for short trips. It'll help them get used to the sudden movements and noises of being on the road. Be patient - it can take several weeks for them to feel comfortable.
Teach 'petiquette' to your pets. You want to be able to take them in and out of your vehicle easily. And you want them to behave in public and be reasonably quiet so you don't disturb other travelers.
Pack for your pets with the following must-have items:
- Food; bring enough with you so you don't have to buy on the road. Switching brands can upset their stomach so consider getting a national brand of commercial pet food because, if you do run out, it'll generally be available wherever you're traveling
- Non-tip, non-slip food and water bowls
- Collar or harness, and a leash
- Toys and treats
- Bed or blanket
- Litter box or plastic bags for waste disposal
- Clean-up supplies; if they shed, try duct tape to keep your vehicle fur-free
- Pet first-aid kit; some of the same treatments you use at home can be used on your dog or cat like a weak (3 percent) solution of hydrogen peroxide and antibiotic cream to clean and treat minor scrapes or cuts
- Identification and shot tags
- Medical records, especially a current record of their shots
- Your vet's contact information
Microchipping your pets isn't a must, but it's an added precaution. You'll have peace of mind that rescuers will have your contact information and your pet's medical information in case he or she gets lost.
Check with your insurance company to see if your pets are covered in case of an accident. Progressive's Pet Injury coverage protects your dogs and cats if they're in your vehicle and injured in an incident like a crash, theft, fire, or flooding. It's free if you have Collision coverage.
On the road
Keep a routine-stick to your pet's standard feeding and bathroom schedule as much as possible.
Have your pets ride securely in a crate or by wearing a harness. And, don't let them ride with their heads out of the window.
Keep fresh water available at all times. Avoid letting them drink from puddles in the parking lot or streams alongside the road. If you're going to use the free water at the fuel pumps, make sure it's potable; meaning it's safe for drinking and washing. A good rule of thumb: if you wouldn't drink it, don't let Fido drink it either. If you can't leave water out, give them a drink whenever you stop or let them lick on ice cubes.
Play with and exercise your pets regularly.
Give them regular bathroom breaks. Many rest stops have designated areas where your pets can do their business. If you're on someone else's property, like a customer's yard or a job site, ask permission.
If you're leaving them in your vehicle, speak to them when you leave to reassure them that you'll be back soon. When you take them with you, keep them leashed at all times so they don't run off or bother other travelers.
If it's hot out, take steps to avoid them getting heatstroke like leaving your air conditioning on or taking them with you. Keep in mind: on an 85-degree day, even with the windows slightly open, temperatures inside your vehicle can climb to 103 degrees Fahrenheit in 10 minutes and 120 degrees in 30 minutes.
If they get sick, ask for help at a rest stop or gas station. The people who work there are probably local so they can refer you to the closest emergency clinic or vet. You can also ask the local or state police for help.