[Ask the Vet] Reducing your pet’s anxiety when traveling
Whether you’re planning a road trip with your family or headed to the vet’s office, there is nothing more disturbing to an animal guardian than dealing with a nervous pet when traveling. What I often recommend to clients is to take pets on short car trips for 10-15 minutes at a time so their pets can get used to trips away from home. Most pets with travel anxiety usually manifest symptoms within a few minutes of beginning travel. Symptoms can vary; while some pets may become restless and pant, others will drool and even vomit when commencing travel.
While there are certain pharmaceuticals that may help lessen anxiety and stress, I usually prefer trying increasing time in the car and some natural remedies before resorting to drugs. One of the best natural products I have found to help take the edge off for many pets is the flower essence Be Serene. Another option is ThunderEssence, a blend of natural essential oils that has a calming effect on dogs; it comes in drops or a spray form that you can use directly on your dog, in the car or travel carrier to soothe your pet. Anxitane is an over-the-counter medication that comes in a tasty chew that can help calm an anxious dog or cat. A different approach you can consider is a Comfort Zone Calming Collar which releases calming pheromones to ease your dog’s anxiety during stressful situations. When used before trips and periodically as needed during travel, these natural remedies may often work to resolve many anxiety symptoms. The homeopathic remedy cocculus when used in 30c potency shortly before and during travel may help decrease travel-induced nausea.
Other common over-the-counter medications including Benadryl or Dramamine may also help on certain occasions. In more serious cases of travel anxiety or car sickness, prescription drugs such as Acepromazine or Cerenia may help resolve unwanted reactions.
When traveling with your pet, safety should always be a top priority. An unrestrained pet can become a dangerous projectile if you must come to a sudden stop, potentially resulting in serious injury to you or your pet. A nervous cat or an excited dog roaming the car is a distraction to the driver, and can even cause an accident should the pet get around the foot pedals. If you use an appropriate travel pet carrier, your pet will feel a sense of security and everyone in the vehicle will be safer. Nowadays, there are many different types of carriers available so it should be easy to find one that is the perfect fit for your pet, your car, and your specific travel plans. Just as you acclimate your pet to traveling with short trips, you should take time to get your pet used to his or her new carrier. If your car won’t accommodate a carrier or if your pet enjoys the view during a drive, there are other options to keep your pet safely restrained such as a vehicle safety harness or for smaller pets, a pet booster seat.
With a little advance planning, you can ensure the next road trip with your four-legged copilot is safer and more relaxing for everyone!