Q My husband and I are moving cross country with two dogs. One will be fine, but our Westie (West Highland terrier) concerns us. He’s not a fan of being in the car. Do you have any advice for how to make this a stress-free experience for him and all of us?
A Thank you for moving with your dogs. I can’t tell you the heartbreak I have witnessed working at animal shelters through the years from the depressed faces of dogs and cats left behind forever because their families were moving. Pets should always move with their families, and I am glad you are thinking of ways to make the trip easier.
I have moved 19 times with my dogs and cats in tow. The good news is it’s much easier today to move with a pet than it was 20 years ago. In addition to finding accommodations along the way that accept pets, there are also more things than ever to calm anxious pets during long car trips.
Going from your house to the vet’s office is going to be different from a long-distance road trip. You will likely have blankets, crates, or dog beds for their comfort and maybe a few toys for their entertainment. So, start preconditioning your dog by introducing those things into the car now while making short trips to fun places around town, like a dog park or pet store. Increase the length of these car rides over a few weeks’ time to see if your Westie adjusts to the travel.
Also, consider getting your Westie a pressure wrap, like an Anxiety Wrap or ThunderShirt, for car trips, which can make him feel calmer and more secure.
If he still isn’t enjoying these short trips, then he may be suffering from some motion sickness. There are natural “calming” and “travel” over-the-counter supplements for dogs; I give my dog a “calming chew treat” before every visit to the vet to take the edge off. While these may not have enough staying power for a long road trip, they might help during the preconditioning exercises described above.
If your Westie still doesn’t improve, then talk to your veterinarian about an anti-anxiety medicine that also addresses nausea. Try the medication during short car rides and monitor how long it lasts so you can plan your long-distance trip accordingly. The goal is for your Westie to rest and sleep during most of the trip.
Also, feed your dog a little less on the morning before travel, and at least an hour before getting on the road, to reduce nausea. Fresh air helps nausea, so crack open the car windows a little throughout the trip and plan several stops where the dogs can spend 10 to 15 minutes out of the car.
Q Rosie, my 9-year-old Scottie (Scottish terrier), has been trying to hide her dry dog food with the cloth mat, which is under the bowl. She also puts some food in her kitchen bed, which is near the bowl. She does eventually eat it all. I’ve been feeding her the same dry food for many years. I tried a new food, but she doesn’t seem to like anything I’ve tried.
A It’s not uncommon for dogs to hide food, toys and bones to keep them safe to enjoy later. While it’s a normal dog behavior, it seems to be a new behavior for Rosie. So there may be a new reason she’s doing it.
If Rosie didn’t like her food or had a medical issue, she would most likely reject her food altogether. If something changed in her environment, she might be uncomfortable eating near her bowl and so take the food elsewhere to finish. But you said she is a senior pet, and she hides her food under the mat and her kitchen bed, both of which are near her bowl.
I am thinking that as a senior pet, she may not need as much food as she used to and is choosing to hide the leftovers for later rather than leaving the food exposed in her bowl. Try decreasing her portions for a few days and feeding her smaller meals throughout the day to see if this stops this behavior.
New behaviors can’t always be understood right away, so if this suggestion doesn’t work, get back to me with more clues.