Wednesday, Feb. 3rd 2021

Traveling With Your Pet

We often get calls from clients who wish to travel with their pet (and hopefully travel is something we’ll all be able to do again by the end of the year). However, they may have concerns about the pet’s comfort during the trip.  Perhaps the pet shows anxiety by panting, drooling, whining, or vocalizing.  Perhaps the pet gets nauseous during travel.  This article will offer some solutions.


Many pets are anxious when traveling.  In some cases, this can be due to nausea so be sure to read about that as well.  These pets may pace, refuse to lie down and relax, pant, whine, bark or meow, or move constantly.  There are many solutions to anxiety.  We recommend first getting your pet accustomed to its harness, crate, or other restraint for the car (see Safety, below) at home.  Have them wear the harness around the house, or eat in the crate.  You can even put a comfortable bed in the crate and leave it out for them to nap in.  Toss toys or treats into the crate to encourage them to go in on their own. 


then should progress to feeding the pet in the car, or even near the car if they are too anxious to eat inside.  You may offer meals or special treats.  Once the pet is comfortable eating in a stationary car, progress to short trips around the block.  Then increase duration, maybe to a restaurant that offers treats for pets, or the bank drive-through for a biscuit.  The more positive experiences your pet has with car rides, the more comfortable they will be with them.  If they’ve only ever been in a car to be left at a boarding kennel or taken to the vet, they may need convincing that cars aren’t evil. 

There are medications and herbal products that help with anxiety.  As a holistic practice, we prefer herbals and pheromones.  Examples are Rx Vitamins Nutricalm and VetriScience Composure Pro and Adaptil/Feliway Pheromone spray.  All are available in our clinic and from our online pharmacy found here: Whole Health Pet Center Online Covetrus Pharmacy    Medications would be by prescription following an exam, but we only use these if herbals and training have failed.  Most products should be given about an hour before traveling for best effect.  Pheromone sprays may be applied in the carrier, inside the car, or both, and should be sprayed a few minutes before the pet enters to allow the alcohol base to evaporate.


Many people allow their pets to ride loose in a car.  There are several reasons why this is a bad idea.  First, the pet may disturb the driver or even block their view or get between their feet and the brake pedal.  Small pets may even get between pedals and the footwell which is obviously a recipe for disaster.  Second, in the case of an accident the pet could be badly injured or killed or injure a person in the car by becoming a projectile. Third, if there’s an accident and windows are broken or doors come open the pet could escape and be hit by a car or lost forever.  Depending on the size of the pet, you may use a pet carrier buckled in, a dog kennel strapped down, or a wire barrier confining the pet to a rear compartment (though this won’t prevent escape if windows are broken).  There are also several different types of travel carriers and harnesses.  Some have been crash-tested, but most have not.  We recommend looking for products with data to prove they keep the pet safely secured in case of accident.  Travel harnesses should be padded, fit comfortably, and have a mechanism to fasten to a seatbelt.  Again, training the pet to accept their restraint device at home is worthwhile and recommended.


Just like people, pets may get carsick.  Symptoms include drooling, swallowing frequently, possibly vocalizing, and of course, vomiting.  If your pet experiences this, first it’s wise to travel on an empty stomach.  Feed at least 4 hours prior to a trip.    Ginger is a common treatment for nausea in Chinese medicine.  Dogs may be fed a gingersnap cookie, making sure there are no ingredients they are sensitive to or that may be toxic like xylitol sweetener, and that the cookie contains real ginger.  Ginger essential oil is also available and could be put in a treat or even diluted with a bit of coconut oil and rubbed on their gums.  A drop or three is sufficient. Or you can feed dried or fresh grated ginger.  A suitable amount would be about 1/8 tsp per 20-30 pounds. Ginger should be offered 30-60 minutes before a trip, and perhaps every couple of hours or as symptoms dictate.  Peppermint essential oil can also be used but it’s a very “hot” oil that may irritate skin so should be well-diluted with coconut oil.  It can actually be rubbed on a bare belly over the stomach in this fashion, or can be applied to a washcloth and placed in the car where the pet can smell it.  Remember if using essential oils to use high quality therapeutic ones, not cheap ones from a department store.  We use Young Living in our office.  If these don’t work, there are medications your vet can prescribe to control nausea, if a physical exam indicates safety.  Training the pet with short trips, or using a car safety device that allows them to look out the window, may help decrease nausea as well. 

Dr Leonard travels frequently with her dogs.  We hope these tips will allow you to enjoy having your pet along on journeys and to share more time with them!

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18011 E St. Rte 58
Raymore, MO 64083

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