How to Help Your Pet Get Over Car Anxiety

How to Help Your Pet Get Over Car Anxiety

Our cats, rabbits, hamsters, and even birds can suffer from motion sickness and travel anxiety just like our dogs. And even while we might not be taking our kitty companion on beach excursions, there are occasions when driving is inevitable and might lead to unneeded stress.

When traveling by car, animals may become car sick, which frequently causes anxiety. Motion sickness is more common in puppies, who often outgrow it by the time they are a year old. 

Given that not all animals who experience motion sickness vomit, you might not be aware that your pet is experiencing it. Additional indications of motion sickness include:

  • Yawning
  • Excessive salivation
  • Smacking lips
  • Whining
  • Restlessness

The first thing to do if you think your pet is queasy in the car is to make sure they are as at ease as you can. They will probably do better, just like people, if they can face forward rather than out the side windows, perhaps by utilizing a seatbelt.

To prevent your pet from suffering injuries in the event of an accident, make sure your passenger airbag is turned off. Provide your pet with a soft, comfy object to sit on, such as a blanket or bed, to ensure their physical comfort. If at all possible, limit the length of time they spend in the car. Lower the windows a few inches to let fresh air flow in.

When traveling by car, reduce your pet’s food intake if their motion sickness is extremely severe and frequently results in vomiting. Before your trip, you might want to think about giving your pet anti-nausea medication. Your veterinarian can suggest over-the-counter or prescribed remedies.

Sadly, until your pet’s motion sickness is treated, they may have trouble getting over their car phobia because nausea is such a painful feeling. You can start to lessen their aversion to the car once it isn't a factor anymore (or if it never was). 

Reducing anxiety in cars — for dogs

Simply approaching the car will cause anxiety if it is a frightening situation. You must help your dog create a favorable reaction to the car before the motor has even started if you want to treat the phobia.

Step 1: As you approach the vehicle, give your dog a small, high-value treat as a reward for coming. Continue until your dog approaches the car with ease.

Step 2: Walk up to the automobile, unlock the door, and give a reward. Step aside. Repeat several times.

Step 3: Start encouraging your dog to look inside the vehicle on its own when it can stand comfortably close to it with the door open. While they hunt, tuck a valuable reward inside and chat calmly with them. As your dog gains confidence, encourage them to explore more of the area to find the treat by placing the rewards closer to the door in the beginning.

Step 4: After encouraging your dog to go in the car, close the door for a brief moment, then open it, praise your dog, and let them out if they want to. Continue until you can shut the door for 30 to 60 seconds without your dog being nervous.

Step 5: Encourage your dog to get in the car, then lock the door and sit in the front seat. Once you're comfortable, give your dog a treat for being calm. Once they can maintain their composure, try starting the car, rewarding your dog, then shutting off the engine and letting them out.

Step 6: Drive just a short distance — say, a block — before stopping, rewarding your dog, and letting them out of the vehicle. Increase the distances gradually if your dog is at peace. 

Make your pet feel more at home in the car

Many pets primary motive for getting to go on a car ride is to go to the veterinarian. As a result, many animals connect a car ride with going to the vet. The term "classical conditioning" refers to this. Is it any wonder that so many of our pets experience fear and anxiety while getting in the car considering that many don't always enjoy going to the vet?

Others develop car anxiety as a result of unpleasant car experiences in the past, such as being abandoned or a frightening incident like a car accident.

The good news is that you can use a technique called desensitization to prevent your pet, especially dogs, from ever creating negative associations (and the ensuing stressed state of mind) with the car if you start early. And if your pet already expresses nervousness when riding in the car, counterconditioning can be used to change that relationship. Realizing that it's not a race is essential for both desensitization and counterconditioning.  

Soothe your pet

You can use specific items and techniques to try and relax your pet while driving. Since it's hard to say which of them will be effective for a certain animal, we advise trying them all until you find what works.

  • Anti-anxiety clothing.
  • Calming supplements.
  • Homeopathic remedies.
  • Calming sprays and familiar scents.
  • Some animals may travel more comfortably in an air-conditioned or music-filled vehicle. Consider listening to reggae, soft rock, or classical music, or try slightly opening the windows.
  • Never leave your pet alone in the car for long periods or in hot weather.
  • Make sure there is plenty of access to water.
  • A tired dog is a happy dog. Play with your dog or go for a walk before getting in the car. He or she will probably rest to recover.

Make your vehicle a relaxing, joyful place, and your pet will soon be exhibiting delight when the car keys are pulled out! 

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