Car Travel with your pet

Holiday travel may look different this year. While we may not be taking to the air, car travel with pets is on the rise. Proper planning and following a few simple tips can make the car travel easier for pet and parent alike.

Structure your planning into three categories to ease the worry: Pre-travel, Travel, Post-Travel 


This includes everything we should have ready and get your pet accustomed to before car travel.

  1. Acclimate to the car
  2. Appropriate carriers & restraint
  3. Identification
  4. Calming Support
  5. Pre-medication is indicated
  6. Pack food, water, & medications
  7. Disposable padding
  8. Documentation
  9. Appropriate housing

Acclimate to the car- Assuming every pet likes joy rides is never a good idea. First, acclimate your pet to the car. Place them inside the car with the engine off and on, let them sniff and get comfortable, and then take them out. Always give them positive rewards, like delicious treats or their favorite toy, while exploring in the car to get them comfortable with the area.

VET TIP- Take smaller trip around the block and city before venturing out on your long excursion. This helps you understand what you might need to prepare for and expect from your pet.

Calming support- Calming pheromones area a great option for cats and dogs when in the car. Using a pheromones spray in the car before they explore the area, take mini joy rides, and go on the longer ones, can naturally help ease their anxiety and reduce stress.

VET TIP- Investing in GOOD pheromones that have research behind them is key! Feliway Spray for cats and Adaptil (DAP) for dogs are two of our favorites!

Carriers- For pets traveling in travel bags or carrier, make sure they can stand up and turn around easily. Covering the sides with a blanket or cover helps reduce stress.

VET TIP- Bring out carriers and housing days to weeks BEFORE the trip. Offer them their favorite toys, yummy treats, and even their meals in or around the carrier to acclimate them. This allow your pet to becomes more comfortable with the area and less stressed when placed in the carriers during the trip.

Identification- Make sure all pets are wearing a tag with their name and contact information. For all pets, but in particular the nervous ones, microchipping them is HIGHLY recommended in the event they were to get nervous, bolt from the car, and possibly get lost!

VET TIP- ALWAYS make sure your pet’s microchip is registered. While your veterinarians scans and records the microchip number, they do not register it.

Documentation- Depending on where you are traveling to, some additional documentation including vaccination certificates and health certificates, may be required. Reach out to your veterinarian regarding international travel. 

Restraint- Your pet should always be comfortable and safe in the car. Consider carriers for smaller dogs and cats and appropriate seat belt buckles for larger pets. Harness training for pets is also helpful as may carrier options have attachments to keep them contained and safe during travel.

Pre-medication - Some pets need a little more support to help with car nausea or anxiety that may come from confined areas. While sedatives and tranquilizers are almost never recommended, additional medications may help. Talk to your veterinarian BEFORE your trip to decide what medications might make sense for your pet.

VET TIP- The holidays are busy for everyone, including your vet office. Do not wait until the last minute to have a chat with your vet. Call for an appointment with ample time, 2-4 weeks, before travel so you can have a plan in place and less stress. 

Food- Make sure you pack your pets food, or ship it to your final destination. Changing diets on a whim can lead to nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea in some cases. Avoid the stress and plan ahead.

VET TIP: In case of emergencies, pack at least 2-3 days’ worth of your pets food, water, and snacks.

Medications- Bring any medications your pet may require and enough for the length of your trip +/- an additional week. Calling in medications can be challenging and sometimes not possible when crossing state lines.

VET TIP: DO NOT WAIT UNTIL THE LAST MINUTE! Contact your vet several weeks before travel to make sure you have ample refills of your pets medications.

Plan for the weather- Bring extra blankets for the car in the winter and bottles of water or coolers for the warmer months.

Disposable padding- Accidents happen to everyone. Placing disposable padding down where your pet travels may make clean up a bit easier and the car less smelly.

Housing- You may need to make some stops on your trip. Research your driving route and locate pet friendly housing.



You’ve planned, packed, and are ready to hit the road!

Day of Travel

Food- If your pet is known to have car sickness, avoid feeding them 8 hours before travel. (*Caution with puppies. Please speak to your veterinarian for more information.*). If your pet does well in the car, have their favorite treats accessible for distraction while on the road.

Water- Your pet should always have access to water. Travel bowls to offer water are helpful during transit.

Exercise- Let your pet get a good stretch, run, or walk before the trip. This helps keeping them more relaxed in the confined areas.

Restraint- Place your pet’s collar, harness, and seatbelt, when appropriate, on.

Calming the Car- Spray calming pheromones in the car, their carriers, and/or blankets 20-30 minutes before travel.

On the road

Distractions- Bring their favorite toys to keep them engaged and entertained. For pets that do not have car nausea, chew toys and treats can help with distraction.

VET TIP: Digestible rawhides, like Purina Dental Chewz or Virbac C.E.T, are great distraction chews.

Pit-Stops- For short trips for 2-4 hours you can generally make it without a break. For longer drives, plan for stops every 3-4 hours to allow your pet to stretch, walk, relive themselves, and drink water.

VET TIP: Always have their collar/harness and leash on when exiting the car. Open car doors slowly as pets can bolt if nervous or stressed.


Post- Travel

At destination

Scan for hazards- Look at the area where your pet will be staying and identify any hazards. This includes chemicals, rat baits, electrical wires, etc.

Safe space- Set up your pets area in the new destination. This includes crates, carrier, or settle mats. Spraying calming pheromones can also be helpful.

VET TIP- Bring a calming pheromone plug-in to help allow your pet to adapt to the area quicker.

Exploration- All your pet into the new environmental and allow them to explore the area. Offer then some of their favorite treats or toys in their designated safe space.

Items from home- Bringing their bedding, toys, or favorite blanket can help settle your pet in new environments.


Happy Holidays & Happy Travels!

Dr. Nicky!

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