February 20, 2014
My pet needs to be seen by the vet, but is afraid of the car. What should I do?
If your pet does not like traveling, it can be a challenge for the family on several levels.
Not only does it limit the options of medical care, but also for excursions to the park, longer trips as a family or even moving.
The most important thing to keep in mind is that forcing the issue will only make things worse.
On the other hand, we have a handy way to manipulate our pets into doing what we want — and it’s called bribery (also effective for our kids, by the way).
If it’s a cat that hates going into the carrier, make it enticing. For example for a longish period of time (e.g. weeks) keep the carrier in a convenient place, and put yummy treats inside and a warm blanket to lie on.
Over time, the cat will likely not be able to resist the smell of the treats (for example, tuna fish) and will get used to the concept of being in the carrier. When the time comes to go somewhere, the aversion will not be as much of a problem.
While I don’t advocate putting tuna fish in your car, making it an inviting space to be in (maybe a blanket, chew item for the dog) and letting the dog explore it at their own pace (for example in the garage) will allow them to become more comfortable with that environment and ultimately enjoy being in the car.
There are also synthetic pheromones available which help soothe our pets (DAP, Feliway) which allows us to decrease their anxiety level and become more comfortable in their environment.
In the end, it takes some training and effort but is worth it in the end.
Grass Valley Veterinary Hospital’s Mace Dekker, DVM, answers questions each month. Submit questions to firstname.lastname@example.org, attention Dr. Dekker.