This is a time of year that many of us find ourselves traveling to meet up with family and friends. Sometimes that means a road trip, with your cat or dog. This may be great news to some of them. You have seen the happy, ear flapping, drooling dogs that this applies to. But some pets are downright terrified of driving, and some simply get sick while in the car. What to do?
Going from bark to barf
Car anxiety can stem from motion sickness. This happens more in young dogs and cats. To combat nausea, try to encourage them to face forward, so that his visual cues match what his brain is telling him about his movement. Proper pet retraint will help you accomplish this, while also serving to keep him safe, and not allow him to be a distraction to you, the driver.
Cracking a window open to ensure a steady stream of fresh air may help. If this doesn’t help, ask your veterinarian about the use of over-the-counter or prescription motion sickness medications.
Before you leave, try to relax
There are a few ways to help your pet relax prior to your trip. Try spraying dog or cat specific pheromones on your dog’s travel seat or your cat’s carrier blanket to take the edge off. Feliway is an example of a cat product.
Adaptil is a dog pheromone based product. They also make a collar that can be worn, in lieu of using their spray.
Also, there are a variety of homeopathic tinctures, such as Rescue Remedy, or Homeopet. They are not prescription, and often are all that you may need to calm you cat or dog just enough to get you smoothly out the door and on your way. You can administer them by mouth, or add some drops into the water bowl an hour or so prior to your trip. Always consult with your vet first, particularly if your pet is on any other medication.
There are pets that experience severe anxiety in the car. You have two options in this case. You might just decide not to bring them, and arrange for boarding or an in home pet sitter. But if that is not an option, you need to plan ahead and try to train/condition your dog to like the car. Or at least, become accustomed to it enough to deal with it and the trip. Your goal is to make it a pleasant place, where he gets treats and experiences happiness while there. No negative experiences here. This is positive reinforcement.
Start by simply having your dog or cat sit in a parked car, while continually praising him and offering treats. Do this 2 or 3 times daily for several days, or until your pet accepts this calmly.
Then you can try turning the car on, but not going anywhere. Again, reward with several tiny treats and praise until you see that your pet is completely comfortable.
Only then can you try coasting to the end of your driveway or short street. You will be offering praise and treats this whole time as well.
You get the picture. If at any point your pet shows anxiety, go back to the prior step. You may need to utilize some of the homeopathic remedies in the training period. If you do, try weaning off of those once your pet gets accustomed to the car early on in the process.
Once your pet has adjusted to the car, try to find a fun spot to visit together.
And, eventually, enjoy that trip you meant to take.