What can I give my dog suffering from travel anxiety? | TeamDogs
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What can I give my dog suffering from travel anxiety?

Plus, the dos and don’ts of travelling with your pet in the car

Danielle Elton

Posted 4 months ago

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Restrictions have lifted, the sun is out and summer is on its way - just what we’ve all been waiting for.

There’s been day trips planned, holidays booked and a lot more time spent outside.

But although there’s lots to look forward to for us humans, for some dogs it can be quite distressing as it means more time spent in the car.

Travel anxiety is a real thing among our pets. While they might like the extra walkies and new places to discover once we reach our destination, the travelling part is a big problem.

Not all dogs will suffer from travel sickness, but that doesn’t mean they’re not anxious.

We’ve had a few members get in touch to express their concern over their dogs’ fear of travelling - it can actually put a dampener on their plans.

One owner was particularly worried about her Chihuahua who she says salivates in fear even at the sight of the car keys.

So how can you help if your dog is suffering in this way?

We spoke to two experts, behaviour expert Professor Danny Mills and Itch vet Zoe Costigan. 

How do I know if my dog has travel anxiety?

Getty - Chalabala

While sickness is a common sign, it’s not something all dogs experience. In fact, the user who got in touch advised that this is not something her dog suffers from.

Zoe said: “In a nutshell this dog is suffering from anxiety, and although they're not sick, anxiety and feelings of nausea are closely linked.

She also advised that there are other symptoms to look out for that could suggest your dog isn’t coping with car journeys.

They include:

  • Restlessness
  • Panting
  • Producing excessive saliva
  • Licking their lips
  • Retching

For those concerned about travel anxiety and sickness, Zoe advises it is a problem that should be tackled early on with importance placed on desensitising them to see car journeys as a pleasurable experience.

She said: “Puppies should be exposed to cars from an early age to get them used to travel. It’s unreasonable to resign yourself to a lifetime of walking your pet everywhere!”

Zoe had lots of tips on doing this, including starting with getting your dog used to a stationary car before building up to short journeys and then continuing to increase the length of time.

She also advised making regular stops so that your dog can stretch their legs, have a toilet break and stop for food and drink.

What can I give my dog to help with anxiety?

Getty - S.Rohrlach

While this advice is great if you have a puppy and the time you can dedicate to these tips, you might be wondering if there are any short-term solutions for holidays you have coming up.

Zoe added: “If the dog owner wants to try something bought off the shelf, the best they could do would be a pet specific calming product with anti-anxiety ingredients (like Itch Calm), however if these don't work the owner should seek advice from their vet who can prescribe something stronger.”

But she did emphasise that the desensitisation methods she suggested were key in getting them used to travelling.

Professor Daniel Mills echoed this advice, he said: “The pheromone product Adaptil can be very useful for this...there are also licensed medications that can help with travel sickness and medications to help anxiety. 

“You need to be able to differentiate the two though as the initial signs of nausea can look very much like anxiety.”

The dos and don’ts of travelling in the car with your dog

Getty - Julia_Shumenko

In a paper written by Professor Mills and M Gandia Estellés following a study into travel-related problems with dogs, they had the following advice for managing your dog’s behaviour when travelling in the car:

  • For your safety when travelling in the car, your dog should be restrained. Nowadays there are different types of restraining methods available on the market, like carriers or leashes and comfortable harnesses that attach to the car seat belts. All of them allow the dog to sit or lie down and also prevent your dog from moving around in the vehicle.
  • For some dogs, restriction of vision by restraining below the window level (in order to impede the vision of traffic lights, people, dogs or simply the blur of objects being passed) can reduce the excitement.
  • You should take the dog to a range of different places, so the car journey is not predictable.
  • Don’t punish your dog when he/she is playing up, it is only likely to make matters worse and increase any stress.
  • If your dog is aroused or fearful don’t try to reassure him/her as this rewards these behaviours.
  • Ignore fearful or boisterous behaviours that occur for no good reason.
  • Reward the appropriate behaviour in the car with treats or praise.
  • Drugs may be useful in some cases, but should only be used under veterinary supervision.

If you have any concerns about your dog and could do with some advice from a vet or behaviourist, email teamdogs@reachplc.com and we’ll do our best to help.

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