Pet owners do some pretty crazy things from time to time, and as a veterinarian, I often have to take some of their habits with a grain of salt. But one particularly bad habit I see when I’m out of the office stands out: pickup truck owners who ride with their dogs in the back.

I cannot tell you how many times I’ve seen dogs injured jumping out or being thrown from the back of a pickup truck – even one is one dog too many. To reiterate the danger of this particular activity, I can also honestly say that I’ve never seen a dog who has presented for this problem who was not very seriously injured.

While it might seem like fun for four-legged friends to ride in the pickup bed, the dangers far outweigh the risk. If your dog jumps ship while moving, don’t forget that he’ll likely be jumping into a road with other cars on it, upping his chances of being hit by a car as well as sustaining injuries from the fall. In addition, consider the consequences if you’re involved in an accident. Even a minor fender bender can throw a dog from his riding spot.

Common injuries that can occur when dogs jump from or are thrown from the back of pickup trucks:

  • Head trauma
  • Broken limbs
  • Injuries to the large nerve bundle in the armpit, which can cause permanent loss of function to the affected limb.
  • Road rash
  • Gruesome “de-gloving” injuries, where the skin and fur are peeled away from the arms or legs.

Safety precautions

If you need to transport your dog or dogs and there isn’t room to safely transport them in the truck’s cab, then a few safety precautions should be taken before you open the back of the truck. Buy a crate specifically made for the back of the truck (yes, they do make them!), and secure it with bolts right behind the cab, which is the safest place for your pooch to ride. This will prevent your dog from jumping or being thrown from the truck and will buffer him in the case of an accident.

This is not merely a safety measure – in many states, such as California, Minnesota, New Hampshire and Washington, it is illegal to transport unrestrained animals in the back of pickup trucks.

For those of you without pickup trucks, similar rules apply. If you live in one of a handful of states that enforce distracted driving laws, having pets unrestrained in the car will land you with a ticket and a hefty fine. New Jersey, Arizona, Connecticut and Maine drivers are among those who are not allowed to drive with pets on their laps or improperly restrained, and more states are considering similar legislation as well.

Make sure your furry family members are buckled up, just like you are. Restraining your pet keeps them safely inside the car – yes, I have seen dogs who have jumped from car windows – and it prevents them from becoming projectiles in the case of a motor vehicle accident. I’ve encountered more than one unlucky dog who has broken a leg when their owner had to slam on the brakes.

Pet safety harnesses are like pet seat belts. They keep your pets (and you) safe and secure while riding in the car and can be purchased online or at any pet store. Be sure they fit securely – you may think you’re taking away from the “fun,” but your pet will thank you when he arrives at his destination safely.

Jan 3, 2013
Pet Health

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