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Travel sickness and anxiety

Did you know that not all pets travel well in cars? Whilst some are physically sick, others show signs such as:

  • Pacing
  • Whining
  • Crying
  • Uneasiness
  • Yawning
  • Hypersalivation (excessive drooling)
  • Panting
  • Lip licking
  • Trembling
  • Retching
  • Urinating
  • Defecating
  • Digging and trying to escape

Some pets dislike the motion of the car, others are distressed by other cars, lamp posts and trees whizzing by. A few simply react to fellow dogs that are passing by the car. If you think about it, travelling in a car is very unnatural for animals. They have no concept of when the car will start and stop & this cab be very frightening.

Immediate help

There are many ways that you can assist your pet if they are sick or an anxious traveller.

Dogs and cats should always travel on an empty stomach. They should not be fed within two hours of the start of the anticipated car journey. This reduces the risk of nausea and vomiting.

Smoking and strong smells such as air fresheners are best avoided as these can increase nausea. Some dogs may benefit from travelling in a covered crate on the back seat. Acclimatisation of the crate and training are essential. Familiar items such as blanket, bedding or a favourite toy can help with crate training.

Adaptil & Feliway are very useful travel aids. Collars are available for dogs and a spray for dogs & cats.  Adaptil is a synthetic copy of the natural comforting pheromone released by a mother dog to reassure her puppies. Collars are best for journeys over three hours and/or the destination is new (e.g. going on holiday, moving house). During travel, the collar releases a constant stream of the pheromone and helps your dog remain relaxed. Feliway helps cats naturally cope with stressful situations and stops unwanted cat behaviour. The sprays should be used on the bedding or in the travel carrier 15 minutes before your cat is placed into the car or carrier.

Kalm Aid is a natural remedy that can help your pet cope with stressful situations.  It should be administered 1-2 hours before travelling.

And lastly….always be mindful of your driving, sudden accelerating, breaking or cornering can be very unsettling and frightening for your pet.

If the above natural aids and remedies do not seem to help your pet ,then please contact the surgery for further advice. Our vets can discuss alternative prescription medications which can specifically target sickness and anxiety. These medications may be more effective in alleviating your pet's anxiety during journeys.

Long term help

Right from the start, dogs and cats should be taught from a young age that travel is fun. Taking puppies and kittens for short trips and familiarising themselves with the car is ideal between primary vaccinations. At this time puppies and kittens haven’t fully developed their sense of fear and readily accept new experiences. Older pets can also benefit from desensitising training methods. Initially, try feeding and playing with your dog in the car. After a few days, just start the engine. After a few more days reverse the car and pull back on the drive and so on. Gradually, get your dog used to car travel. Finally, public transport should also be explored to make sure your pet is an all round good traveller.

Additional travel tips

Fresh water should always be available, non spill bowls (e.g. ‘Road refresher’) are available and very useful for travelling.

Any long periods of travel should be broken up with frequent stops (in a safe place) for tyour dog to relieve him or herself.

Pets should never be left in a car unattended, the temperature can rapidly soar and heat stroke can occur which can be fatal.

Small animals and birds should always travel in a box or cage and should be covered with a towel or blanket to reduce visibility and stress. 

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