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Oklahoma State University

Vehicles and Pets: What You Need to Know

Monday, July 23, 2018

dog standing in the back of a truck

Just as people should always wear a seatbelt, pets should also be properly restrained while riding in a vehicle. That means securing them with a harness or putting them in a carrier.

Unrestrained pets can pose many problems. A small pet can be on the floor interfering with the brake or gas pedals. Any size pet in your lap can be injured or killed by the airbag in a collision.

A large dog can block your vision or distract you. Unrestrained pets could be thrown out the window or through the windshield in a collision.

Allowing your dog to hang its head out the window is also dangerous and risks the welfare of your pet. Airborne objects could injure your dog’s eye, ear, face or mouth if its head is hanging out the window.

If you make an abrupt stop or turn, your dog could lose its balance and fall out of the vehicle. There is also the risk that the dog will see something it wants to chase and jump out of the window into traffic. The impact alone could injure your pet or even kill it.

Another vehicle related hazard is allowing your dog to ride in the truck bed. Dogs are at risk of injury or death should they jump or be thrown from the vehicle.

Injuries sustained from vehicular strikes or truck beds tend to be severe and multiple including fractures and abrasions.

Dogs riding in truck beds are at greater risk than those riding inside the vehicle. Loads may shift and cause injury to dogs. If the truck bed is uncovered, dogs are exposed to road dust, debris, and heated metal surfaces.

Tethering your pet may prevent ejection. However, it introduces the risk of tangling, choking or being dragged behind the vehicle.

If using a tether, the American Veterinary Medical Association suggests making it short enough to retain the dog’s front and hind legs within the truck. You can also combine the tether with a tractable surface to allow the dog to easily remain within the range of the tether while the truck is in motion.

You can also put your dog in a secure cage or kennel before placing the pet in the truck bed. Give the dog enough room to stand up and lie down but not enough space that the dog is thrown from side to side.

The dog also needs proper ventilation and protection from the elements. Truck bed enclosures may accumulate toxic carbon monoxide and provide only limited protection in the event of an accident.

Put your pets inside the truck cab with you and safely harness them or place them in a secure carrier to keep them safe and injury free.

by Elisabeth J. Giedt, DVM

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