Pets & Automobiles – Helping Your Pet Enjoy the Car

< A version of this article was published in the January and February 2022 issues of Downeast Dog News>

< Updated 30JAN22 >

< A short link for this page – >

Cars, trucks, mini-vans, basically any automobile are often as much a part of our pets’ lives as they are ours. It’s how we brought them home the first time and transport them to all types of activities. We have all known someone who has a dog that the mere mention of “car ride” has the dog leaping in ecstasy. However, some dogs are or become terrified of riding in a moving vehicle. Some cats enjoy car rides, but many find the crate and car a predictor of getting sick or a trip to the vet.

Automobile Safety for Pets

We are responsible for the safety of our pets. Pets need to be secured in a vehicle when it is in motion for their safety and our own. A loose pet can become a distraction to the driver. A pet in the car’s front seat is unlikely to survive if the airbag discharges in an accident. An unsecured pet riding in a vehicle is more likely to become seriously injured. It also has great potential to hurt passengers if they become a fast-moving projectile due to a sudden stop. Even if a pet is uninjured in an accident, it is possible that they will be so terrified they will frantically try to escape, which itself can result in injury or death. Dogs have even been known to deter emergency personnel from rescuing injured people.

An article about car safety harnesses in the Whole Dog Journal, [Car Safety Harness Recommendation, updated 3/21/19], discusses a Boxer named Ruby riding in a car unrestrained when the vehicle was in an accident. Ruby survived but “…suffered a spinal cord injury and mild brain injury.” Ruby also required months of intensive rehab, costing over $9000.

One option for securing a pet in a vehicle is a hard-sided crate of the type used for air transport. The crate should be just big enough for your pet to stand up and lie down. A separate crate should be used for each pet. It would be best if you secure the crate to the vehicle chassis in a manner such that it cannot break loose in the event of an accident. An unsecured crate can become a dangerous projectile.

For a crate to effectively keep your pet safe and secure in your vehicle, your pet must be comfortable in their crate. Unfortunately, some pets find a crate stressful, in which case you will need to patiently help them learn that a crate is a safe and comfortable place. These two articles can help you through the process; Dogs – Crate Habituation to Reduce Anxiety and Cats – Make Your Life Easier – Get Your Cat to Love Their Carrier –

A gate or barrier is another option for securing a pet in a vehicle. However, for these to provide the safety necessary in an accident, they must be attached to the vehicle chassis so they cannot break free. While a barrier might keep passengers safe, it is no guarantee the pet will survive the crash.

Many people confine their dogs to the backseat of their car with a special harness or seatbelt made especially for dogs. Unfortunately, many of these products may not protect your dog in a crash, giving you a false sense of security. Only three such harnesses have passed the rigorous crash test standards of the Center for Pet Safety (CPS) [] You can find a list of harnesses, carriers, and crates that are CPS Certified at

While a CPS Certified harness can be an excellent option, recognize that your dog may not automatically enjoy being harnessed in the car. A reward-based dog trainer can help you slowly acclimate your dog to wearing such a harness in the car. FMI – How to Select A Dog Trainer –

Does Your Pet Need to Go With You?

Most of us rarely take our cats for a ride because of most cats’ inherent dislike of travel. On the other hand, many of us love our dogs’ company, and the dog often loves the adventure of a ride. However, suppose you will need to leave your dog alone in the vehicle at any time. In that case, I encourage you to ask yourself if having the dog with you is necessary.

Unless the trip is specifically for the dog, a visit to daycare or the dog park, a hiking adventure appropriate for the dog, a trip to the veterinarian, or something else where the dog’s presence is required, I encourage you to consider leaving the dog at home. When we leave a dog alone in a vehicle, we need to worry about them; overheating, getting too cold, becoming anxious and frantically trying to escape, being stolen, or being teased by uncaring people. More than one person has told me how they caught a person taunting their dog when they left their dog alone in the car. After this, the dog behaved aggressively anytime anyone approached the vehicle. Another person told me they left their dog alone in the car for only a brief moment. However, it was enough time for the dog to bite a child when they stuck their little hand in through the open window. I love having Muppy with me, but if there is any chance I might need to leave her alone in the car, she stays home.

