Time for a Summer Vacation? Here's How to Settle Travel Anxiety in Pets

06 Aug 2021 | Written by Freshpet

Can’t imagine summer vacation without your pet? We can’t either! As pet parents, you want your pet to join you wherever you go, vacations included. For pets who are unfamiliar to travel, this can result in some travel-related anxiety that needs to be addressed for the trip to be a positive experience for all involved.

We’ve put together some helpful tips that will help you settle all of your pet’s travel-related anxiety, from traveling in the car and settling into a new environment to dealing with a different climate.

Helping your pet be comfortable in the car

Some pets love car rides from day one, but others need a bit of time to get used to the idea. Nervousness around cars could be due to motion sickness, a previous negative experience such as a trip to the vet, or even just general anxiety about being in a loud, unfamiliar environment. Regardless of why your pet is nervous in the car, there are steps you can take to help them become more comfortable.

The first is to get them used to the car itself. The best way to do this is to let them sit in the car without turning it on. Simply let them sniff around the outside of the car, eventually making your way inside with the doors open, then the doors closed. Be sure to bring a special toy or snack, such as their favorite Freshpet recipe or treat, that you can give them while they interact with the car – this will help them to develop a positive association.

Once they seem comfortable in and around a car while it’s turned off, it’s time to turn it on. This time, get them safely in the car before you turn it on as turning it on when they’re outside can be loud and scary. Spend a few minutes in the car with them, rewarding their good behavior with the same special toy or treat.

If this goes well, the next step is to go for a short drive. The first time you do this, simply do a loop of the block or other short distance and again reward them throughout the drive. Each time you do this, go for a little bit longer until you can drive for an extended time with your pet staying calm. If you know their anxiety around cars stems from where car trips have ended in the past, you can even take them for a drive to their favorite places like the dog park or pet store to further develop a positive association with car trips.

Helping your pet be comfortable in a new environment

Getting your pet to your vacation destination is just step one – the next step is making sure that they’re comfortable during their stay. Some pets are more comfortable moving between environments, especially if they’ve been doing so from a young age. For pets that have less experience moving around, there are a few things you can do to help them settle in.

Start by keeping their routine as consistent as possible – feed them at the same time, walk them at the same time, or do any other activity you do together every day at the same time. While these activities won’t be happening in their normal place, the structure of the routine will be recognizable and comforting.

It’s also a good idea to bring some items from home that have a familiar smell, like their bed, blanket, and toys. If your pet normally uses a crate or carrier to sleep in, it’s a good idea to bring that as well. This way, you can create a safe space for them that both feels and smells like home. The more you can do to make your holiday destination similar to their home, the quicker they’ll settle in.

If you’re really worried about your pet’s anxiety during the trip, speak to your veterinarian before you leave. They may be able to provide additional recommendations, prescriptions, or over-the-counter medications that can help them relax.

Helping your pet be comfortable in a new climate

If this vacation is the first time your pet is experiencing hot and humid summer weather, there are a few guidelines you should follow to help them acclimate. The first is to talk walks before the sun rises or after it sets, as both the concrete and the air are cooler and there’s less risk of overheating or burnt paws.

Keep in mind that even if you walk during off-peak hours, you may still need to limit your pet’s exercise if the temperature or humidity remains high. On these days, play some indoor games with your pets to help them burn off energy without burning up. If you have access to water, such as a dog beach or even a sprinkler or kiddie pool, you can also have a short water-based play session – just make sure they don’t spend too much time in the direct sun.

Regardless of the time of day, make sure that you bring a supply of fresh, cool water and have an indoor place they can escape to if the heat or sun becomes too much.

What to do if you can’t bring your pet on vacation

As much as you want your pet to join you on vacation, sometimes it’s just not feasible. If this is the case, you’ll want to find a reputable pet sitter to watch them while you’re away. If you’ve never left your pet with a sitter before, it can feel daunting to find the right one, but don’t worry! Freshpet has put together a guide for helping to find a top-notch pet sitter.

We hope that these tips will help your pet overcome any of their travel-related anxieties so you can enjoy a memorable summer vacation together!

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