Dr. Leah Cowburn
Published on June 7, 2018

Driving in a car with a dog is usually fun for both the dog and the owner, but it can be dangerous for a variety of reasons. However, safe transport of a dog can be possible by following these recommendations.

1. Use a carrier or harness seatbelt

  • The safest way to securely restrain your pet is a good dog crate
  • A loose small pet can crawl under the brake or accelerator
  • A large dog can block vision from rear view mirror
  • A pet moving around may distract the driver. About 1 out of 5 car accidents occur from distracted driving.
  • A pet could be thrown into the dashboard, windshield or seat during a quick stop or collision
  • Pets should never be put in the bed of a pickup truck, even if in a crate. Exposure to airborne hazards can be very dangerous and in the event of a collision they can be killed on impact

2. Do not allow your dog to hang out the window, despite how much they enjoy it

  • The pet is at risk of objects hitting its face or other body parts, most commonly causing injuries to eyes
  • The pet is not restrained causing driver to be more distracted
  • The dog could be thrown out the window during an abrupt turn or collision
  • Some dogs have jumped out of the window when excited by seeing another dog or person

3. Never leave your pet unattended in a vehicle

  • Heat exhaustion happens very quickly, as the temperature in a car can rise 20° F in 20 minutes
  • It is very dangerous to leave pets in a car even with the windows cracked once the temperature is 70° F or higher
  • While this is the most serious in bright daylight on hot days, it’s best to be cautious anytime
  • Pets have been stolen from cars

4. If your pet is stressed on car rides, get them used to it before a long car ride

  • Take pets to fun places like new walks instead of only going in the car to a veterinarian, groomer, boarding facility etc.
  • If you have another dog who likes car rides and is friendly with the other dog, take them together
  • Sit in the car without driving and give dog treats
  • Some dogs may need calming supplements or prescription medications if stress is excessive

5. Help a carsick dog

  • Most dogs will be less carsick if you position them to see the front of the vehicle
  • Stress contributes to sickness in the car
  • Young puppies often have carsickness and outgrow this. Like children, who are more prone to motion sickness than adults, puppies have not fully matured their ear canals.
  • Some dogs may need anti-vomiting medications prescribed by a veterinarian if carsickness is difficult to manage


  • Davis, Kathy Diamond. Car Rides for Dogs. Veterinary Information Network, 4 June 2014.
  • “Hot Cars and Loose Pets.” American Veterinary Medical Association, 2018
  • Houston DM, Fries CL, Alcorn AM, et al. Injuries suffered by dogs from riding in the back of open pickup trucks: a retrospective review of seventy cases. Can Vet J 1995;36:510-512.
  • “Pets in Vehicles.” American Veterinary Medical Association, 2018.
Dr. Leah Cowburn
Dr. Leah Cowburn is a graduate of Western University of Health Sciences College of Veterinary Medicine. She completed a post-graduate internship and worked as an emergency veterinarian at one of the largest emergency/specialty hospitals in the country. Leah now works in private practice in Maryland that is dedicated to community outreach for an underserved community. She has a special interest in pain management, quality of life, alternative and physical therapy and is currently being certified as a Certified Canine Rehabilitation Practitioner through the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine.

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