Aversion and Motion Sickness

A dog may suddenly refuse to get in the car for several reasons. The vehicle may have become a predictor of something unpleasant such as a trip to the veterinarian. Or perhaps the dog was in the car during a traumatic event such as a crash or a thunderstorm. If the dog was injured getting in or out of a vehicle, they might also become afraid of the car. Even having an angry conversation with someone over your phone while the dog is in the vehicle may cause an aversion to being in the car.

Nausea due to motion sickness is one of the biggest reasons dogs learn to dislike traveling. If the pet has little experience traveling, they may not be comfortable in motion, especially if confined in a crate or unable to see where they are going. Since you control the car’s movement, how you drive or where you drive may be a factor. A queasy tummy may not be related to movement but may be triggered by something the dog ate. However, since the sick feeling started in the car, the dog may associate feeling queasy with the vehicle and not what they ate. Medical conditions such as an inner-ear problem may also cause nausea. However, no matter the cause, anything that causes physical or emotional pain or discomfort is likely to be remembered and is unlikely to resolve on its own. I encourage you to speak to your veterinarian or a credentialed animal behavior consultant as soon as possible for the sake of your pet.

Two of my nine dogs went through periods of being uncomfortable in the car. When Tikken was a puppy, I started taking her on frequent short trips to acclimate her to travel. She was transported in a crate to keep her safe. These included a weekly trip to her vet for what I called a “happy visit,” where we walked in, I gave her a few treats, and then we left. One day I took her out of the crate when we got home, and I noticed she had drooled so profusely that her chest was soaked. The next time I tried to get her in the car, she sat down 20 feet away and refused to get any closer. The excessive drooling was a sign of nausea, and Tikken made it clear she did not want to get in the car again. I helped Tikken learn that the vehicle was safe by stopping all travel until I successfully desensitized and counter conditioned her to like the car. A couple of months later, we took a 10-hour trip without incident.

My second dog to have issues in the car is my current dog, Muppy. The day we drove home with her, for three-plus hours, was without incident. However, soon after, she would occasionally vomit in the car about one out of every ten car rides. Fortunately, Muppy never became hesitant about getting in the vehicle. Still, her obvious discomfort and the profuse amounts of vomit motivated me to get her feeling comfortable. I was able to do so with some anti-nausea products. However, due to the unpredictability of her getting sick, it took a couple of years to figure it out.

If your dog is experiencing excessive drooling, vomiting, or diarrhea, specific to being in a moving vehicle, make an appointment with your veterinarian so that they can rule out any medical causes and prescribe any necessary medications.

How to tell if your dog is uncomfortable in the car

  • Your dog is exhibiting signs of stress and discomfort in or around the vehicle ( FMI –
  • Your dog refuses to get in the car. Please understand making them get into the car will only make them more fearful of the car and you. It is not a solution.
  • Your dog is smacking or licking its lips or drooling excessively, indicating they may feel nauseous or anxious.
  • Your dog is vomiting or has diarrhea when in the car; both can be a sign of nausea or anxiety.

