Pet travel tips: How to prepare your dog or cat for a trip

By: Flannery Dean

Author: Canadian Living


Pet travel tips: How to prepare your dog or cat for a trip

By: Flannery Dean
A long drive can be stressful for both pet and pet-owner, especially if your dog or cat is plagued by anxiety or motion sickness. Help your pet have a smooth ride with these pet friendly travel tips.

Pets get car sick, too!
Dogs and cats are great companions, but they may not always be the best back-seat passengers. "Accelerations of movement in different directions predispose an animal to motion sickness," says Dr. Pat Stapley Chase, a veterinarian based in Cobourg, Ont.

Excessive drooling, diarrhea and vomiting are all symptoms of motion sickness. It's a good idea to stock your vehicle with extra towels and cleaning products before taking your pet for a long drive.

Good ventilation and access to a window may help ease nausea (and prevent a mess). Crack the window just enough for air to circulate. For smaller dogs, use a padded pet booster seat to help your pooch look outside. Not feeding your pet within an hour or two before leaving may also reduce the chances of an unpleasant incident.

If you're worried about how Fluffy or Fido will react to a road trip, speak to your vet about anti-nausea medications. A phone consultation with a professional who knows your pet's medical history should do the trick.

Anxiety alert
Some pets become hyperactive at the mere sight of your car's back seat. Common symptoms of anxiety include yawning, licking, trembling, hiding, tail tucking and crying. "This may progress to panic and trying to actively escape, which has a risk of potential physical injury," says Stapley Chase.

If you have a panicky pet, quell anxiety by acclimatizing him or her to the car. Sit in the back seat with your pet and familiarize him or her with the interior. Then, progress to taking quick practice trips around the block to build your pet's confidence and encourage his tolerance for a long car ride. "Associating the car ride with rewarding experiences, such as fun destinations or a special treat or meal when the trip is completed, is also helpful," Stapley Chase suggests.

Practicing restraint
A cat should never wander freely in a car—the safest way for your feline friend to travel is inside a kitty carrier.

For dogs, a car harness or pet seatbelt may help protect your pooch in a crash. However, restraining a dog inside a car can be tricky. While doggy seatbelts are available on the market, restraining your pooch may exacerbate his/her anxiety. A travel crate may be a better option for mid- or large-size dogs.

Creature comforts
You can improve your pet's travel experience by making the car as comfortable as possible. Pack your pet's bed or blanket and some familiar toys for the trip. And make sure to bring plenty of water and treats.

Stretching all four legs
It's important to make safe stops in a traffic-free zone every two to four hours for water, snacks, exercise and bathroom breaks. You probably already know how often your dog needs a pit stop. A cat can usually go about four hours without needing to use the litter box. For longer trips, attach your kitty to a special leash and let him or her go outside. "When stopping and opening the door, be sure that the leash is attached or that the pet is confined. A collar with complete identification and licence and rabies tags are recommended, as are microchips with your pet's identification and medical history," advises Stapley Chase.

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Pet travel tips: How to prepare your dog or cat for a trip