Travelling can be stressful for both the dog and owner. All dogs are different and it is important to consult your vet before using any forms of medication.
Calm Your Dog
- Toys and clothes: Providing your dog with a favorite toy, or an article of clothing with your scent (check your laundry basket) may help. This can calm your dog and make the car experience more enjoyable. Just be careful and make sure your dog is not likely to chew up and eat what you offer. If he does eat it, you’ll likely be trading travel anxiety for an intestinal obstruction. Those obstructions can require a costly surgery to resolve, so they’re best avoided.
- Pheromones: Pheromones are substances produced by the body that act through the senses, typically smell, of nearby animals of the same species. For several days after giving birth to a litter of puppies, a female dog releases a pheromone that calms and soothes her puppies, giving them a sense of security and comfort. This pheromone has been copied synthetically and is available in both a spray and collar form. It’s called Adaptil™, formerly D.A.P., and is available either through your veterinarian or certain pet supply stores. Using the collar form on your dog with travel anxiety may help to decrease their anxiety.
- Homeopathic preparations: Essences of flowers and plants make up homeopathic remedies that may help to calm a pet’s anxiety. One of the more popular is called Rescue Remedy for Pets and has a distinctive yellow label. Some people swear by it.
- Conditions within the car: Some pets might travel better if there’s soothing music or fresh air in the car. Try playing classical music and/or opening the windows a bit. (Just don’t let your dog put his head out the window. Doing so risks injuries to his eyes, ears, nose, throat, and skull.)
- Restraint: Some dogs will feel less anxious if they feel more secure in the car – and this isn’t a comment on the way you drive. Travel crates, carriers, and travel harnesses are all great ways to help your dog feel more secure during travel. An added bonus is that restraints are also important tools to keep both your dog and the other occupants of your car safe during travel.
Medicate Your Dog
Sometimes, no matter how much acclimation and calming you try, your dog may still need medication. Medication can relieve anxiety and help your dog enjoy car travel. In these instances you’re going to have to consult with your veterinarian for specifics. Only we veterinarians know and understand how medications will be expected to affect your dog.
For informational purposes only, below are some of the types of medications that your veterinarian may prescribe to help your anxious dog travel better. Again, these drug types are mentioned just to provide you with some information, these are not my recommendations or prescriptions. A recent examination and doctor-patient relationship is vital to ensuring the safe and effective use of any medication. For specific recommendations and prescriptions, speak with your veterinarian.
Do not provide any of these medications to your dog without express instructions from your veterinarian.
- Antihistamines: Medications in this drug class can lessen your dog’s travel anxiety and reduce their chances of carsickness through a variety of mechanisms, including their drowsiness-inducing effects and their direct action on your dog’s balance centers.
- Anxiolytics: This class comprises a wide range of drugs that your veterinarian may prescribe for your anxious pet. As a drug class they can reduce or block a dog’s anxiety, and some may also cause a degree of sedation.
- Sedatives: Sedatives reduce your dog’s level of awareness, basically reducing agitation by decreasing your dog’s perception of the surroundings. There are medications that are specific sedatives, and others that have sedation as a side effect. Only your veterinarian can decide if a sedative is right for your dog’s travel anxiety.
- Neurokinin receptor blocker: Zoetis makes a unique drug that is highly effective at blocking the center within your dog’s brain responsible for the vomiting reflex. Translation… it is highly effective at preventing vomiting. However, it is only available by prescription and is not indicated for every dog, or in every situation. It’s called Cerenia®, and if these other measures have failed to control your dog’s carsickness, it’s certainly worthwhile to talk to your veterinarian about it.