Elderly Pet Travel Safety

We are a publicly-supported 501C3 nonprofit. Your purchase through links on our site supports our mission. Learn more.

Elderly pets are at greater risk for injury during travel because some may not react as quickly as a younger pet would if a vehicle stops short or is in an accident. Many animals, especially dogs, love driving in the car with their head out the window. This is not only unsafe but can put an animal at risk for serious injury. Pets should be secured in a moving vehicle to prevent unnecessary injury should there be any sort of sudden movements or accidents. Pets should travel in the back seat of the vehicle and if your pet likes the wind in his face, the window should be opened only slightly so as to prevent your pet from attempting to jump from a moving vehicle. 

When traveling with pets, keeping them safe is important. Keeping them comfortable is another consideration. Leather seats can get hot in summer and cold in winter. A blanket or cover on the back seat will not only protect your back seats, but will also provide comfort as well as protection in the event your pet soils during the trip. 

Another concern when traveling with pets is distraction. A pet that is not secured in the backseat can easily distract the driver of the vehicle and cause serious injury or death if there is an accident. 

Flying with Pets

When flying with a pet, only small cats and dogs are allowed in most airline cabins and they must fit in the carrier that fits under the seat in front of you at all times. Larger dogs can fly in the planes cargo hold with some capacity and weather restrictions. Service animals or emotional support animals can travel in the cabin with a disabled passenger on many airlines. 

Airlines have restrictions on the weight of the pet as well as the pet carrier used for flying with pets to determine where your pet will be traveling, so be sure to check with your airline to ensure that your pet carrier meets size requirements. 

Train Travel with Pets

Traveling by train is similar to other modes of travel, but Amtrak has some requirements that may differ from the airlines. For instance, to travel by train with a pet, the trip must be 7 hours or less, you may only travel with one pet per passenger for travel in a compliant pet carrier, travel is Coach only with pets, pets must be at least 8 weeks old, pet must be stowed under the seat in a compliant pet carrier, and the combined weight of your pet with the carrier must not exceed 20 pounds. 

Carriers must be leakproof and waterproof with adequate ventilation. Many trains have carrier size restrictions as well. Typically there is a cost to travel with a pet. 

Medically certified service animals can ride on any train traveling in the continental US. Other countries have specific requirements and restrictions. 

Rules for traveling with pets on a train varies from place to place, so it is important that you check with the train company you are traveling with to determine what the current rules are. Some trains do not accept pets.

Bus Travel with Pets

The rules for traveling with a pet on a bus are similar to train and airline travel, with most requiring that the pet be in a carrier that fits under the seat. However, not all bus lines allow you to travel with your pet so it is important that you contact the bus line before traveling to ensure your pet is allowed on board. Many have special rules or procedures for boarding with a pet, so it is best to know what to expect ahead of time and contact the bus company first. 

Securing your Pet

Today, there are many ways to help secure a pet, similar to how a person is secured in a moving vehicle. There are simple tether seat belts that attach to your dog’s harness and buckle in the seat belt clip. A basic seat belt clip is the simplest, least expensive option for securing your pet when traveling in any sort of vehicle that has a seat belt.  

We do not endorse or promote any of these products or companies. Products are listed for demonstration purposes only based on available information at the time of publication. You should always consult your vet to determine what is most appropriate for your pet. 

Tethers or seat belts work similar to a regular seat belt. One end of the tether clicks into the seat belt buckle and the other end fastens to your pet’s harness. Never secure a tether to a pet’s collar because sudden stop can cause the pet to choke and break its neck. By securing the tether to the harness, the animal may become injured during a crash, but the harness combined with the tether will keep the animal from catapulting forward off the seat.

With a booster seat, the entire seat secures to the vehicle keeping the seat completely in place during sudden stops/starts or crashes. The pet is then secured to the seat with a clip – but the clip should be secured to a harness, not the pet’s neck collar. There are many videos that show the clip secured to a pet’s collar and if the vehicle suddenly stops, the animal can choke. Always tether an animal at the harness instead to avoid such injuries.

A backseat bridge helps fill the gap in the backseat between the front and back seats, creating a platform for the animal to land on in the event of a sudden stop or start, to prevent the animal from falling to the floor. A backseat bridge can make a pet feel more comfortable when traveling in a vehicle because it provides a flat surface for them.

Similar to a bridge, a backseat hammock fills the gap between the back and the front seats, providing your pet with the illusion of more room to stretch out and relax. By providing more surface area for your pet, it can help your pet feel more comfortable when traveling.

Elderly pets often need a boost when getting in and out of a vehicle. Ramps are especially useful when your older pet needs assistance. It easily allows pets to enter and exit the vehicle, without straining your back.

Pet lifts assist owners with safely lifting the pet in the vehicle. This is especially helpful for older pets who may not be able to jump in the car on their own. Pet lifts are great for older pets, not just for travel but to help assist them in and out of the house as well. 

Pet carriers are great for both cats and dogs. They can help easily transport pets to vet visits or other outings, keeping them safe and secure. Be sure to secure the carrier with a seat belt  – this particular carrier secures to the back seat to ensure pet stays put. 

Read more about the different types of pet carriers options for senior pets.

Whatever pet travel solution you choose for your elderly pet, you can rest assured that your pet will feel more safe and secure when traveling in a vehicle, airplane, train or bus if you secure them properly.