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Taking Pets on Family Trips: Holistic Tips for Stress-Free Traveling

Mar 29, 2024 09:22AM ● By Ruth Roberts, DVM, CVA, CVH, CVFT, NAN
Chocolate Labrador and long hair orange tabby with essential oils.

New Africa /

Pets are part of our family, and ensuring their comfort during travel speaks volumes about our bond with them. Travel, whether by car, train or plane, can significantly affect pets, leading to symptoms of anxiety such as excessive barking, whining, pacing and, in some cases, aggression or withdrawal. To address a pet’s anxiety, it is critical to understand their perspective. Travel disrupts their feeling of safety. Mitigating this disturbance with natural and comforting interventions ensures that such journeys can evolve into harmonious and enriching adventures.

Holistic Remedies and Techniques

Holistic veterinary medicine offers a range of solutions that address travel-induced anxiety in pets. By focusing on natural remedies that promote calmness, we can avoid the side effects often associated with pharmaceuticals.

  • Hemp Oil: Anecdotal reports from dog owners suggest that cannabidiol (CBD), which is abundantly found in hemp oil, can significantly aid in managing anxiety. These observations are supported by a study conducted at the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine in which 83 percent of participating dogs demonstrated a decrease in stress or anxiety-related behaviors after consuming CBD chews prior to a stressful event.
  • Herbal Supplements: Herbs like chamomile, valerian root and passionflower have been used for centuries to relieve anxiety in humans, and are equally as effective in pets. They can be administered in the form of treats or capsules. Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) and chamomile (Anthemis nobilis) have been reported to enhance relaxation behaviors such as resting and sleeping, and to diminish dog barking in rescue shelters.
  • Aromatherapy: When diffused in a pet’s travel space, essential oils such as lavender and frankincense can create a serene environment and significantly reduce stress and anxiety. Choose therapeutic-grade oils and verify with a veterinarian that they are safe for pets, as certain essential oils can be harmful to our furry friends.
  • Acupressure: By applying pressure to specific points on a pet’s body, we can help release tension and encourage a calm state. It is especially useful for pets that are less amenable to oral supplements, offering a noninvasive path to relaxation. Pet owners can be trained in this modality by a veterinarian or acupressure therapist that specializes in treating pets.


Managing Travel Anxiety

Dr. Mary Burch, a certified applied animal behaviorist, emphasizes the value of taking preparatory steps as early as possible before the family embarks on a journey. Introducing a dog to the car well before a trip, for example, can significantly help make them more comfortable. This method involves gradually acclimating the pooch to the vehicle in a series of steps—from simply spending time in a parked car to taking short drives. Such preparatory measures allow pets to become familiar with the environment of a vehicle, associating it with positive experiences and rewards, thereby easing their anxiety and making travel a more enjoyable experience for all.


Practical Tips for Pet Owners

  • Start early. Gradually acclimate a pet to their travel carrier and mode of transportation.
  • Maintain a routine. As much as possible, stick to the pet’s regular feeding and exercise schedule to provide a sense of normalcy.
  • Stay calm. Pets often pick up on their owner’s emotions; maintaining a calm demeanor can help reassure them.
  • Consult a holistic veterinarian: Before introducing any new supplement or remedy, consult with a professional to ensure it is appropriate for a pet’s health status and needs.

Ruth Roberts is an integrative veterinarian and holistic health coach for pets, as well as the creator of The Original CrockPet Diet. Learn more at

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