10 Tail-Wagging Pet Travel Tips

Posted on July 28, 2017

Dog at campsite.

That OnStar peace of mind? It’s for the dogs. And the cats. And maybe the potbellied pigs. That’s because the same safety, confidence and connections that we give to our Members are also there for your fuzzier family members: your pets.

Taking animals along for the ride brings you joy. We get it. But traveling with pets can also be complicated and stressful. We’ve got you covered. Whether it’s getting emergency help, finding food or locating a dog park in a new town, OnStar is here for you.

Some services discussed require a paid OnStar plan.

Let’s start with this list — a few tips to make your pet travels safer and smoother.


Pets are safer in the rear of your vehicle. In the backseat, they’re less likely to be injured by sudden stops, movements or, in the event of a crash, a deploying air bag. Backseat barriers are available to prevent your pets from entering the front seat. The less a pet moves about in your vehicle, the safer every passenger will be.


If your journey takes you to new and unfamiliar places, have a plan in case your pet is injured or needs medical attention. Make sure you know where the nearest veterinarian or pet clinic is located. With a push of the red Emergency button, your OnStar Advisor can help you find the closest animal hospital.

Dog looking out of tent.


Bill Kidd was hunting with his English Setters in a remote part of South Dakota when his dogs had an unfortunate run-in with a rattlesnake. Both dogs were bitten and quickly began having trouble breathing.

“I had no idea where the closest vet was,” Bill says. “It was getting close to evening, and I knew my dogs didn't have much time. I connected with OnStar and they not only gave me directions to the nearest vet … they also alerted the vet that I was coming. She was kind enough to stay open and wait for us, and she had the anti-venom ready. She saved both my dogs. If it wasn’t for OnStar, I know we would have lost them.”


Avoid letting your pet sit in your lap while driving. It’s really easy for this kind of activity to cause driver distraction — nearly a third of motorists surveyed by AAA admitted to being distracted by their dogs while driving. And with such close proximity to the steering wheel, windshield and air bags, a lap dog is at greater risk of injury should you make a sudden stop or become involved in a crash.


As well-mannered as your cat may be, the car is not the place for them to roam free — they may scurry to unsafe places, like under your brake pedal or atop your head. Transporting them in a carrier is a much better option. You can prevent the carrier itself from moving about your vehicle by keeping it restrained. A standard safety belt will hold the average cat container in place.


Member Lisa Serad and her pup, Rumor, are part of a pet therapy program. Lisa also serves as a therapy dog evaluator, determining if other dogs are fit for service. “Rumor absolutely loves the visits,” she says, but it’s not every dog’s bowl of kibble.

For one thing, the job demands considerable car time. Lisa looks to our Advisors when it comes to getting Rumor to work in fast fashion. “I always use OnStar for getting around construction and traffic jams going to and from the nursing homes and hospital,” she says. “No matter where I go, OnStar always gets me right to the ‘front door.’”


Look into safety gear like a canine vehicle restraint or a crash-tested crate. These “pet seat belts” keep animals from moving around your vehicle and can prevent serious injury in a crash. Allstate notes that an unsecured animal can become a projectile in the event of a crash — a convincing case for buckling up your pets: a 10-pound dog involved in a 50 mph crash will exert 500 pounds of pressure. That’s enough force to not only injure your dog, but also you and other passengers.


Traveling with pets is a lot like traveling with kids. They need plenty of snacks, drinks and pit stops. If you’re traveling for a length of time, don’t forget to bring water, food and a bowl. You’ll also need bedding, leashes, pooper-scoopers, litter for the kitties and grooming supplies. Your pet should always wear a collar with an ID tag that has your address and phone number.

Dog running with toy.


That pets/kids’ thing again. Make sure your vehicle’s child-safety features are engaged. Taking away your pet’s access to window, lock and door-latch controls will help keep them riding safe and secure. The internet is full of stories of pets locking their owners out of vehicles, so make sure you download your vehicle’s mobile app so you can unlock your vehicle using your smartphone — or call 1.800.4ONSTAR.


Traveling with pets can be challenging. Places along the way — restaurants, stores, attractions — may not allow them. Make sure you plan ahead, so you’ll never have to leave your pet in a vehicle unattended. Don’t be fooled by the thermometer. On a 72-degree day, the temperature in your car can reach 116 degrees. In the spirit of OnStar’s Good Samaritan initiative, keep an eye out for pets trapped in dangerous hot-car predicaments. The Humane Society has information for such situations, and you can always contact OnStar for help.

Dog drinking from water bowl.


OnStar Member Susan Spaid is a high-school counselor with two rescue dogs — Scooter and Clarabelle.  “I always tell people I save dogs and teenagers, and they have a lot in common: Both are focused on food, both need affection and understanding, and both are living in the moment!"

One blistering summer day, “saving” was the last thing on Susan’s mind — just a trip to the groomer. Her Buick Verano still had that new car smell when clever Clarabelle managed to lock herself in the car — along with Susan’s keys.

“As soon as I realized what happened, I immediately called OnStar,” Susan says. Her Advisor was able to unlock the Verano’s doors right away. Clarabelle was saved once more.

“It was close to 95 degrees, and the car was in the sun,” Susan says. “But the OnStar Advisor was wonderful. She was genuinely concerned about Clarabelle and asked me several times if she was OK. And she helped calm me down. Without OnStar, I would have had to break a window to save my dog!”


Many dogs love having the wind in their hair, but letting your pet hang its head out the window is dangerous. Not only do they risk being hit by flying roadside particles, but a sudden stop or movement could do serious damage to their head or neck.


Did you know petting your dog while you’re behind the wheel can lead to distracted driving? Having another human along for the ride is a great way to make sure your traveling pet not only stays put but gets some much-appreciated attention on long trips.

In an emergency, OnStar is always here for our Members — and their pets. Our Advisors are only a button-push away for whatever the road brings you. How far is the next rest area? Where’s the nearest pet supply store? Are there any pet-friendly hotels around? Look to OnStar for whatever it takes to keep you and your four-legged companions safe and smiling every mile you drive.

Make your next pet-centric trip a smooth one with OnStar’s full Traveling with Your Pet checklist.

See how OnStar has helped another pet owner:

Do you have a great pet travel story? Pics or videos of you and your pet traveling together? Share them with us!