Tips for Driving with Pets
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Tips for Driving with Pets

Traveling with pets can be a challenge, especially if you’re going further than your local vet’s office. With a little planning and proper care techniques, you can ensure both you and your pet get to your destination in one piece.


A loose animal isn’t just a distraction to the driver, it’s more at risk of injury in an accident, and it’s going to be less comfortable than it would be in a carrier. Dogs may love to sniff everything, but even just letting their noses poke out of a cracked window can cause ear damage or expose your dog to lung infections. Cats feel safe in boxes and will handle car rides better. Have another animal like a hamster or a lizard? There are carriers for them, too.

Each animal needs their own carrier to keep them getting into fights and to ensure the space they’re in is small enough to keep them secure when going around turns. For dogs, carriers are rated by weight, but there also needs to be enough space that your dog can stand up, lay down and turn around. For cats, the interior of the carrier should be 50% larger than your pet. This provides enough space to move around while still letting your cat feel secure. Some cat carriers include trays for food and water, but these are for feeding your cat on stops and should be cleaned before you set off again.

Make sure you have a way to secure the carrier in your car. Some carriers have slots built in to attach to a seat belt, while some large carriers may require an additional strap to connect to a pair of belts.

Going on a flight? While there are “airline approved” carriers that meet FAA requirements, each airline has additional size and construction requirements so there’s no off-the-shelf solution. Always check with the airline before the flight to make sure your carrier will be accepted.

Preparing for the Trip

Once you get the carrier, keep it in an area the pet can reach: the more they get used to it, the easier it will be to get them inside when it’s time to travel.

Go on a trial run to see how your pet reacts to car travel. You may need to talk to your vet about anti-nausea medication or sedation.

Put contact information on the collar of your pet, even if it has a microchip. This lets anyone who find the animal contact you immediately instead of having to take it to a shelter or vet.

Have a plan for keeping food, water and materials for potty breaks on hand. Keep at least a gallon of cold water on hand for your pet to drink. Some pets are fussy and may not want to drink water if it isn’t what they’re used to, so it’s best to stick with the tap water they get at home.

If you have a lizard, consider adding a breathable cover. If your pet reptile is in the dark, they’ll stay calm and sleep most of the trip.

Car Travel

Stop every two to three hours to let your pet use the bathroom and get some exercise. This lets them stretch and helps them endure long periods inside the carrier.

Never leave your pet in the vehicle. It may be cold here, but if you’re headed south, the weather can still be warm enough to cause problems. If it’s 85 degrees outside, the inside of your car can reach 110 degrees in 10 minutes.


Call ahead and make sure the hotel accepts pets and ask about any requirements they may have including extra fees and rules about furniture. Getting a room on the ground floor by the exit will make it easier to get your pet in and out of the building.

Once you arrive, check with the front desk about pet areas. Using these areas will be safer for your pet and help you avoid any cleanup fees.

Make sure your pet gets plenty of exercise before you turn in for the night. If they’re tired, they’re less likely to cause problems.

When Accidents Happen, Go to Merton Auto Body

A carrier can help keep you and your pet safe when traveling, but it doesn’t eliminate the chance of an auto accident. If you need to have collision damage repaired, bring your car to Merton Auto Body. We have a staff of ASE-certified technicians, and we’re an I-CAR Gold Class certified shop. That means we have the experience and training to fix your vehicle, whether it’s an antique or just rolled off the showroom floor. We know you want to get back on the road quickly, which is why we offer an Autobody Estimating Center to get work approved by your insurance company as soon as possible. To learn more, visit us on the web at or visit our Sussex, WI location. We happily service the Waukesha and Lake Country areas, including Oconomowoc, Delafield, Hartland, and Pewaukee.


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