For pets, car journeys can often be a distressing event and some pets can become anxious and overwhelmed.
Many pets associate the car with a trip to the vets or kennels, which can lead to stress. As more and more pets become part of the family, many owners are now also taking their dogs on holiday with them rather than leaving them in kennels. A car can be outside your pet’s usual environment and one that is not particularly familiar to them. So, planning and preparing for the journey in advance can help make the trip less stressful, especially if it is a long journey.
Whether you are planning a trip to the vets, kennels or on holiday, there are important steps to take and positive things to do that will make the journey stress free for yourself and your pet:
Get them used to the car when young
Introduce your pet to the car at a young age. Pets who are used to travelling in the car from a young age are more likely to be relaxed and happy during car trips. Start by sitting with them in a parked car to get them used to the new environment.
Take small trips
For anxious pets who don’t like being in the car, take them on short drives to get them used to the car. Short trips to the park or pet shop will help them to see the car as something positive.
Reward with treats
Reward your pet for good behaviour in the car, use treats to help them get used to the car while it is stationary and play games in the car. This will help your pet to remove any negativity that is associated with the car.
Secure your pet
Make sure that your pet is safe and secure in the car. Use a cat carrier to transport your cat whilst dogs can be secured using a cage or harness. This will help to keep pets safe from injury during sharp breaking or should an accident happen.
A loose pet could also distract you while driving and even get in the way of the steering wheel or the brake pedal. The Highway Code states that drivers must ‘make sure dogs and other animals are suitably restrained’ in your car. If you don’t follow the Highway Code, you could be considered to be driving without due care and attention.
Some insurance policies also require you to restrain your pet properly in the car. A loose pet could break the terms of your insurance and leave you with a huge bill to pay if you’re in an accident. It may also invalidate your pet insurance if they are injured and need treatment.
Limit food before travel
If possible, try not to feed your pet less than three hours prior to travelling. This will help to reduce travel sickness or any accidents in the car. Your vet may also be able to prescribe something to help with their travel sickness.
Keep pets cool
Keep your pets cool during any journeys. Be aware of your pet’s temperature and pop the air conditioning on or open the window if it gets too warm. Be sure not to open the window too far and don’t let you dog hang his head out of the window as this could cause injury.
Music, toys or blankets could help your pet to stay calm during the journey. Some dogs travel better when music is playing in the car. You could also give your dog or cat their favourite blanket or item of clothing with your scent on to keep them calm.
If it’s a long journey, take plenty of breaks to allow your dog to stretch their legs, go to the toilet and have some water. Never leave your pet alone in the car, while you are in a service station.
Don’t leave pets alone
Never leave pets alone in the car. The temperature in the car can warm up really quickly and cats and dogs can’t cool themselves down in the same way as their owners. They can overheat very fast if left in the car and could get into a critical condition quickly.
Get a health check
It’s important to make sure that your pet is in good health to be able to make the journey and is tolerable. Some pets can find it distressing and overwhelming, especially if it’s a long trip.
Consider using pet calming supplements
Many pets can get anxious during car journeys and some pet supplements on the market such as Nutracalm or Vetpro can help to naturally calm these anxious pets.