How To Help Dogs With Car Anxiety

CBD 101
How To Help Dogs With Car Anxiety
Read time: 6 minutes

Some dogs can’t wait to go on car rides, while others do just about anything to avoid one. If car travel causes your dog deep distress, numerous treatment options can transform your fearful furry friend into a proper road dog. Whether your pup suffers from car sickness or is completely unnerved by the car trip experience itself, the following list of tools, techniques, and supplements, like CBD, may help free your pooch from car anxiety - and perhaps even learn to love the journey!

Why Do Some Dogs Experience Car Anxiety?

Before we discuss potential solutions to help soothe what may seem like a stressful situation to your pup, it’s important to understand the core reason your pup is feeling the way they are. Many circumstances make the mere prospect of car travel unbearable for our four-legged friends. Some dogs associate intrusive and sometimes painful visits to the vet with car rides. Additional factors like motion sickness, loud car sounds, or a sense of instability can be very anxiety-producing for dogs. 

There are varying degrees of severity regarding canine travel anxiety. Acutely fearful pups may resist getting near the car. Once inside, they may exhibit problematic behaviors such as whining, barking, trembling, panting, and drooling. In extreme cases, an anxious dog may empty their bladder and bowels inside the car - or try to escape while the car’s in motion!

When considering options to address your dog’s anxiety, it’s always a good idea to talk to your veterinarian or a certified dog behaviorist. Trained professionals can help you develop an individualized course of treatment and provide you with training techniques to alleviate stress and reinforce positive habits. Positive reinforcement can help condition your dog for future car trips.

Motion Sickness and Car Anxiety

Canine travel sickness is enough to make a dog avoid the car like the plague. Typically a problem for puppies before their inner ears are fully developed, dog car sickness often dissipates after the first year of life. This initial, and very uncomfortable experience, can form a lasting negative association with car rides - even if your dog outgrows motion sickness. There are some dogs, however, that continue to suffer from this disorder well into adulthood. Carsick pups exhibit nearly the same behavior as dogs who suffer from car anxiety. In addition to vomiting, symptoms of canine motion sickness can include whining, constant lip-smacking, excessive drooling, yawning, and whimpering.

Preventing Motion Sickness

Car sickness is not just tough on canines; it’s a real challenge for pet parents as well. The clean-up job alone can make any dog-lover think twice about taking their furry friend on a car ride, but some trips simply can’t be avoided, namely to the vet. If your dog struggles with car sickness, the following tips may ease nausea and make your journeys a little more pleasurable:

  • Dogs that are prone to motion sickness may have difficulty facing the back or side of the car, so it’s best to position your dog to face the front of the vehicle throughout your journey.
  • For longer excursions, avoid feeding your furry friend 8-12 hours before traveling. Having an empty belly can prevent nausea and vomiting. It can also reduce the need to evacuate bowels during a less opportune moment. While withholding food is recommended, make sure to provide your dog with adequate water to prevent dehydration. 
  • Maintain a comfortably cool car temperature. Keeping windows cracked can also provide fresh air circulation and help keep nausea at bay.
  • Some veterinarians prescribe anti-nausea medications like Cerenia and Dramamine to prevent nausea and vomiting. 
  • There are several known CBD benefits for dogs that may be worth considering if you are looking for solutions to help decrease anxiety, nausea, and vomiting associated with canine car sickness. Animal studies indicate that CBD may effectively alleviate nausea and vomiting produced by chemotherapy and additional treatment methods.¹  It may also serve as a calming supplement to ease your dog's car anxiety that can contribute to heightened motion sickness.

Behavior Modification Techniques to Treat Car Anxiety 

Desensitization and counterconditioning are effective methods in overcoming dog anxiety. Desensitization refers to the gradual process of acclimating your pet to car rides. This technique involves slowly exposing your dog to your car travel in small, incremental steps. Desensitization is meant to help your dog become less reactive to the source of his anxiety through progressive exposure. The use of CBD Dog Treats, affectionate praise, and a whole lot of patience can go a long way in making this technique a success.

Counterconditioning is the process of teaching your dog to associate positive experiences with riding in a car. Similar to desensitization, rewards like treats, toys, or praise can be offered upon entering the vehicle and displaying calm behavior for the duration of the trip. Desensitization and counterconditioning should be used in tandem to effectively quell anxiety and retrain your dog to feel secure and relaxed while in the car. Here are some additional tips to help keep your dog safe and comfy while out and about:

  • Comfort is key. Whether your pup is resting securely in the backseat or inside a carrier, like a dog car seat, create a space conducive to relaxation. Remove clutter and dangerous objects from your vehicle and provide your dog with his favorite blanket or bedding.  
  • Taking regular trips to the dog park or other fun places shows your pup that car rides can lead to pleasurable experiences.
  • If your dog is motivated by toys, keep some within reach during your trip to help refocus his energy and attention. 
  • Research suggests that classical music can reduce stress in dogs. A soothing playlist may ease jumpy nerves and make for a calmer ride.²
  • Thundershirts are anti-anxiety wraps thought to soothe dogs by mimicking the feel of a nice warm hug.³
  • If your dog is too big for a crate - or your car is small - you can use a special harness to secure your dog to the seatbelt.

Using CBD to help your dog with Car Anxiety

As it turns out, CBD products may be therapeutic for humans and animals alike. Officially known as cannabidiol, CBD is the second most prevalent cannabinoid in hemp after THC and the primary cannabinoid found in hemp. Cannabidiol interacts with the endocannabinoid system (a network of cannabinoid receptors all mammals possess) that regulates the functioning of our complex body systems. CBD is thought to maybe trigger the production of endocannabinoids that bind to select cannabinoid receptors and maybe generate various effects such as sedation, anti-inflammation, and pain relief.

While the cannabis plant may be toxic if ingested, animal-grade hemp-derived CBD oil is considered a safe, effective natural remedy for dogs. As a nonintoxicant, you can administer CBD without fear of your dog getting high. If your ‘fur baby’ needs help with car-related distress, our high-quality CBD formulas crafted for soothing relief are made to help. Our CBD Pet Tincture is available in three flavors; our Pet CBD Oil Tincture is designed to support a deep sense of calm, promote heart health, immunity, and overall well-being for your pup. Our Calm + Vitality and Mobility Treats combine delicious functional ingredients like pumpkin, sweet potato, mushrooms, and Wild Alaskan Salmon with full spectrum CBD to enhance relaxation, provide inflammation relief as well as joint support. Visit our online shop to learn how our safe, naturally effective products can get your dog on the road to recovery so everyone can enjoy the ride!