Does the sight of your car send your dog running in the opposite direction? Is a trip to the dog park in the car leaving him anxious, panting, or whining? Is he restless and unable to settle down? Has he vomited during the ride? With how uncomfortable, agitated, and nervous he is in a car, does that road trip to the hills with your pup slowly seem like a distant and possibly unachievable dream to you?
All dogs have their own stress-inducing stimuli. A surprising number of dogs are uncomfortable in a car and it is possible your dog suffers from travel anxiety. Sadly, this is preventing him and you from having a good time together. Don’t worry though, as there are a number of ways to help your dog get over his fear and anxiety so you can finally start planning that long-awaited road trip with him.
In this article, we will discuss how you can use sedatives to help manage your dog’s fear of car travel and answer some of your safety concerns regarding them. We will also list out our pick of the best and safest over the counter sedative options for you to choose from.
When are sedatives needed?
If you are wondering why a car ride that causes most dogs to be excited is leaving your pup fearful and anxious, you must understand that your dog has his own personality, likes, and dislikes as well as anxieties and fears. Not all dogs are comfortable riding in a car. The confined space along with the motion of the vehicle leaves some dogs nervous or agitated.
There could also be a past negative association that your dog has made with being in a car, like a trip to the vet, an accident, or even just being scared by a car on the road. Added pressures from restraints like a dog car harness can sometimes exacerbate the problem. He resists entering the car, and once inside barks, shakes, drools, or even vomits due to his anxiety.
The secret to helping a dog travel happily with you is to begin by creating a positive association with the car. The car must be a fun and desired location for him. Make a comfortable place for him to sit in, give him his favorite toy to play with, switch on calming music, and open the window so he has some fresh air. This sensitization process requires a fair amount of patience, practice, and of course, treats. Not all dogs respond the same way and it might take a few trials to figure out the best course of action for your pup.
However, if you have already tried various training methods in the car but the efforts have been unsuccessful, it might mean that you need to consider the option of medicating him to make car travel safer and more peaceful for both him and you.
One recommended means of medication for anxiety is the use of dog sedatives. They are a class of drugs that reduce brain activity, thus allowing your dog to remain calm while in a car. They have a relaxing effect and can sometimes induce sleep. Many dog owners swear by them, and since most over the counter sedative options are natural in nature, they are worth a try without you having to worry about side effects and harming your pup.
Is it safe to sedate your dog while traveling?
After all other solutions seem to have failed to ease your dog’s nerves; you are now considering medicating him with sedatives. Although appealing, you are wondering about its overall safety for your beloved pooch.
Using sedatives for your dog during travel can be a tough decision. Sedatives function by relaxing the brain function. They will not make your dog pass out, as is the case with anesthesia, but will make him calmer, more docile, or even possibly uncoordinated and drowsy.
There are however a number of precautions you must take to make sure of your dog’s safety under the influence of the drug.
- The dosage should be decided based on your dog’s breed, age, size, weight, and medical history, preferably after consulting a veterinarian. Overmedicating can leave him lethargic for days afterward.
- You must provide him with a safe place to hold himself steady in the moving car, as there is the possibility of him being unsteady and drowsy.
- Some sedatives can lead to dehydration, and it is important that you make sure that your dog stays continuously hydrated while under the effects of the sedative. Take small short breaks during the drive to allow him to calmly drink water and relieve himself.
- If you have a puppy, it is essential that you give a lot more thought and care to the product and dosage you administer to him. If in doubt, it is best to seek advice from your veterinarian.
- Always make sure to watch your dog for drowsiness or ill health after administering him with any form of sedative. It is best to remain cautious to prevent any mishaps.
Most commonly used over the counter sedative options are mild in their effects. They also have a short-term influence, allowing your dog to be back to normal in a short time. If you keep the above points in mind, there is nothing for you to worry about when giving your pup some medication to help soothe his nerves.
Choosing the right over the counter dog sedative for car travel
The choices available over the counter sedatives for your dog are numerous. Making the right choice can often be a daunting task. To choose the most effective sedative for your dog’s needs, you must first evaluate what is causing this fear, anxiety, or hyperactivity in him. What has changed in his environment for him to feel and react in this manner? Based on this, you can choose the right product with the desired effect.
Your choice must be based on your dog’s needs and the severity of the condition. If you feel that there are multiple stressors you can combine different sedation products, or even combine a sedative with other methods of travel anxiety management like behavioral training.
From the numerous options of over the counter dog sedatives in the market, there are some products that provide better results, while also being safer for your beloved pooch. We have provided a list of some highly reviewed ones for you to choose from.
Vetoquinol Zylkene Behavior Support Capsules for Dogs is a well-known sedative containing a natural, lactose-free milk protein ingredient, alpha-capsazepine, which will provide a sense of calm to your dog. The lack of any preservatives also makes this a safe product if he has a sensitive stomach. This product has been deemed safe for daily use for your dog for as long as he needs calming support. Since Zylkene does not induce drowsiness you can administer it without worry before a car ride.
NaturVet Quiet Moments Soft Dog Chews are a great solution to help your dog feel stress-free and calm in situations of high anxiety. These time-release chewable tablets are completely natural. They contain the ingredient melatonin, which is a natural neurohormone that affects your dog’s nervous system and helps keep him calm. These chewable treats help him to relax and may result in drowsiness. The product also contains ginger which would be extremely useful if your dog has a sensitive stomach and feels queasy during car rides.
Bach Rescue Remedy for Pets is a popular homeopathic treatment for the management of anxiety. This sedative is completely natural and comprises of an extremely diluted concentration of five different flower essences, all combining in effect to help with all kinds of stressful situations for your dog. It is an alcohol-free, safe, gentle, and natural product that can be used for longer periods of time without concerns for adverse effects.
SENTRY GOOD Behavior Calming Spray for Dogs is a pheromone-based product that mimics the pheromone that mother dogs produce to reassure their young. The product can be sprayed within the car or on your dog’s bed or crate while traveling. The spray contains a patented pheromone that gives your dog a calming and soothing feeling. Research proves that the product also reduces your dog’s elevated heart rate in stressful situations. Being a natural product, it is safe for your pup and its lavender and chamomile fragrance provides a soothing fragrance in the car.
ThunderShirt Classic Dog Anxiety Jacket is a drug-free sedative product for your dog. The design of the jacket is meant to apply constant pressure on your dog’s body, providing a reassuring weight, in an attempt to cause relaxation and calmness. It is a highly successful product for the management of anxiety, fear, and over-excitement. It is a comfortable drug-free option and its easy wrap system makes it simple to put on your pup.
Although we advise a vet consultation to finalize the right dosage for your dog and to learn of any possible adverse effects, rest assured that these products are extremely mild and safe for use. They do not have any form of lasting effects. In case you make a choice that is not suitable for your dog’s condition, the worst that might happen is the lack of any visible relief to his anxiety.
Also, keep in mind that these sedative solutions are not for prolonged treatment of conditions. It is important to continue with the non-medication methods to help your dog overcome his fear of car travel. The best course would be to use a combination of two or more methods to help your pup start enjoying car travel and get him ready for that long-planned road trip with you!