Dear Pet Experts:
This Christmas we're going to my in-laws for dinner, and then stopping by to see my grandma on the way home. Luckily, our dog is welcome at the in-laws, but he can't come into Grandma's assisted living facility. This means he'll be in the car for a bit. What kind of mischief could he get into in the car? We'll be inside an hour, for coffee etc., but not long--Grandma gets tired easily!
Quincy J. from Peoria, IL
Melissa: What kind of trouble he gets into depends on whether or not he can drive a stick.
Dr. Sip: Once upon a time my husband borrowed a car and left our two-year-old dog (still acting like a pup) in there while he ran into a store. When he came back, she had nearly chewed through a seatbelt.
Melissa: Now THAT’s a tough one to explain to the car’s owner.
Dr. Sip: No kidding. Awkward and expensive. So it's a good question, Quincy.
Melissa: If you’re in a part of the country that isn’t warm this time of year (temperatures will be under 70 or it’s after dark and cool anyway) and doesn’t get dangerously cold (you don’t want to end up with a pup-sickle), then leaving your dog in the car is probably safe from a temperature point of view. But with the funny weather we’re having all over the country, remember to be aware of the actual temperatures outside, and be honest about what your particular dog can handle. A Pyrenees might be totally fine in chillier temperatures, but a Pug or Greyhound? Not so much.
Dr. Sip: The other thing to keep in mind is what you leave in the car while you run into Granny’s place. Did you just get a big gift box of dark chocolates from the in-laws and leave it in the back seat? If so, you might be cleaning up chocolate dog puke AND rushing to the emergency vet for chocolate toxicity treatment.
Melissa: Chocolate or any other foods you leave have the potential to be dangerous to Fido as well as disappointing to you if it’s all chewed up. So either put everything in the trunk or bring it all in with you.
Dr. Sip: You also want to keep in mind if your dog has separation anxiety or is a barker. The neighbors might have a problem if you’re inside getting wooed by Frank Sinatra singing "White Christmas," while Trudy the Wonder Poodle is barking her head off for the rest of the neighbors to hear.
Melissa: Make sure your dog is well exercised before you leave him in the car to minimize Unhappy-Dog-Syndrome (symptoms include destruction of vehicle, vomiting, and barking). Also, make sure that your dog is able to “use the facilities” before you enter the facility. Pee and poop in the interior of your car is REALLY hard to clean, and in the winter, it’s hard to air out. No one wants to deal with “ass-plosion.”
Dr. Sip: Lastly, consider that your dog might just be happier staying at home. While it’s nice to take your dog on a car ride, if there is no pay off (a hike, dog walk, or puppy party) then maybe this is a good time to leave Fido at home with a food puzzle or a bully stick to keep him occupied while you and yours visit Grandma. Besides, this way you’ll have your full attention on your grandmother instead of worrying about what Fido is up to in your Subaru Forester.
Melissa: Which, brings us back to our most important point:
Dr. Sip: Don’t mention “Flirt Pole” outside of dog class?
Melissa: That, and...always keep your pet in a crate while traveling. While it’s easier to not put your pup in a crate, they will be safer. It keeps many dogs (though not all) more comfortable and secure, and keeps your car safe from Destructo-Pup.
Dr. Sip: And one more thing, Happy Holidays, from both of us!
More about Melissa (who wrote "Considerations for the City Dog") and Dr. Sip (who is a practicing vet in Berkeley, CA) can be found here.