Things that may help alleviate nausea and anxiety

  • Limit trips to only those that are necessary until the issue is resolved.
  • Withhold food and treats at least 12-hours before necessary travel.
  • Practice very short trips in the vehicle; 30ft, 60ft, 100ft, increasing in small increments. You might want to consult with a credentialed pet behavior consultant to assist you with developing a desensitization protocol.
  • Treat nausea and, if necessary, anxiety.
    • Over the counter treatments (No Prescription Required)
      • Ginger helps relieve nausea. The easiest way to see if it helps your dog is to get some gingersnap cookies. Just make sure they contain real ginger and do not contain xylitol. Give a cookie about 30-minutes before travel.
      • CBD can relieve both anxiety and, in some cases, nausea. It is one of the things I use with Muppy. Just be careful as there is a wide range of CBD products, and not all of them are of equal quality. ( FMI – )
      • Adaptil – This is a pheromone that can help alleviate anxiety. It is available as a spray and a collar.
      • Lavender Essential Oil – Lavender can have a calmative effect. Still, just as with CBD, there are many Lavender products, and they are not all of the same grade and quality.
      • Bach Rescue Remedy – Rescue Remedy® is a combination flower remedy formula explicitly created for addressing stress in emergencies or crises. I have used it for over 20 years in a wide variety of applications. ( FMI – )
    • Homeopathic Remedies – While many homeopathic medications do not require a prescription, I recommend that you work with a Homeopathic Veterinarian if you are not knowledgeable in this area. Some remedies can be beneficial in treating nausea and motion sickness. One was very helpful with Muppy. Dr. Herman, who also writes a column for Down East Dogs News, is knowledgeable about using homeopathic remedies with pets.
    • Prescription medications – (Must be prescribed by a veterinarian). Only treating nausea may be enough, but symptoms of nausea may predict anxiety, so an anti-anxiety medication may also be in order. Common medications prescribed by veterinarians for these conditions include:
      • for nausea – Cerenia®, Antivert®, and Bonine®
      • for anxiety – Alprazolam (Xanax®), trazodone (Desyrel®)
      • Please do not use any prescription medication with your pet without first discussing it with your veterinarian.
    • Behavior Modification – A desensitization and counterconditioning protocol, such as I used with Tikken, may be helpful or even necessary to get the dog to tolerate or enjoy the car after a bad experience. A credentialed dog behavior consultant or Veterinary Behaviorist such as DEDN columnist Dr. Christine Calder can help. ( FMI – )

Recommended Resources

Articles on Don’s Blog
(  )

 Dogs – Crate Habituation to Reduce Anxiety

Cats – Make Your Life Easier – Get Your Cat to Love Their Carrier

How to Choose A Dog Trainer

How Can I Tell When My Dog Is Anxious or Fearful?

How Hemp-Derived Phytocannabinoid Nutraceuticals May Help Your Pets

Bach Flower Remedies – Bach Rescue Remedy®

Do I Need a Dog Trainer or a “Behaviorist”?

Contact Information for Dr. Herman & Dr. Calder

Dr. Judy Herman
Animal Wellness Center
95 Northern Ave., Augusta ME

Dr. Christine Calder
Calder Veterinary Behavior Services

Don Hanson is the co-owner of the Green Acres Kennel Shop ( ) in Bangor, Maine, where he has been helping people with their pets since 1995. He is also the founder of, an online educational resource for people with dogs and cats. Don is a Bach Foundation Registered Animal Practitioner (BFRAP), Certified Dog Behavior Consultant (CDBC), Associate Certified Cat Behavior Consultant (ACCBC), and a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT-KA). He is a member of the Pet Professional Guild (PPG), where he serves on the Board of Directors and Steering Committee and chairs the Advocacy Committee and The Shock-Free Coalition ( ). In addition, Don produces and co-hosts a podcast, The Woof Meow Show, available at, the Apple Podcast app, and Don’s blog: The opinions in this post are those of Don Hanson.

©23JAN22, Donald J. Hanson, All Rights Reserved
< Click for Copyright and Use Policy >

Podcast-How Hemp-Derived Phytocannabinoid Nutraceuticals Can Help My Pets with Julianna Carella

< A short link to this page – >

< Click to Listen to Podcast >

In this episode of The Woof Meow Show from June 23, 2018 Kate and Don interview Julianna Carella, CEO and Founder of Treatibles and Auntie Dolores. We discuss the use of hemp-derived phytocannabinoid nutraceuticals and their ability to offer dogs relief from anxiety, arthritis, pain, inflammation, seizures, nausea, motion sickness and even their ability to help those with cancer. We discuss the science behind these products, their safety, and what one should look for when selecting a Phytocannabinoid Nutraceutical for their pet.

You can hear The Woof Meow Show on Z62 Retro Radio, AM620, and WKIT HD3 at 9 AM on Saturday. If you are not near a radio, listen on your computer at or your smartphone or tablet with the free WZON 620 AM app. A podcast of the show is typically posted immediately after the show and can be downloaded at and the Apple iTunes store.

