Dogs (and Girls) Riding in Cars

If you’re a dog lover like me, you take your dog everywhere you go, or at least try to. In all the years I’ve had dogs, not one presented a problem in the vehicle, though one of my Cavalier King Charles Spaniels thought it was really neat to "hang ten” off the edge of the open Jeep. I soon rigged something that would keep him safe back there, but he missed his ears flapping in the wind—a little bird envy, I think.

A few tips for a safe and happy ride for you and your best pal:

An unconfined dog becomes a dangerous projectile in the event of a sudden start, stop, or turn, potentially causing serious injury to both human and animal, according to Calgary veterinarian Daniel Joffe. When travelling in a car, even for short distances, a dog should always be confined—preferably in a solid-sided crate, behind a barrier, or with a specially made harness through which a seat belt passes.

A dog that hangs its head out of a moving vehicle is subject to eye, nose, and ear infections, and if a dog jumps or is thrown out of an open window, the injuries can be severe. "Some of the most horrendous injuries I’ve seen have come from dogs falling out of cars,” says Joffe. "They not only have the impact of the ground, but because they’re going the same speed as the car, they slide along the surface and suffer horrible shearing injuries.” But don’t tie a dog inside the vehicle—the leash can become a fatal noose. And never transport your dog in the back of an open truck unless it is contained in a crate bolted to the floor or held down by bungee cords.

Motion sickness, seen as restlessness, drooling, or vomiting, can be a problem for some dogs, but often it is simply because they are anxious about being in the car. Try just sitting in a quiet car with your dog, then taking very short drives, gradually increasing the distance until the animal is comfortable. For dogs that suffer from true motion sickness, as some humans do, a variety of medications are available, according to Joffe. "We don’t like to give any medication if we don’t have to,” he says, "but in the case of a dog that gets really sick or is really frantic, the medication is a lot better for it than the stress that the travel can cause.”

Penny Grey is a freelance writer in Nanaimo