Do you dread car rides with your pet? Does the animal pant or get physically ill in the car? Some dogs and cats suffer from anxiety or motion sickness in cars. To make car rides more enjoyable…

Overcoming Anxiety

Desensitize your pet to your car. Play with the 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 the pet on short drives, providing treats along the way, before attempting longer trips.

Try lavender oil. Lavender has long been known to have a calming effect on humans. Studies have shown that it has a similar effect on nervous dogs. 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 of your vehicle approximately one hour before ­taking the pet on a ride. Bring this spray bottle along on long drives, and give an additional spritz in the air if the animal shows signs of anxiety, such as excessive movement or barking. Or you could put drops of lavender oil on cloth strips and hang these in the car…or put a few drops on a bandanna, then tie this around the pet’s neck.

Warning: Don’t spray lavender oil onto a cat’s fur. Licking up lavender oil can cause stomach discomfort for cats. This does not seem to be an issue for dogs.

Buy a pet harness or transport crate, and use this to secure the animal in the car. Some cats and dogs do not like crates and harnesses at first, but these items generally do help pets feel more secure once they get used to them. (Crates and harnesses significantly decrease the odds that the pet will be injured in a car accident, too.) And a pet in a harness or crate cannot run around the vehicle making you ­anxious as you drive—your pet can sense your anxiety, and it will make the pet more anxious. Avoiding sudden starts and stops and listening to soothing music can help both driver and pet stay calm in the car.

If all else fails, ask your vet if he/she can prescribe an anxiety medication such as Xanax or Valium for your pet before long trips.

Combating Motion Sickness

Place a small amount of ginger— crystalline ginger or fresh chopped gingerroot—into a small ball of a food the dog loves, such as cream cheese or peanut butter, and feed it to the pet around 30 minutes prior to a car trip. A fingertip-size piece of ginger is sufficient for a 30-pound dog. For cats, you can try shredding a tiny bit of ginger into food, but cats are notoriously finicky.

If the ginger does not do the trick, give your pet Dramamine 30 to 60 minutes before car trips. The typical dosage is 12.5 milligrams for a cat…or two to four milligrams per pound for a dog.

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