< Click to Listen to Podcast >

Contact Info

Address: 1455 North McDowell Blvd, Suite B, Petaluma, CA 94954

Phone: (415) 579-2230



Facebook Page:

Recommended Resources

Articles on Don’s Blog ( )

How Hemp-Derived Phytocannabinoid Nutraceuticals May Help Your Pets


©23JUN18, Donald J. Hanson, All Rights Reserved
< Click for Copyright and Use Policy >

Pet Health & Wellness – How Hemp-Derived Phytocannabinoid Nutraceuticals May Help Your Pets

< Updated 11JUN19 >

< A version of this article was published in the July 2018 issue of Downeast Dog News >

< You may listen to a podcast on this topic which aired on The Woof Meow Show at – >

You may have noticed that the use of marijuana and hemp-based products are being promoted for medical and health reasons for

Muppy & Don 2017

both people and pets. Research indicates that phytocannabinoid nutraceuticals can be very useful in helping with allergies1, anxiety2,11, arthritis3,4,11, behavioral issues5,11, depression2, epilepsy and seizures5,6,11, inflammation7, joint health3,4, digestion, joint mobility11, nausea8,9, and pain relief and management10,11. Anecdotal evidence indicates cannabinoids may also be useful in increasing appetite, improving digestion, slowing tumor growth, and providing end of life comfort. A scientific report in the Spring 2016 issue of the Journal of the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association (AHVMA) reviewed how 631 pet owners used cannabinoids with their pets12. Commonly reported benefits of cannabinoids were; provided pain relief, aided with sleep, helped relieve anxiety, offered nervous system support, reduced inflammation,  reduced seizures or convulsions, reduced vomiting or nausea, helped suppress muscle spasms, aided digestion, helped with thunderstorm or fireworks phobia, inhibited cell growth in tumors and cancer cells, and helped with skin conditions.

What is the difference between hemp and marijuana?

While hemp and marijuana are both plants in the Cannabis family, they are not the same. The appearance of these two plants are very different, as is how they are cultivated. Most importantly, the chemical makeup of marijuana and hemp is very different. Marijuana is probably best known for containing a cannabinoid called THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana which can cause one to “get high.” Marijuana has a high THC content (5 to 35%) while the THC content of Hemp is less than 0.3%. THC content is critical as THC can be moderate to severely toxic to dogs13,14. Common signs of THC toxicity are: severe depression, walking drunk, lethargy, coma, low heart rate, low blood pressure, respiratory depression, dilated pupils, coma, hyperactivity, vocalization, and seizures.

What are phytocannabinoids?

Cannabinoids are substances that occur naturally in both hemp and marijuana. There are 66 different types of cannabinoids. One is THC, the psychoactive component of marijuana. Cannabidiol (CBD), is the most abundant of the cannabinoids and can make up as much of 45% of the resin extracted from the cannabis plant. CBD is believed to have anti-anxiety effects and may counteract the psychoactive effects of THC. Since there is now a CBD based drug undergoing clinical trials, the term PRO (Phytocannabinoid Rich Oil) is being used for phytocannabinoid nutraceuticals instead of CBD.

How do phytocannabinoids work?

All animals have an endocannabinoid system that works with the bodies physiological, neurological, and immunological systems. Our bodies produce endocannabinoids which fit into specialized receptors throughout the body. In the dog, CB1 receptors are found in the brain, gastrointestinal tract, lungs, muscles, reproductive organs, and vascular system. CB1 and CB2 receptors are found in the bone marrow, brain stem, gall bladder, liver, and pancreas. CB2 receptors are found in parts of the brain, bones, skin and the spleen. Cannabinoid receptors in your dog’s brain play a role in the Cerebral Cortex (memory, thinking, awareness, and consciousness), the Hypothalamus (metabolic processes, appetite), the Amygdala (regulation of emotions), the Hippocampus (memory and recall), the Basal Ganglia (motor skills and learning), the Cerebellum (muscle control and coordination), and the Brain Stem (reflexes, heart rate, blood pressure, pain sensation and muscle tone). Producing adequate numbers of endocannabinoids is essential to good health. When the body does not produce enough endocannabinoids due to poor health, we can supplement them with phytocannabinoids derived from hemp.

Are phytocannabinoids right for your pet?

