When traveling, motion sickness and stress happen all too often. As humans, we have our own symptoms and solutions to face this issue, but what about our furry friends? How do we help our pets navigate their own car troubles?
Here are some of the warning signs to look for in your pet and tips to put a plan in place to tackle any trip with ease!
First and foremost, as a pet owner, you want to be aware of what anxiety can look like in your pet. They can’t speak to you directly to express their feelings, so knowing the ways in which they’re trying to communicate with you is important to recognize any potential issues and get help as swiftly as possible.
If your pet is reluctant to get in the car this is a very clear sign that they are experiencing some anxiety. They may pull back on their leash or ground themself in one place refusing to move forward. With that, you don’t want to force them into the car. If they are really holding back you’ll want to try luring them in with treats and toys. This is going to be a process that will take some practice and desensitization over time.
Other physical symptoms and warning signs that your pet is anxious and has the potential to get sick include excessive crying, whining, or barking. If they’re making a lot of noise they may be signaling or demonstrating that they feel unsafe or scared of their environment. You may see their tail between their legs and their ears pressed back, they may pant heavily and continuously for an extended period of time, or they could be shaking involuntarily.
All of these should alert you that your pet is in distress. Even though you, as a pet owner, can recognize that at this moment they are safe and it is only a car ride, your pet may not understand what’s going on and you’ll want to work with them to help them adjust better to the situation.
Finally, this could exacerbate health issues to the point of sickness in the form of vomiting or diarrhea. This can be caused by motion sickness itself or the result of excessive, prolonged anxiety. If this is something your pet is struggling with more frequently, you may want to seek the guidance of your vet who can offer expert advice, along with supplements or medications.
Here are five things you can do to help prepare yourself and your pet for your trip, in the hopes of a smoother ride for everyone.
If you know you have a very anxious pet, especially one who refuses to get into the car, you’ll want to work with your pet to desensitize them ahead of the trip. With the use of treats and positive reinforcement, they can start to create positive associations with the car and driving.
First, you’ll want to use treats to guide them into the car, where you can start by just sitting there with them with the engine running. Try talking to them in a positive tone, and petting them for comfort.
Then, as you begin getting them used to driving, you can take small practice trips that slowly increase in duration.
Something as simple as a drive around the block, to the grocery store, or to the park. This will help them to feel more comfortable over time and potentially even excited about getting in the car, especially if something as fun as a dog park is on the other side.
A bonus tip is to keep the windows open if you’re able to, to help them feel the fresh air and pique their interest with what’s outside.
When it comes to positive associations with the car and driving, you can create a routine and space that is specifically designed for them. Not only will this help keep them comfortable but safe as well. Car seats are a great way to protect your pet and give them a space to enjoy the ride.
The Rider Turbo Car Seat from L.A. Dog Company comes in multiple sizes so your pet can feel comfortable with the option to sit and lay down. The comfort of the seat can ease their nerves, and the safety features can ease yours. You could also consider The Companion Car Seat, where your pet can feel enclosed in their own space, something that’s great for pets who are nervous with the constant movement of the vehicle.
To help make the adjustment as easy as possible you can first introduce them to their new seat at home. Using treats and positive praise or attention, you can guide them to sit or lay down in their seat where they can feel comfortable over time and grow more accustomed to this designated spot.
When you transfer it into the car they’ll understand where to go and can recognize this comforting space as their own. Other items like a blanket or tee shirt that smell like your family and home will help to define the area as familiar to them and will be calming. These items from home are especially helpful if you have a pet like a cat that may need to go in a carrier.
Traveling with a pet already requires attention and planning, but traveling with a pet that is prone to car sickness or stress means preparation is crucial for a successful trip. Ahead of your travel day, you’ll want to factor in extra time for breaks. These can be necessary to keep them calm and help prevent physical symptoms, especially if they are prone to motion sickness. These will certainly include bathroom breaks for your travel companion so make sure you are able to stop in pet-friendly areas that are safe for you to walk your pet, and of course, remember to pack the right items to clean up after them.
The temperature in the car can make a big impact on everyone’s feelings. For a sensitive friend in the backseat, cooler temperatures are much more comforting, not to mention they can cuddle up in their favorite blanket. So, you’re going to want to plan on lower temperatures for your trip. If you don’t prefer being in cooler temperatures you may want to pack extra blankets or sweatshirts for yourself and your family to ensure that you can keep everyone in the car and your pet at an optimal temperature.
A sick or anxious pet can be a very stressful experience. However, if you give in to your own stress and heightened emotions you may make the situation worse. The best thing you can do for yourself and your pet is to keep calm, think rationally, and do your best to help them in any way they need. This can be as simple as finding a place to take a break and getting them water, food, or medicine.
If you’re worried about your pet making the trip problem-free, then you should consider the things you can do proactively that will allow you to help them and offer you peace of mind. For example, a safe car seat or harness helps you know they are well protected in the event of an accident.
Second, consider pet insurance. You might be asking yourself is pet insurance worth it? This is certainly an instance in which it can help if your pet needs any medications to help them through the trip but also in the event your pet has an issue on the road and needs unexpected care.
If their car sickness turns into something more serious, you’ll have peace of mind knowing you can cover them financially and get them the help they need. With a tool like this in your back pocket, you can feel more confident and collected for whatever scenario may come your way.
Traveling with your pets, near or far, can make for some incredible memories. We are our pets’ whole lives and it can be really special to bring them along on our experiences. However, car sickness and travel anxiety are an unfortunate inconvenience for you, your family, and your pet. Luckily, with the right planning and tools, you don’t have to let this stop you from bringing your furry friend along for the ride. Everyone can join in on the fun no matter where your travels take you!
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