Traveling with Your Pet the Holistic Way

Filed Under: Dogs, Cats, General Care

Thinking of taking that long weekend trip to the mountains, or planning relief from the cold by soaking up some rays on the beach? Maybe you are just planning on visiting the family for a day or two. Regardless of the destination, if you are planning to include the household pet on your next trip, they may need some help in dealing with the stress of travel.

People seem to crave an escape or break in their normal routine to help unwind and get away from it all. Unfortunately traveling has the exact reverse effect on their pets. An alteration in the normal daily routine or grind places great stress on pets whether they are traveling with you or not.

Pets don’t seem to understand the hows and whys of traveling. The pet doesn’t understand what is going to happen next or when and if they will be able to return home, leading them to experience added stress while traveling or even while boarding.

While drooling, trembling, crying, howling, and vomiting can be signs of motion sickness, they may actually be more related to anxiety. Stress is often exhibited as GI upset.

Traveling pets may be sedated to make traveling easier usually with Acepromazine, a tranquilizer. Alternatives to sedation, which leaves a pet drowsy, are many natural or holistic treatments that may help to make the trip less eventful and stressful for the entire family.

Flower essences such as Rescue Remedy®, are safe and work on an energetic level. Rescue Remedy is an extract made from Impatiens, Clematis, Rock Rose, Cherry Plum and the Star of Bethlehem. Flower essences influence the emotions rather then affect the biochemistry of the pet. Although flower essences are not effective for all pets or for every situation, they can be extremely useful when rubbed on the inside of a pet’s ears or administered orally.

Herbal blends specifically formulated to calm anxious pets may also prove to be a wonderful alternative to sedation. Herbal remedies have direct biophysical reactions. Valerian root may calm the nerves or a spastic stomach. Valerian is a potent smooth muscle relaxant and will cause suppression of peristaltic contractions. There is also good evidence that valerian is a hypnotic that will not cause sedative effects. In addition, valerian also decreases stress. A study in cats demonstrated that valerian may decrease restless, fearful, and aggressive behavior. Valerian is also vasodilating, thereby decreasing blood pressure and hypertension. It may also temporarily decrease heart rate.

Products such as ginger and mint are also good at calming the sensitive stomach and are often used in human and animal medicine. Mint is also useful for nervousness and agitation, while ginger may help with motion sickness.

Pheromone products are used to relieve anxiety by giving the pet a feeling of well-being, and they may also prove helpful on the road. One such product, Feliway® Spray is used to control stress and urine marking in household cats. It may be sprayed in the car or on the walls of a pet’s traveling crate approximately 15 minutes before adding the pet. For the dog, Dog Appeasing Pheromone® or D.A.P. may be sprayed on a bandana before securing around the dog’s neck. These pheromones also come as a room plug-in diffuser which can be used on the road as well as at home or a kennel to relieve stress. Just plug the diffuser into an electrical outlet in an unobstructed site. The pheromone will then be distributed to the entire room but is undetectable to humans. Just remember to take it with you once you leave.

Anxiety can also be expressed through diarrhea, flatulence, and constipation. Sometimes feeding pets a little less than usual will help alleviate these problems while traveling. In instances where feeding less is not enough, mineral oil or a fiber laxative may be added to the food to relieve constipation. Nutmeg is proposed to help with abdominal discomfort, diarrhea and intestinal gas.

It is always best to keep in mind that herbal remedies may have some side effects especially when not used according to directions or when used in conjunction with other medications. Always make it known to your veterinarian when your pet is receiving herbal medications, for interactions may occur between herbs and various other medications.


Adamson, Eve. Holistic Help for Traveling Pets. Pet Product News International. February 2008. Pp. 126-128.

Wynn, Susan and Barbara Fougere. Veterinary Herbal Medicine. Mosby: 2007. Pp. 78, 311, 353 and 658.

Heber, David Editor. PDR for Herbal Medicines. 3rd Edition. Thomson. 2004. Pp. 362-366.

Topics: stress, traveling

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