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Posted on 03-05-2018


Whether visiting friends, playing at the lake, driving to Middletown Animal Hospital, or taking a road trip, at times we all need or want to have our pets travel with us in the car.  It is extremely important that pets are properly secured at all times while traveling in vehicles. Cats are fairly easily restrained in travel carriers or pet boxes that are secured in the vehicle. Dogs, however, can be much more difficult to properly restrain.

As veterinarians we regularly see major injuries in dogs from improper restraint while traveling in a vehicle. When involved in a car accident or sudden stop,  a dog's body responds the same way as a person's body does. They can be thrown from vehicles, traumatized by airbags, or sustain injury while colliding with seats, windows, and people in the car. Besides serious injury and even death at times, it is very dangerous to any person traveling in the vehicle with an unrestrained dog during an accident or sudden stop. While riding inside a vehicle, all dogs should be secured either in a kennel or by a harness that fits into a seat belt. Riding in the front passenger seat should be avoided due to the risk of injury from a deployed airbag.

Even when not in an accident, we routinely see and treat injuries from dogs either falling or jumping out of the bed of pickup trucks. At times these are minor injuries such as scrapes and bruises that require little to no medical care. However, serious broken bones, internal organ trauma, and severe nerve damage also occur on a routine basis. Repair of broken bones can cost anywhere from several hundred dollars to thousands of dollars depending on the location and extent of damage.Internal organ trauma can also be very costly and require days of hospitalization. Also, dogs that suffer nerve damage may or may not regain full function of their limbs.

The best method to keep your pet safe while riding in the bed of a truck is by placing your dog inside a travel kennel that is then secured to the truck. A dog may also be"cross tied" by a short leash on either side of the collar or harness. One leash should extend from the dog to the driver side of the bed and the other leash from the dog to the passenger side. It is very important not to allow your dog to be completely unrestrained in the bed of a truck or secured by only one leash. Dogs will often fall or jump voluntarily out of the truck bed. If only secured by one leash, the dog can "hang" from the leash on the side of the truck or be dragged while the truck is still in motion. Many people do not realize their dog has fallen or jumped out of the back of the truck until they have traveled a significant distance. Aside from the injuries discussed above, this can result in severe neck trauma and often times"de-gloving" injuries where the skin is peeled back from the muscle and bone. These are extremely serious injuries and may not be fixable.

The animal-human bond is becoming stronger on a daily basis. As a result, many of us enjoy exploring and traveling with our pets. This can be easily accomplished in a safe manner by adhering to the restraint guidelines mentioned above.

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