Taking a Car Trip

When you’re traveling by car with your dog, half the fun is getting there. He will enjoy roadside scenery almost as much as you do, and he may even spot a few other traveling dogs as they cruise down the same highways. To ensure that your canine companion, and the rest of the family, has a comfortable trip, get him ready well in advance for his time in the car and for the new sights and sounds he’ll encounter.

Preparing your Pooch:
Several weeks before you’re due to set off; start acquainting your dog with the sorts of things he’s going to come across on vacation. “To reduce the stress of his first trip, your dog should be introduced to a wide array of situation,” says Wendy Ballard, publisher of Dog Gone, a news-letter about travelling with dogs.

New Sights:
Focus first on people advises Ballard. “Have your dog meet a variety of people; young and old, thin and heavy, mustached and clean-shaven, folk with eyeglasses, with canes or in wheel-chairs,” she says. If your dog is familiar with different kinds of people before he goes away, he’ll be more comfortable when he meets them in new surroundings. It’s also important for your dog to be comfortable around animals. “Dogs should have opportunities to meet other dogs,” says Ballard. “Introducing your dog to horses, cats and other animals isn’t a bad idea either,”

Strange Surfaces and Sounds:
Your dog could find some new situations strange. “Be sure your pet is comfortable stepping on all types of surfaces,” says Ballard. He may find floor grates, elevators and moving walkways very scary.

It’s important that the traveling dog has a tolerance for traffic noises, even if you don’t plan on walking him down Hollywood Boulevard to see Lassie’s paw print outside Mann’s Chinese Theater.

“Desensitize your dog by taking car rides on a highly trafficked thoroughfare,” she advises.
“Open the windows to let the noise in. work up to a walk along that busy street.”

Exotic Food and Drink:
Your dog might have a hankering to try the local canine cuisine, but a sudden change of diet could give him diarrhea. So when on the road, avoid the chili with beefy bits or Cajun-style meaty chunks. Play it safe and give him his usual food.

If it’s just a short trip, take along his regular food, says Priscilla K. Stockner, D.V.M., executive director of the Center for Humane Education in Escondido, California. “On longer trips, take enough of the dog’s usual food to mix gradually with whatever he will be eating,” she advises. This also goes for water. “Take supply of your dog’s usual drinking water. After 24 to 36 hours, start mixing it gradually with the new water he’ll be drinking.”

Feeling Queasy:
People are not the only ones who get carsick. Dogs can suffer from motion sickness, too, with disastrous consequences. You can help your dog avoid getting sick, or at least help him to feel better if he does succumb.

Dog – Proofing the Car:
If you know your dog doesn’t have a happy traveling tummy, make sure you dog-proof the car before you set out. Also do this if it’s his first long distance adventure and you don’t know how he’ll react – just in case. A plastic tablecloth placed on the backseat will protect the interior, says Elizabeth Altieri, D.V.M., a veterinarian in private practice in New Jersey. “The clothe underside of the tablecloth will stick to the seat, while the plastic part will be easy to clean should your dog get sick on it,” she explains.

The most effective way to dog-proof the car is to keep your dog in a pet crate when traveling, says Dr. Stockner. If he doesn’t already have his own crate, you’ll need to get him used to it for a month before you travel. Do this by feeding him in it, she says. “A crate is the safest way to ride in a car, for both the dog and you.” If you have to make a sudden stop or there’s an accident, your dog will be safe in his carrier. A barrier at the back of the car is also good security measure.

Anxiety Overcome:
Many dogs vomit in the car simply because they are anxious, explains Joanne Howl, D.V.M., a veterinarian in private practice in Rochester, New York. It’s got nothing to do with your driving skills. It’s just that things are whizzing past him in an alarming way. So get him used to riding in the car.

“Spend a little quality time motionless in the car,” says Dr. Howl. “Let him check out the car while you read a chapter of your book. Give him a dog treat, give him a pat, then take him out of the car.” Once he’s decided the car’s the place to be, take him on a quick cruise around the neighborhood. “Soon you can ride to the store, then across town, and then anywhere you want without your dog throwing up,” she says.

Easing the Queasies:
Withholding food is one way to deal with the problem of carsickness, says Dr. Howl. “Don’t feed your dog for at least eight hours before the trip,” she explains. “Empty stomachs might get sick anyway, but at least there’s nothing to expel.”
Your dog shouldn’t have anything to drink for the two hours before you set off. “Once on the road, small, frequent sips of water or ice cubes can be given,” says Dr. Howl. “Don’t let your dog get dry or dehydrated, but on the other hand, a belly full of water can quickly become backseat full of water.”

If these tactics don’t work, you can always try medication. Your vet can prescribe drugs that will stop your dog getting carsick, or he can recommend over-the-counter products designed for humans that can be given in dog-sized doses.

Helping him Feel Better:
If your dog is sick when you’re on the road despite all your efforts, Dr. Howl suggests a number of things to make him feel better. “Pull over and take him for a walk. Or try opening the windows if it’s cool out, making sure not to let your dog hand his head out the window. If it’s hot in the car, turn on the air conditioner and point it at the dog.” She also says that some dogs like an ice cube to chew on.

Another option is to give your dog some of his favorite toys to play with on the trip. “You can try squeaking a favorite toy at him to get his mind off his sick belly,” says Dr. Howl.

Time for a Break:
When you’re on the road, the number of times you stop to give your dog a chance to stretch his legs will depend on the dog. “If your dog is quiet in the car, you can take him out as often as you wish for breaks,” says Dr. Altieri. “If he’s hyper, hold off on taking him out of the car, since this may only aggravate his problem.”

Regardless of how he’s taking to life with wheels, make sure you stop every for to six hours to give him a toilet break, says Dr. Altieri. Most roadside rest stops have a special area for dogs to relieve themselves, and place where your dog can run about. Keep your dog on a long leash while he romps, and maybe even play a game of ball. “It’s important never to take him off his leash when you stop along the road or you could risk losing him,” warns Dr. Stockner.