Whether or not phytocannabinoids are right for your pet is something that only you can decide, and I would suggest you do so only after discussing their use with your veterinarian. At the end of 2017, the World Health Organization issued a report15 indicating that CBD exhibits no effects indicative of any abuse or dependence potential, and in several clinical trials has been shown to effectively treat seizures. Research suggests that CBD/PRO nutraceuticals may be useful in treating a number of other medical conditions and have a good safety profile.

Buyer Beware!

The buzz over CBD/Pro products is enormous, so it is a “seller’s market.” Whenever that happens, it is not uncommon for some unreliable companies to get into the business. Before adding these products to our offerings at our store, we did a great deal of due diligence to select a company with a known track record and a commitment to quality and education. I would advise you to spend some time doing your own research before you buy a product or, talk to your veterinarian or a pet care professional you trust. Whatever you do, do NOT use marijuana you are growing yourself or that you buy from the couple down the road. You could kill your dog.

Footnotes and References


1 Cannabinoid receptor type 1 and 2 expression in the skin of healthy dogs and dogs with atopic dermatitis

2 Antidepressant-like and anxiolytic-like effects of cannabidiol: a chemical compound of Cannabis sativa

3 The nonpsychoactive cannabis constituent cannabidiol is an oral anti-arthritic therapeutic in murine collagen-induced arthritis

4 Involvement of the endocannabinoid system in osteoarthritis pain –

5 Cannabidiol exerts anti-convulsant effects in animal models of temporal lobe and partial seizures –

6 The cannabinoids as potential antiepileptics

7 Cannabinoids, endocannabinoids, and related analogs in inflammation

8 Cannabidiol, a non-psychoactive component of cannabis and its synthetic dimethylheptyl homolog suppress nausea in an experimental model with rats

9 Cannabidiol, a non-psychotropic component of cannabis, attenuates vomiting and nausea-like behaviour via indirect agonism of 5-HT(1A) somatodendritic autoreceptors in the dorsal raphe nucleus

10 Non‐psychoactive cannabinoids modulate the descending pathway of antinociception in anaesthetized rats through several mechanisms of action –

11 The Effective Pain Treatment Your Vet May Not Want to Talk About – In this post from June 9th, Dr. Karen Becker discusses studies on the use of CBD oil (Phytocannabinoids) for the treatment of osteoarthritis, epilepsy, and pain management. –

12 Scientific Report – Consumers Perceptions of Hemp Products for Animals. AHVMA Journal, Volume 42, Spring 2016 –

13 Pet Poison Helpline – Marijuana

14 Veterinarians see more cases of pets ingesting marijuana – News Center Maine –

15 World Health Organization Report on Cannabidiol (CBD)



Recommended Resources

Articles on Don’s Blog ( )


Podcasts from The Woof Meow Show ( )

Other Trusted Resources

JAVAM News – Veterinary marijuana?, With pet owners already using the drug as medicine, veterinarians need to join the debate, May 13, 2013 –

VIDEO: Dr. Gary Richter, of Holistic Veterinary Care in #Oakland, discusses medical benefits of cannabis CBD treats for dogs

Pot for Pets: Medical Uses of Marijuana in Companion Animals – Dr. Karen Becker interviews Dr. Rob Silver




Medical Marijuana and Your Pet: The Definitive Guide by Dr. Rob Silver, Lulu Publishing Service, 2015, –


Web Sites




Don Hanson is the co-owner of the Green Acres Kennel Shop ( ) in Bangor. He is a Bach Foundation Registered Animal Practitioner (BFRAP), Certified Dog Behavior Consultant (CDBC), Associate Certified Cat Behavior Consultant (ACCBC) and a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT-KA). He produces and co- hosts a weekly radio show and podcast, The Woof Meow Show heard on The Pulse AM620 WZON and streamed at every Saturday at 9 AM. A list of upcoming shows and podcasts of past shows can be found at Don also writes about pets at his blog: He is committed to pet care and pet training that is free of pain, force, and fear. The opinions in this post are those of Don Hanson.

©15-Jun-18, Donald J. Hanson, All Rights Reserved
< Click for Copyright and Use Policy >