Are you taking a beloved pet on a road trip? Here’s some advice to smooth out the ride…

Make your car a safe place. If you’ve only had your pet out for rare automobile rides to the vet (and he/she obviously didn’t enjoy it), make a special effort to help your pet feel safe and happy in your car. Play with your pet inside the vehicle with the engine turned off. Provide treats. Do this several times until the pet seems calm, then repeat the process with the engine on but the car stationary. Then take your pet on short drives, providing treats and comforting words along the way, before you attempt your big trip.

Try lavender oil. Studies have shown that lavender can having a calming effect on nervous dogs (as it does with humans). Anecdotal evidence suggests that it works for cats, too. Mix 10 drops of lavender oil into one ounce of water in a spray bottle, then spray the inside your vehicle approximately one hour before taking the pet on a ride. Bring the spray bottle along on your big trip, and give an additional spritz in the air if the animal shows any signs of anxiety…or put a few drops on cloth strips and hang in the car. Warning: Don’t spray lavender oil onto a cat’s fur. Licking up lavender oil can cause stomach discomfort.

 Be diligent with breaks. Pull into a rest area at least every two hours to let your pet take a potty break, have a drink of water (and maybe some food) and get some exercise outdoors (if you’re using a cat harness, be sure your cat is used to it before your trip)—a walk for 10 minutes or more is ideal. The exercise will be good for your road-weary body, too.

Thanks to Michael W. Fox, DSc, PhD, BVet Med, a veterinarian based in the Minneapolis area, for help with this tip. He writes the syndicated newspaper column “The Animal Doctor.” DrFoxVet.net

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