Tails Of The City : Curbing car sickness for pets
'Tis the season for family visits and holiday getaways. And because pets are an important part of the family, we of course want to bring them along. Unfortunately car sickness can often accompany these trips, and is especially prevalent in puppies.
So perhaps it's no surprise that now, in addition to our animals, pharmaceutical companies are also clamoring to be included in our holiday travel plans. Pfizer recently launched both a Twitter feed called "Dog On Board," geared towards families who are taking their pup on holiday, AND Cerenia, a new FDA-approved drug for dogs that helps prevent vomiting caused by travel-induced motion sickness.
Thankfully there are lots of things we can do (sans drugs) to help prepare our pets for their new role as copilot. Here are some tips to make cruising in the car a happier experience for everyone involved:
- Take trial runs: Put your pet in the car and let her explore. Then turn on the engine so she gets familiar with the sound. Try this a few times and reward your pet after each successful attempt.
- Start small: Before hitting the open road for a long drive, start small with quick trips around the neighborhood. Offer treats and praise each time she keeps her cool. Gradually increase the distance and reward accordingly.
- Visit pet-friendly destinations: Rather than creating a negative association with the car by only taking your pet for rides when you're heading to the vet (or other destinations your pet would rather skip), be sure to bring your pooch to places she loves, like parks and beaches.
- Travel on an empty stomach: Just like our parents cautioned us to wait an hour after eating before getting back in the pool, it's best to let our pets digest before heading out on a long joyride. The general rule is to avoid feeding your pet six hours prior to a long car trip, although some animals can handle a light meal an hour or two before saying bon voyage. (Water is okay.)
- Keep it mellow: While you may secretly dream of being a NASCAR driver, it's best to keep your daredevil stunts in check when your animals are in tow. Going easy on the curves (and brakes) will mean less anxiety for your pets, and less mess for you to clean up along the way.
- Use crates and carriers: Creating a secure refuge for your pet can go a long way in keeping them comfortable and stress-free on long rides. If you are not crating your pooch, a doggie seat belt is a smart and inexpensive way to invest in her safety.
- Give them something to look at: Staring at the dashboard, door handles and sky can get old pretty quick. If you have a smaller dog, consider using an elevated car seat to allow her to take in the view. Many cats can get freaked out by the quickly changing scenery, so keeping them in carriers that are strapped into into the back seat is often the best bet.
- Help them enjoy the smell of the open road: A whiff of fresh air can be a welcome antidote for anyone who is suffering from car sickness — our pets included. Many dogs love to stick their noses out of moving cars, just be sure that they can't jump or fall out of the window. (Keeping windows no more than half-way down is usually a safe guideline to follow.)
- Make frequent pit stops: Most seasoned travelers can cruise for hours without an accident. But all pets benefit from breaks to stretch their legs and have a drink of water. Plan to stop every few hours.
- Don't take it personally: If you try all of the above advice and your dog or cat still barfs in the car, please don't get angry at them (they already feel miserable enough) or take their sickness personally. Some pets are simply more susceptible to motion sickness than others and might be best left at home with a sitter the next time you set out on a lengthy road trip.