Traveling with pets can be stressful for everyone involved. Many dogs love to go on car rides with their owner regardless of the destination, but can become very stressed if being crated for another mode of transportation. Very few cats enjoy traveling by any means and would rather stay home if given the choice.
Exotic pets present their own unique circumstances – in appropriate carriers to keep them safe, some respond more drastically to stress, and different government regulations for their movement. One factor is common when traveling with any species – they will be anxious, and this can lead to problems, both for the humans traveling with them and the pets’ health and well being.
Not long ago, veterinarians would routinely prescribe a narcotic sedative drug (acepromazine) to be given to pets for travel. Many animals did fine with this drug, while others had negative side effects ranging from mild to life threatening.
Today, the use of this drug for the purpose of reducing travel stress is not recommended. There are many safer alternatives available. These alternatives are products containing natural substances, deemed safe for even birds and other exotic pets such as rabbits. Since these products have gained in popularity, not only for travel, but to reduce stress for veterinary and grooming visits, there are many choices. Most of these natural products contain a combination of different natural ingredients which may include any of the following:
A root that has a calming effect on the nervous system. It does not cause drowsiness, but will help to stop anxiety and induce sleep.
A plant that contains the chemical apigenin which is a mild sedative and anxiolytic (anti-anxiety). Apigenin also helps with negative gastrointestinal side effects of stress, such as vomiting and diarrhea due to action on the smooth muscle of the GI tract.
A plant that is a natural anxiolytic (anti-anxiety).
A plant that quiets and strengthens the nervous system. It has a mild tranquilizing effect but will not cause deep sedation. It soothes and calms pets while reducing excitability and stress.
A chemical that acts as a natural anti-depressant to reduce excitability. It is present in turkey, inducing that satisfied, calm feeling we get after a holiday turkey dinner. However, don’t feed your pet turkey to obtain it.
A flower extract that is contained in some products. Along with natural sedative effects, it also causes a delay in stomach emptying and lowers blood sugar. These properties may be desirable in some situations but not for travel. Try to avoid products with this ingredient for travel.
A root that is considered to be an anti-emetic (prevents nausea and vomiting). This ingredient is not usually included in the natural sedatives, but can be given with the other products if your pet is prone to motion sickness.
Pet owners are cautioned to check with their pets’ veterinarian who probably has a recommendation for a product they are familiar with. If not, a reputable online or physical pet supply store will have trustworthy products. Do not give any supplements to your pet without consulting with a veterinarian, because any product, no matter how safe, may not be safe for your individual pet.