Here’s the second blog I have written in the South Wales Evening Post. Pop over to their site and have a read, or read it here!
In last week’s article I wrote about how we became involved with rescued greyhounds and how Sally, our first dog, came to live with us. She was a fabulous family dog and had many adventures with us as she learned what it was like to have a family and we learned what it was like to share your life with a 40mph couch potato. Sally was a great traveller and went everywhere with us, to street collections, to visit friends and family, to the countryside or the beach. She loved it all.
We had taken it for granted that all dogs were good travellers but our next one, Sammy showed us that this was not the case. She was a quiet black greyhound girl, gentle but with an inner determination. The first signs of her travel sickness appeared when we collected her from the kennels; when I opened the hatchback to let her out she had been sick in the car. We put this down to anxiety but the next day when I took her to a street collection in the City Centre she was sick on the way there (twice!) and again on the way back.
I read up on greyhound rescue sites on the internet and found that though it is not uncommon it is unusual for a dog to be travel sick. Some said it was anxiety, and all they needed was to get used to travelling, and associate the car with good things. I tried feeding her in the car, short trips to the park at the end of the road, all ending with a good positive experience. At first she would be drooling before we had got to the end of the street, but gently over the months we managed to extend this to a couple of miles. There was no problem getting her into the4 car or out, she was not frightened of it, the travelling just made her sick. Trips to the beach or anywhere further afield were impossible.
We tried human car sickness tablets (after checking on the net to see what other greyhound owners used). Small doses were ok, did not upset her but also did not work. We asked our vet and he prescribed zylkene, a milk-derivative which helped with nervousness. These were great. Sammy started to take longer journeys but after a few miles she would still be sick. However, the tablets made her so relaxed that she would throw-up but just not care! Going to the beach was great, she just accepted she would be sick getting there and coming back. Fine for Sam but not ideal for us.
Travel sickness has 2 main causes; anxiety (fear of travel, fear of being ill) and motion sickness (the movement of the vehicle makes you ill, like sea-sickness). I was convinced by now that Sammy was ill due to the motion of the car. The question was – how could we cure it? A colleague in work had a spaniel that was travel sick and he tried a homeopathic remedy called cocculus, based on cockles. We bought some and started Sam on a small dose, checking for side-effects, and then increasing the dose. Incredibly, they worked! We could go a little bit further than before and you could see Sam’s confidence increasing. Sam would only allow Maggie at Pets at Home to cut her claws which would mean a long trip into town and back. Invariably we’d get there ok, Sam would have her claws done and a long walk, but on the way back the interminable Swansea traffic with its million roundabouts would take its toll and by the time we got to our road we would look in the back and see her shoulders going, cue to her throwing up on her blanket.
By this time we had bought a motorhome and so we wanted to be able to take Sam with us on our holidays. Larger vehicles sometimes help with travel sickness and indeed it did help but was not infallible. We needed something else. An advert in the vets recommended a new tablet called Cerenia. It was a tablet prescribed to prevent nausea for dogs having chemotherapy so was a heavy hitter. The vet agreed to try it, but it could only be used for 48 hours, which would be ideal for a weekend. The other hiccough was that it cost £7 a tablet! OK – if it made her feel ok and be able to enjoy some trips with us, then it would be money well spent.
Our first trip took us to Mumbles and where previously she had been sick as we had passed the “Welcome to Mumbles” sign, this time there was nothing. Fabulous! We even had a bag of fish and chips before coming home which we shared with her. No a patch of sickness to be seen. It had taken ages (and rolls of kitchen towel!) but we found something that worked – 99% of the time anyway.
We even managed to take Sam on holidays in the van down to Pembrokeshire and as long as we were sensible, took breaks from driving every hour or so, then she was ok. The van was something Sammy grew to love so much; when walking down the drive past it she would stop by the side door and sit waiting for it to be opened, even when we were going for a walk!
Sam did not have a long life but a happy one and her travels in the van were a real joy to her. She saw places we thought she would never get to, where once we had been resigned to her being a house dog. It all proves that with thought, perseverance and research most canine issues can be overcome. It was worth it to see her happily eating ice cream in the car park at Rhossili, not worrying about how far we would get before Sam’s blanket got to sample it too!