I’d like to share additional risks of dogs in cars. The risk associated with pets in vehicles doesn’t end with heatstroke. Just as you should always wear a seatbelt, your pet should always be properly restrained while in the vehicle. That means a secure harness or a carrier.

The dangers include:

  • Being distracted by dogs interfering with steering or braking that can lead to an accidents pets actually causing the accident
  • The potential for severe injury that can occur to pets when unrestrained.

According to a survey from American Automobile Association (AAA), 2 out of 3 pet owners engage in distracting behaviors (playing with, feeding or petting their dog, or letting their dog sit in their lap) when pets are in the car…and according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), approximately 20% of injury crashes involve distracted driving.

I’ve personally known pet owners that have had a loose, small pet crawl down in the foot well and interfere with use of the brake or accelerator pedal causing an accident.  Dr. Primovic shared a story of an accident caused by just this where there were two pets in the car. The owner opened the door after the minor accident and both dogs got loose. He went to try to help one dog who was hit by a car and while doing so he also was hit by a car. One dog was killed, he and the other dog were both severely injured.

Some pet owners love the idea of their dog sitting on their lap or passenger seat but this can be extremely dangerous. Small pets on your lap can be injured or killed by the airbag or could be crushed between your body and the airbag in a collision. A large pet leaning across your lap can interfere with your view of the road and also can be injured by an air bag in a collision.

Unrestrained pets can be thrown out or through windows or windshields in a collision. Not only could your pet be injured in the collision, but it may also increase your risk of collision by distracting you and taking your attention away from where it should be – on the road.

I’ve also seen deadly accidents from dogs riding in the bed of a pickup truck. A survey shared by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) of veterinarians in Massachusetts found 141 practitioners (71% of those surveyed) had treated a total of 592 dogs that year that were injured as a result of riding in a truck bed. Injuries can be severe or deadly.

Truck bed injuries tend to be severe and multiple and include fractures and abrasions. Dogs can fall or jump from the truck bed and be injured or killed on impact, or be struck by other traffic. Tethering your dog in the back of the truck can also be dangerous. Dogs can get tangled or even choke when thrown or be dragged behind the vehicles.  

Having a dog have their head out the window can result in eye injuries from airborne hazards.  Foreign bodies in the eyes are a common and dangerous problem if you practice this dangerous act.

Before you put your pet in the vehicle, ask yourself if you really need to take your pet with you – and if the answer is no, leave your pet safely at home. If you must take your pet with you, make sure they are properly restrained so the trip is as safe as possible for both of you.