Road Trips With Pets

New Pet Owners  •  Pam Karkow  •  Monday, May 11, 2020

I have mentioned before that our dog is a “carpool dog,” meaning she loves to ride the morning carpool routes with me and my kids.  But even though she always wants to go with us (I suspect a little bit of her desire to go stems from a fear of being left behind), she is anxious in the car, and can’t seem to settle down.  She’s also been known to chew through seatbelts.  We can’t seem to figure out what the issue is.  When we’ve used her crate in the car, she seems ok for a little while, then starts to whine and cry.

Why is my pet anxious in the car?

Then, I read this in my Real Simple magazine: “Often when a pet seems anxious, it’s because she’s nauseous.”  Gayle O’Konski, DVM suggested this in response to a reader question in the feature The Vets Will See You Now in the January 2018 issue.  The pet parent wanted to take her cat on a road trip but was worried because she said her cat hated the car.  Looking for ways to keep her cat comfortable, she reached out to the experts. 

How to make car rides more enjoyable for pets

Does your pet dislike car rides?  Whether it’s a quick trip to the vet, or a drive that takes several hours, a sick or anxious pet can make any road trip miserable.  Here’s a list of things you can try, to soothe your fur child, and to make car rides more enjoyable for all involved.

  1. Crate your pet.  The safest place for your dog or cat is in his crate, where he will not be tossed around the car if you have to swerve to avoid another car or if you are in an accident.  You may also want to consider securing the crate inside the car so that it stays in place.
  2. Ask your vet for an anti-nausea medicine.  Your vet can prescribe a medication designed for animals.  If you are leery about medicating your pet, remember it will only be for a short while.  The benefit of getting where you’re going without having to stop and clean up messes far outweighs the risks.  Your pet will be much more comfortable, too.
  3. Consider sedatives.  An especially skittish cat or an elderly dog may be the type of pet that benefits most from being slightly sedated on a car trip.  Extreme anxiety may cause trauma (from trying to get out of the car) or fear-induced potty accidents.  My sister in law uses Benadryl for her dog on long car trips.  ALWAYS check with your vet before giving your pet any kind of medicine.
  4. Spray your cat’s crate with Ceva Feliway pheromone travel spray.  The spray is recommended for cats who are anxious about travelling or stressed in a new environment.  One review boasted, “I no longer live in dread of putting my cats in the car.”  The feline mom said even after her cat’s sedative wore off, her cat remained calm.
  5. Have a pet first aid kit on hand.  Order a premade one online or make your own.  Visit PetMD’s Pet First Aid Slideshow for ten important items to include.
  6. Pack plenty of food and water.  Road trips can be unpredictable, so be sure to be prepared should you miss a turn or decide to extend your trip. 
  7. Keep things “normal.” Make sure to pack your dog and/or cat’s regular food bowl and treats, leash, and favorite stuffed toy or ball.  The more you can make your car and final destination feel like home, the better.

Happy road tripping!

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