Keep your furry friends safe while in the car, at the beach, on the road
By Sandy Robins
updated 6:53 a.m. PT, Wed., July 15, 2009
The first rule of the road when traveling with pets this summer: never leave them in the car “just for a minute” — not even to get directions or to grab a quick latté.
Temperatures inside a vehicle can reach 120 degrees in a matter of minutes, even if you’re parked in the shade, warns the Humane Society of America. Dogs and cats don’t perspire as people do and can only dispel heat by panting and through the pads of their feet. Consequently, they don’t stand a chance in a hot enclosed vehicle, and will undoubtedly suffer from heat exhaustion, heat stroke or brain damage — and the consequences can be fatal.
Even inside an air-conditioned car, make sure that your pet has easy access to water at all times. Spill-proof GoTo Bowls are perfect, and fit onto the console of a car or SUV — or you can simply fill a collapsible travel bowl with ice cubes that they can lick to keep well hydrated.
Unrestrained pets in a vehicle are considered the third worst driving distraction — more than cell phones — says the Automobile Association of America. It’s also illegal to travel with unrestrained pets in open pick-up trucks. Not only should pets be restrained in a vehicle, but like small children, they are safer in the back seat.
“When driving 35 mph, a 60-pound unrestrained dog can cause an impact of 2,700 pounds, slamming into a car seat, windshield or a passenger,” explains Christina Seltzer, CEO of Bark-Buckle UP, the California-based organization that focuses on educating pet lovers about safety awareness on the road and in the air.
There is a variety of safety harnesses and accessories on the market catering to pets of all sizes. Consider a booster seat for a small dog — it restrains for safety and is elevated so Fido can still enjoy the view.
One must-have item for dog owners — a gadget called a Backseat Barrier — is designed to stop dogs from getting into the front seat and distracting the driver. It’s easy to install and remove, and fits into any car or SUV.
If your pet suffers from motion sickness, it’s a good idea to consider a prescription medication called Cerenia, available by prescription from a veterinarian. Natural remedies such as Bach Rescue Remedy can help alleviate the problem too.
Does your pet get nervous or too excited on car trips? Pheromone-infused collars can help keep them calm and relaxed. The collars have ingredients that mimic the properties of natural pheromones released by lactating female dogs to calm their puppies. They also contain lavender and chamomile, natural calmatives and are effective for up to a month.
If your dog is a regular passenger in a convertible, consider investing in some flexible eyewear called Doggles. These glasses are designed to keep grit out of the eyes and offer UV protection.
Eyewear is particularly helpful for large breed dogs that suffer from pannus, a progressive, non-painful, inflammatory disease of the cornea that is exacerbated by exposure to ultraviolet light. Apart from riding in cars, doggie eyewear is particularly useful for hiking trips and beach excursions.
If you are planning a day of fun in the sun, consider letting your dog wear a light T-shirt or a special protective vest to keep harmful rays at bay. Special collars with iced gel sticks will help keep them cool too.
Hot sand and sidewalks can be damaging to paw pads. If you can’t avoid such areas, consider ergonomically designed footwear for your pooch. And add paw balm to your list of toiletries to keep them soft and prevent cracking.
After an outing, be sure to give your pet a quick shower. Salt water can cause itchy skin, and be sure to check for ticks and stones and debris caught between the toes.
Believe it or not, dogs and cats can get skin cancer. Most pet-specific products usually come with an SPF (sun protection factor) of 15. You can also use a standard zinc-based sunscreen for people that protects against both UVB and UVA radiation. Choose one with a minimum SPF of 30 (if not higher), and apply to the areas that need the most protection — inside tips of the ears, the nose, paw pads and pink tummies.
Contrary to popular belief, not all dogs are good swimmers. Whether you’re at the beach, or relaxing poolside at home, it’s a good idea to keep pets that enjoy water sports safe with a specially designed life jacket. Keep in mind, the fit is very important to ensure movement isn’t restricted.
The Skamper Ramp is also an excellent accessory on a boat or in a pool, and could save the life of a pet that falls into water unattended.
Hot summer weather also brings out the insects, in particular, dreaded mosquitoes. The American Heartworm Society says cases of deadly mosquito-borne diseases such as heartworm infections are on the rise in domestic pets throughout the United States.
Now, you can attach a new mosquito-repelling tag — called Bug Bam — right onto your dog’s collar. It contains 100 percent EPA and FDA approved natural ingredients — geranium, citronella and lemongrass. These essential oils are proven to repel mosquitoes, fleas and ticks without the use of harmful chemicals found in flea collars and topical applications. The tags last for about 15 days.
Hitting the road for vacation? A pet that goes missing out of its territory is truly lost. If you are traveling this summer, consider FasTags. Wherever you are, write your current hotel address on these plastic ID tags with a Sharpie and then shrink them in the oven. By creating a custom tag for each changing location, proper identification is your lost pet’s ticket home.
Happy, safe summer travels!
Sandy Robins is an award-winning pet lifestyle writer. She is the recent recipient of the Humane Society of the United States’ Pets for Life Award. Her work appears in many national and international publications.
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© 2009 MSNBC.com