Tips for Taking Your Cat on a Road Trip

Thinking about taking your cat on a road trip? Dr. Eva recently contributed some helpful tips to Popsugar Pets! See link below: photo credit: Flickr user Sharonhahndarlin  

An Overview of Pet Anxiety and Management

Pets experience anxiety just like people do.  And while going into great depth of all the reasons behind pet anxiety is beyond the scope of this article, we will touch on some of the more common reasons pets experience anxiety and how to manage it.  Anxiety in pets can present itself in a variety of ways.  Signs an include any of the following: panting, drooling, licking paws or air licking, shaking/trembling, tucked tail, or in more pronounced cases destructive behavior to the home, furniture, or objects.  Behavior modification and training are the cornerstone of any anxiety management program.

Separation Anxiety

Separation anxiety is a commonly used term that covers a large spectrum of behavioral problems and severities and can affect both cats and dogs. Separation anxiety simply put is anxiety and the associated often destructive behaviors exhibited when a pet is separated from their owners.  Treatment/management is often a multifactorial process with behavioral modification and training at the core of any successful plan.  I encourage ANY pet owner with a dog experiencing separation anxiety to engage the help of a trainer.  Other things to include in managing separation anxiety include:
  1. AKC recommended Calming Shirt – Just like with babies, swaddling your dog with a snug fitting jersey shirt can help reduce anxiety safely.
  2. High value toys with treat – Distraction with toys with really yummy treats can retarget those destructive behaviors while you’re away.
  3. Calming Herbs and Tinctures – Many companies have herbs and pheromones which can help calm your pet. Rescue Remedy and Feliway are a couple I recommend.
4) Talk to you veterinarian! – It’s important to rule CalmingCoatout medical causes for separation anxiety. Some pets require pharmaceutical management while you initiate your training plan.  Please talk to you vet for more info!

Thunderstorm anxiety 

Storms with thunder and wind can be very scary for some pets! Dogs and cats have hearing that cover different decibels than ours, and these sounds are amplified.  Many dogs and cats know the storm is coming before we even notice a change in the clouds!  Here are some quick solutions:
  1. AKC recommended Calming Shirt – Again, the Calming Shirt is a great way to decrease anxiety in your dog or cat. Swaddling helps them feel safe and secure.
  2. Talk to your veterinarian! – Again, some pets need sedation for storms in more severe cases of anxiety. There are many options available to help your stressed dog or cat if swaddling isn’t enough.

Travel Anxiety 

Our pets are traveling more than ever, but for some dogs and cats traveling in cars and airplanes can be a stressful experience. Training and behavior modification is important for helping with reducing travel anxiety.  Please talk to your trainer about easy to do training exercises to help reduce anxiety.  But some things to incorporate into training include (and maybe you’re seeing a pattern here!):
  1. AKC recommended Calming Shirt – Again, the Calming Shirt is a great non-pharmaceutical way to help calm your dog or cat when traveling.
  2. Calming Herbs and Tinctures – Rescue Remedy for your pets can be useful when traveling. The tincture helps decrease the response to the stress hormone cortisol and is very safe
  3. See you veterinarian! – I’ve had success with many dogs and cat using sedatives when traveling. Some dogs only need the sedatives for a period of time and can be discontinued over time.  Some pets also get carsick, and there are new medications available to help pets who experience nausea when traveling.
I hope this gives you a little insight.  Anxiety is a far reaching problem, and we barely scratched the surface here.  If you feel your pet is experience anxiety please reach out to The Vet Set, or your veterinarian for further guidance and knowledge.  Treatment is based upon training, behavior modification, and different tools to help calm the pet.  Patience and consistency is imperative for success.

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