Traveling with Pets

Traveling With Pets - Featured Image with Linda, Blanche and River

If you’re planning a road trip or flight with your pet, you may be worried about pet anxiety. We all know traveling can be stressful, for both you and your pet. But with the proper preparation, you can safely travel with your pet and have a trip you both will enjoy.

Step 1: Prepare, prepare, prepare

Whether you are traveling by plane or car, preparation is key! Planning ahead for your pet will help everything run smoothly and create less stress for you and your pet.

If you are taking a road trip, consider your pet when planning your route. Plan ahead and make sure to know which hotels, restaurants and rest stops are pet friendly. I recommend the Bring Fido app, which will tell you all of the pet-friendly rest stops, restaurants, shelters, and hotels near you. Also, if your dog likes to move around, a seat belt harness may be your best option to keep your pooch seated.

If you are traveling by plane, make sure to read the pet policy before the trip. Additionally, if your pet is a service animal, make sure you read and follow the airline’s policies and submit any necessary documentation ahead of your flight. You may also need to call the airline to see what documentation you will need to have with you upon check-in. Whether your pet is in the cabin with you, or in cargo, we recommend reading reviews and talking to pet parents who routinely fly with pets, to know which airlines will be respectful of your furry friend.

Prepare a list beforehand, of all your pet’s daily needs, like food, water bowls, treats, medications, supplements, crate, toys, collar, leash, harness, waste bags, pads or litter box, and don’t forget their paperwork! Consider any paperwork that you might need, like their vaccination records or any important medical history, should your pet become separated from you or injured during your trip. 

If your pet is microchipped, check that the information is up-to-date. If they are not microchipped, consider getting them a microchip or tracking collar. Remember, prepare for the worst and hope for the best!

Step 2: Managing Pet Anxiety, Stress & Fear

Traveling can be extremely stressful for pets. If you have a dog or cat who is normally anxious in the car, longer trips can seem like torture to them. If you have a high stress pet, CBD oil for dogs and cats can help them relax during the trip and experience less stress and anxiety. 

A recent study published in Frontiers in Veterinary science, showed a single dose of Cannabidiol (CBD) positively influences measures of stress in dogs during separation and car travel. The study aimed to understand the impact of being left alone and traveling in a car on measures of canine stress, and establish whether a single dose of [CBD] could positively influence any measures of stress. Significant changes in several stress-related measures (serum cortisol, mean ear temperature, heart rate, heart rate variability, whining and a stressed/anxious behavioral factor) were observed from baseline to test. The mitigating effect of CBD varied by measure and test, with some indicating a significant reduction in canine stress compared to the placebo group.

A 2024 article in the Journal of Animal Science showed daily dosing of cannabidiol (CBD) demonstrates a positive effect on measures of stress in dogs during repeated exposure to car travel. The car journeys elicited stress in this population of dogs, as indicated by significant changes (P < 0.05) in several stress-related measures (serum cortisol, heart rate, heart rate variability, whining, lip licking, yawning, and qualitative behavioral ratings) observed from baseline to test, which persisted over repeated car travel events. The mitigating effect of CBD treatment varied by measure, with cortisol, whining, lip licking, and qualitative behavioral ratings indicating a significant (P < 0.05) reduction in canine stress compared to the placebo group for at least one time point.

A 2013 article published in Neuropharmacology found that CBD can help in facilitating extinction of negative emotion surrounding triggers, like travel, and helps manage PTSD and anxiety or panic disorders in people and animals.

Even more interesting: A 2019 study published in the Permanente Journal found that CBD also has a calming effect on the central nervous system and is better tolerated than other psychiatric medications.

For dogs and cats with general anxiety, or situational anxiety when traveling, we recommend our Calm: CBD Oil for Dogs and Calm: CBD Oil for Cats

One CBD Dog Health customer, Megan Aiken recently shared that when she took her small dog on a road trip from Florida to Missouri, CBD Dog Health’s CALM helped her high-strung dog to relax and sleep through most of the trip.

Whether you’re driving or flying this holiday, using CBD oil can be beneficial to ensure that your pet is as relaxed and stress-free as possible.

Step 3: Making a Safe Space

Your dog or cat might normally be relaxed or calm at home, but traveling can present a whole new set of anxieties for them. Once you reach your destination, there will likely be a lot of new people, new smells, and probably even new animals for them to meet. That’s a lot of new stimuli for them to process all at once. Be prepared for your dog or cat to possibly show some change in their usual behavior. They may be more shy, or more aggressive, or just generally not acting like themselves. While CBD oil can help them stay calm, if your pet is being met with too many new experiences and can’t retreat to a safe space, it can be overwhelming.

Once you arrive at your destination, try to find a quiet, safe place for your pet, perhaps an empty room or a quiet outdoor space, where you and your pet can sit or take a walk to calm down and decompress together. Spending time together in this safe space can reassure your dog that you are not going to leave them in this unfamiliar place and can help them de-stress from the trip. Remember to be patient, because dogs can sense human emotions and will likely feed off of your stress. Time alone with your pup can also help lower your own stress, so it’s a win-win!

Related: What Can I Give My Dog for Fireworks Anxiety?