Road Trip!

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Plan Ahead

Do some pre-trip training. Make sure your pet is well socialized so she can cope with any strangers she may meet en route. And get her used to some of the travel-related experiences she'll have while on your family vacation. "If the only time your dog rides in the car is to go to the veterinarian, she's not going to like it much," says Bernadine Cruz, DVM, an associate veterinarian at Laguna Hills Animal Hospital, in Laguna Woods, California. "Get her in and just sit in the driveway without going anywhere. Put a treat or toy in the car so she associates it with good things."

Your pet's carrier should be her portable safe haven, so be sure she's comfortable with that, too. "Put the carrier out in your house so it's not only familiar to her, but it's something she likes," says Dr. Murray. "It shouldn't be, 'Here's this scary box I'm shoving you into' right before you leave."

Pack his bags. Bring a traveling kit including food, grooming supplies, a favorite toy, and food and water bowls (there are nifty folding ones now available). Fill a large plastic bottle with water to keep your pet well hydrated. Bring along his bed or blanket to ease the transition. If you have a cat, don't forget a portable litter box; for your dog, bring a leash, a waste scoop, and plenty of disposal bags.

Follow road rules. Don't let your dog ride with his head hanging out a car window -- wind or debris could damage his eyes and ears. If your pet's in a carrier, be sure it's secured with a seat belt: In an accident your three-pound Chihuahua could turn into a deadly projectile. The American Automobile Association recommends confining bigger pets to a crate or to the backseat, secured with a pet harness that attaches to the seat belt. Give your pet a light meal four to six hours before you set out on your trip to avoid motion sickness. And when you pull over for potty breaks, give your dog one, too: AAA advises stopping every two to four hours to let a dog stretch its legs and empty its bladder. Cats should be given the opportunity to use their litter box periodically on long trips. And above all, don't leave your pet in a parked car when it's warm out. Even with windows cracked the temperature inside your vehicle can rise to more than 120 degrees F. in minutes.

Traveling Circus

These readers took their pets along for a ride -- and got more than they bargained for.

Traveling Circus
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"Our Tonkinese cat serenaded my husband and me across five states because the medication for his car anxiety didn't work." -- Terri Persico Rimmer, Fort Worth, Texas

Traveling Circus
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"When our collie was a puppy, she was in the backseat while my dad was driving. All of a sudden she tried to get up front with us -- she had pooped back there and wanted to get away! My dad's response? 'It's okay, it's your mother's car.'" -- Kath Scullion, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Traveling Circus
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"My Old English sheepdog once knocked the hand brake off in my dad's car, which crashed into a brand-new Range Rover!" -- Katie Diffin, Halifax, United Kingdom


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