These Are the Most Common Travel Hazards for Pets

You could get a dog walker or pet sitter. But sometimes it’s much more fun to travel with your pet — just as long as you ensure they’re healthy and happy.

Nationwide, the largest provider of pet insurance in the United States, has analyzed its database of more than 750,000 animals to find the most prevalent travel-related injuries and illnesses. In 2018 alone, Nationwide members spent more than $36 million to treat these conditions in their dogs and cats.

Here are the most common travel hazards for pets, according to Nationwide’s data.

1. Vomiting/diarrhea

  • Common travel-related incident: A pet experiences motion sickness while riding in a car or an airplane.
  • Average treatment cost: $338

All animals should be safely restrained in a vehicle. But they still might succumb to motion sickness — or even just stress that manifests as vomiting or diarrhea. According to VetStreet, some signs of motion sickness besides vomiting include inactivity, listlessness, yawning, panting and whining. If you believe this is what your pet is experiencing, ask your veterinarian for remedies. Some options might include limiting the animal’s food and water shortly before they get in a vehicle or taking short trips to help condition the animal to the movement.

2. Heatstroke

dog sticking nose through cracked car windowCredit: EvgeniiAnd/Getty Images

  • Common travel-related incident: A pet is exposed to unsafe temperatures.
  • Average treatment cost: $906

Heatstroke can quickly turn serious — and even deadly — in animals. And if you want to avoid the suffering and expensive vet bills, it’s best never to allow your pet to get into a situation where they might get heatstroke to begin with. Some symptoms include excessive panting, restlessness, drooling, reddened gums and a lack of coordination. If your dog or cat is beginning to overheat, take them to a cool, quiet place and allow them to drink as much cool water as they want, PetMD says. Call your vet for further emergency care instructions based on your animal’s symptoms. Heatstroke typically means emergency vet attention.

3. Bruising or contusion

  • Common travel-related incident: A pet bumps a body part during a sudden vehicle stop.
  • Average treatment cost: $248

Sometimes pets aren’t restrained as securely as they should be in vehicles. So if you get into a car accident — or even just come to a quick stop — your animal might bump a body part pretty painfully. If you see bruising or swelling on your animal, “assume there are deeper injuries and consult a veterinarian immediately,” PetMD says. Depending on the injury, your vet might just direct you to apply a cold compress to the area. But they also might want to verify there aren’t more serious internal injuries, especially if the bruising is severe.

4. Sprain

cat loose on top of seat in carCredit: piranka/Getty Images

  • Common travel-related incident: A pet has trouble jumping in or out of a vehicle.
  • Average treatment cost: $220

Besides bumps and bruises, your pet also might sprain a limb while traveling in a vehicle. And you might not even realize trauma occurred until you notice them walking with a limp. “Lameness occurs due to the injury or debilitation of one or more parts of the leg — joints, bones, muscles, nerves, tendons, ligaments, or skin,” VCA Hospitals says. Seek immediate veterinary care for serious injuries or if lameness persists for more than 24 hours. You also can try icing the area. And remember transporting an animal with an injured leg can make the injury worse, so make sure they’re supported and still for the trip.

5. Foreign object in nasal cavity

  • Common travel-related incident: A pet sticking their head out a vehicle window inhales debris.
  • Average treatment cost: $452

You know the images of dogs sticking their heads out car windows. They look so happy with their ears flapping, tongues out and noses catching all the passing scents. Sure, it’s all fun and games until someone gets hurt. And the risks of this behavior are too great to ever allow it. Apparently many Nationwide pet parents (and their pets) learned this lesson the hard way, as many had to seek veterinary care for foreign objects in their animals’ nasal passages. Symptoms of a foreign object in the nose include discharge (typically only from one side), sneezing and decreased air flow, according to PetMD. And further complications might arise if the object isn’t removed, so it’s imperative to get your animal to the vet as soon as possible.

6. Laceration or puncture wound

  • Common travel-related incident: A pet is hit with debris or gets hurt while moving around in a vehicle.
  • Average treatment cost: $404

There are many ways animals can get a cut while traveling — including being hit with debris, falling on something sharp during a sudden vehicle stop or scraping themselves while jumping in or out of a vehicle. Accidents happen. And that’s why it’s critical to pack an animal first-aid kit for your trip, as well as know how to perform pet first aid. For minor wounds, you might be able to clean and bandage the area yourself, as long as you know what to do. But major lacerations or puncture wounds — or wounds on an uncooperative animal — likely will require emergency vet attention.

7. Debris in eye

a dog hangs its head out a car windowCredit: AfricaImages/Getty Images

  • Common travel-related incident: A pet sticking their head out a vehicle window gets hit in the eye with debris.
  • Average treatment cost: $231

Once again, debris hitting animals — this time in their eyes — was a common travel injury, often occurring when pets are allowed to stick their heads out vehicle windows. This can be a very painful injury. After all, just think how much you hate having a foreign object in your eye. Some signs that your pet has debris in their eye include pawing at the eye, rubbing their face on the ground, tearing and squinting, according to Banfield Pet Hospital. You might be able to dislodge the object on your own using saline solution. (Never use your fingers, tweezers or anything else that might cause more damage.) But often this injury requires the professional hands of a vet to resolve and verify there isn’t further trauma.

Main image credit: Wavebreakmedia/Getty Images


Paula M
Paula M2 days ago

thanks for posting

Olivia H
Olivia H4 days ago

Thank you for sharing.

hELEN hEARFIELD9 days ago


Maria P
Maria P11 days ago


Ganaisha Calvin
Ganaisha Calvin11 days ago

i remember a news story of a dog left in a hot car and a passer by had to break a window

Daniel N
John N12 days ago

Thanks for sharing

Kathy K
Kathy K14 days ago


Diane E
Diane E15 days ago

Thank you. I always restrain my pets carefully when I travel. They don't really like the car anyway, but we have to go to the vet!

Chad Anderson
Chad Anderson15 days ago

Thank you.

Carole R
Carole R15 days ago

Good reminders to keep our pets safe.