BARKS from the Guild September 2018

Page 22


Canine Car Anxiety


Lori Nanan discusses the issue of dogs with car sickness and anxiety and sets out a training

plan to improve the situation for all based on the power of associative learning

any people are left ious in the car for the rest of scratching their her life. Thankfully, once we heads when it had adopted her and comes to car sickness and switched to our own vet, we anxiety. It often feels much were able to get pharmaceulike a chicken or egg question: tical relief for her in the form which came first? Why is my of the anti-nausea medicadog getting sick in the car? Is tion, Cerenia. This was a cruit because he’s anxious about cial start to being able to being in the car and this break the cycle. But, it was makes him feel sick? Or is my only that: the start. Addressdog suffering from motion ing the nausea allowed me to sickness and has become anxget to the work of addressing ious in the car because of the anxiety. It was at this this? Often, people will start point I was extremely glad I experimenting to see if they was a dog trainer, because I can work it out: over the knew that I could use the counter medications, principles of desensitization pheromones, crates and conand counterconditioning finement and so on. It makes (DS/CC) to help my dog. sense to explore the two comTo help me get a better ponents separately, but doing perspective on how veterinarso effectively can be a bit ians handle these issues, I tricky. asked my colleague, Dr. I will use my own dog, Rachel Szumel of Blue Lake Hazel, as an example. After Animal Care Center in South Photo © Lori Nanan bringing her home, we noLake Tahoe, California, to fill Author Lori Nanan’s dog Hazel would get sick in the car when she was about ticed that she seemed to get me in on some of the decithree-quarters of the way into the journey, regardless of how far or long it was sick in the car when we were sion-making vets engage in, about three-quarters of the based on owner reports. way to where we were going, no matter how far or long the trip. We First, I asked her if, when an owner reports car sickness, she pretried over the counter anti-nausea meds, Benadryl (an antihistamine) scribes medication right away. She answered affirmatively, stating that and pheromone sprays with little to no success. We tried short trips she may suggest an over the counter motion sickness medication (like only, with little to no success. We tried confinement, with zero success. Dramamine) first, but that she sees less success with those. Her preAnd through it all, her anxiety seemed to worsen. She would drool, look scription go-to (and the medication that changed Hazel’s life) is Cerenia. around frantically and seemed afraid to move even a single muscle. The The primary usage for Cerenia is exactly this: to prevent nausea due to unfortunate part was that, throughout much of this period of trial and motion sickness. Speaking from my own experience, it is incredibly eferror, she was in foster care with us, and we had to drive her to the shel- fective and depending on the dog, simply ends the nausea and vomitter, which was an hour away, for testing and medications for her mange. ing, or reduces the nausea and vomiting to allow enough comfort for the training process to begin. And for many dogs, the training process is So she had many trips on which to a) feel sick, and b) feel anxious. Looking back, it was the perfect set-up for creating a dog who would be anxnecessary, because the cycle of nausea --> vomiting --> anxiety or anxiety --> nausea --> vomiting has been going on for a while, the associaWhile we are dabbling in alternative remedies, tions have been made and will not be broken without some behavioral our dogs are suffering. I learned this the hard help. Even if the dog is no longer getting sick, then, the underlying anxiway: while I was trying Benadryl, pheromones ety remains and needs to be worked on. The power of associative learnon bandanas and Dramamine, my dog was still ing has been doing its work in the background, even if we are not aware getting sick in the car and the association was of it. This is a good example – and reason – to discuss anti-anxiety medications with your veterinarian. getting stronger – contributing to the anxiety According to Dr. Szumel, for puppies, addressing the motion sickfactor. So, she was not feeling well and she was ness component often solves the problem, but not always. Multiple unscared. And I was wasting money, letting my car pleasant experiences can cause the development of a negative get ruined, and feeling helpless. conditioned emotional response (-CER) and anxiety that needs to be worked on, just as in adult dogs. Thankfully, in these cases, we can use 22

BARKS from the Guild/September 2018