I often get asked questions about keeping pets safe during summer road trips, so I’ve compiled some of my top tips below. My husband, Baruch Caballero, is also an ER veterinarian and our daughter Juliana turns 2 in July. We travel quite a bit up to Wisconsin (all year round, but especially in the summer) and take our German Shorthaired Pointer, Emma and Golden Retriever, Birdie, with us (see picture above). We leave our 2 tabby cats at home. If we are traveling out of the state/country, we are lucky to have a veterinary technician we work with stay at our house.

What are some of your tips when it comes to traveling with dogs?
When traveling with dogs, make sure they are comfortable traveling/riding in the car. Some dogs are very fearful of car rides and are therefore not good candidates for road trips. Keeping them in the back seat or back of an SUV is best. Small dogs can be kept in a carrier if it makes them feel comfortable and secure. Keep the car a cool/comfortable temperature. You can roll down the window so they can sniff outside, but do not open it enough for them to hang their whole head/body out while you are driving. Stop every few hours so they can go to the bathroom and offer small amounts of food and water. Dogs can get car sick just like people can, so giving them a big meal before the trip is not a good idea.

Would you ever consider taking a cat on a road trip? 
Cats typically do not enjoy car rides. Many cats will cry/meow the entire time they are in the car. Of course, there are always exceptions. If you must do so, keep them in a carrier and do not allow them to roam around the car. This can be dangerous both for the cat and the driver.

What should you bring in the car for a road trip with a dog?
Collar or harness, leash, water and food bowls, dog food, first aid kit, blanket for them to lay on in the car.

What about when you travel with kids and a dog? Any tips for this?
Make sure the kids and the dogs are separated. Dogs should not be sitting on kids laps or jumping over the seats.

How often should you stop and let your pup walk around?
Every few hours. If you need to stop to use the bathroom, chances are so does your pet!

What should you do for your dog before you go (tick treatment, flea dip or preventative shots?) depending on if you are going to the Northern woods or to the beach?
Your dog should always be up to date on vaccinations, heartworm preventative and flea and tick medication. However, different parts of the country have specific diseases. It is best to talk to your veterinarian about any trips you are planing with your pets so they can educate you on regional diseases and prevention.

To hear Dr. Derse talk more about summer road trip safety, watch her recent FOX-TV Chicago segment. 



I shared some tips with Beth Engelman, founder of Mommy on a Shoestring and mom to adopted pup Tucker. Here are a few items to consider in order to keep pets safe in the spring:

Pet Parasites and Bugs
Spring is the hatching season for numerous bugs that we have forgotten about over the winter. The bad news is that mosquitoes transmit heartworm disease, ticks transmit several life threatening diseases and fleas are an itchy nuisance! The good news is that these diseases are preventable with routine exams, monthly heartworm prevention pills and monthly flea and tick medication. Bees stings and spider bites can cause allergic reactions that generally manifest with hives, facial swelling, vomiting and diarrhea. If your pet exhibits any of these clinical signs they must be evaluated by a veterinarian right away.

Poisonous Plants
The most dangerous plant that I see causing a toxicity in pets is lilies. Lilies are toxic to cats (not dogs) and cause acute kidney failure and can be lethal if not treated quickly and aggressively. All portions of the lily are toxic including the petals, leaves, stems and even the pollen. However, not all lilies are toxic. The best solution is to avoid have lilies in your home if you live with a cat. If you think your cat can’t jump on top of the fridge to get at the lilies, think again. Cats are agile and curious and the potential consequences are not worth it. If you have plants in your home or garden that you are concerned may be toxic, visit to learn more. They also have a wonderful infographic you can view here.

Spring Cleaning
Spring is a great time to clean out your garage, basement, or attic. Be particularly careful if you have anything in these areas that has spilled over the winter. Antifreeze/ethylene glycol is highly toxic to both dogs and cats and causes the kidneys to shut down in a matter of hours if ingested even in small doses. Antifreeze is sweet which makes it attractive to pets. Many companies however, are now adding a bitter agent to help deter toxicities. Also be careful if you put out any rat poison. Depending on the active ingredient, pets that ingest rat poison can develop bleeding disorders or neurologic disorders/seizures if ingested, both of which can be fatal. If your pet may have gotten into rat poison they must be seen by a veterinarian immediately. Also, be careful of nails, screws, or construction materials that may cause lacerations or other physical injuries. Lastly, if you are cleaning your windows make sure that the screens are intact. Cats enjoy sunbathing in windows and can fall out if the screens are not secure.

Dog Parks
As a veterinarian I advocate taking your dog to the park for exercise. That is, if you dog is vaccinated, well trained, and you are aware that accidents can happen. Dog bites, lacerations, puncture wounds, muscle strains and torn ligaments are all fairly common. Leptospirosis is an infectious disease spread in the urine of infected mammals that may transmitted in parks but even can be seen in the city. This disease causes kidney and liver failure, is treatable if caught early and is preventable by vaccination. Blastomycosis is a fungal disease that hides in the soil. The fungus is inhaled and most commonly travels into the lungs but can also been seen in skin wounds and can travel throughout the body. The most common clinical sign is coughing or rapid breathing. Blastomycosis is treated with antifungal medication but is very aggressive and can be fatal.

Canine influenza
Canine influenza is a rare, highly contagious respiratory disease. The disease is transmitted by coughing and sneezing, and causes pets to be infectious for 2-3 weeks. The most common clinical signs are coughing, sneezing, discharge from the eyes and nose, and potentially a fever. Mild cases can be treated with antibiotics and cough suppressants. More severe cases can progress to pneumonia which often requires hospitalization. Chicago is currently battling an unprecedented outbreak of Canine Infectious Respiratory Disease (CIRD), of which canine influenza is a component. Within the past few months, the city of Chicago has seen over 1000 suspected cases of CIRD. Prevention is key. At this time it is not recommended that dogs be taken to boarding, grooming facilities or dog parks in the city. Be sure your dog is vaccinated against Bordetella bronchiseptica, which is also part of CIRD. The veterinary community has recently discovered that the canine influenza vaccine on the market protects against a different strain than the one we are seeing in Chicago. It has not yet been determined whether there is any cross protection. The Chicago virus has also been known to be transmitted to cats. Reliable information can be found here. If your dog exhibits any of the above clinical signs, they should be checked by a veterinarian right away.

Dr. Jami-Lyn Derse

Veterinary Housecall Care
PO Box 7141
Libertyville, IL 60048

Hours: By appointment 7 days a week.

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