Dog having panic attacks in car only on highway


My dog is having panic/fear attack like the “normal” fear attack of a 6 month old puppy. Except my dog is 11 years old. He did have fear attack as a puppy which lasted a month and never again. I’ve had the same car, Matrix Toyota, 2004, for four years. He’s never had fear attacks before in the car, they’ve only started for the last month. My dog loves car traveling. He’ll sit and wait in the car for hours waiting to go. A slow trip doesn’t seem to trigger the panic it’s only when we go 50mph plus and enter the highway. My dog is one of the mellowest pets you’ll ever meet. The panic/fear is; heavy panting, clawing on me, nervous looking moving from back to front (no place to go), constant trembling, wants to sit on my lap and I must pet him is the only place he can handle. As soon as we pull over he stops and is back to normal.

Any ideas? Do you think the car may be making a sound above the human hearing frequency? here is a pic of us a few years back.


You’re probably right about the sound frequency. I had a dog that rode with me for 15 years but went crazy when an 18 wheeler was in a couple miles distance. Maybe it just sets up tremors or the like but I knew what to expect bdfore I saw the truck from her actions. LEE


That’s an extremely good possibility. If you know an audio engineer he could do a spectral scan for frequencies outside the human hearing range but within canine range (that range should be readily available on the internet or from a vet) under the described conditions. I’ll bet you’d see something.

You’d need a scope or a trace device (like a portable chart recorder) and a mic with appropriate sentitivity. And, of course, the proper amp.


Awesome looking dog you have there! My approach would be to try and narrow down the possibilties by first trying the same route in a different car. A friend or neighbor’s car to see if it’s related to YOUR car only. If so, then I’d try coasting down a hill in neutral to see if it’s engine rpm or vehicle speed related. The opposite would be to use a lower gear so the engine rpms stay in the same range but traveling at a slower speed.


You may have something there about the frequency of the sound. I had a dog that would only get sick when she rode in our Ford. She didn’t get sick in the other car we had which wasn’t a Ford product. I decided I was sick of riding in the Ford, so I bought another make.

If it isn’t the frequency of the sound, maybe your dog doesn’t like Toyotas just as my dog didn’t like Fords.


I’ve contacted the Toyota dealer and they said they can only scope the car in the racks. The dealer is really good, actually most all of Toyota is a one of the best companies I’ve ever dealt with. One of the service guys, Clay, said he’s heard of something like this happening when the dog has an ear infection. The pressure difference may be causing his ears to hurt. Clay also said that all cars have different amounts of pressure. I must say I do understand this because cracking one window actually hurts my ears too. The Toyota dealer told me to check Rockit’s ears. I did but see no redness, to pain to the touch even when I stick my finger down inside… I should follow this up with a Veterinary though.


I’m in a very rural area, a friend did say we will try her car soon. Those pics are from Taiwan. We found him on the streets there ready to be eaten at age 2 months. I’ve brought him back to America four years ago. We have been together day and night for eleven years. In Oregon pets are allowed in most all stores, Home Depot, Lowes… Everyone say he is their favorite dog they ever met. He is a B-cable show movies star in Taiwan. I started a kayak club in Taiwan and he is on 20 or more TV shows talking about kayaking.

We planned a car trip back to IL, MN, WI, IN, FL, NM, TX this spring to visit family and friends… I will purchase a new car If I have to.


Have you considered crating the dog in the car? You may think it sounds inhumane to do that, but he will probably like it. Putting your dog in a crate or a carrier will help him relax because it takes advantage of the natural den nesting instincts that most dogs have naturally. At the very least, you should have him in a harness and attached to a seatbelt so that he is protected in a collision and can’t claw at you and get in your lap while you are driving. A secure crate is probably a better idea though.


We’ve had this car for 3.7 years and have taken several 3 month vacations over the time. I never leave him at home and so he’s been on the road often. We live rural so that we’re always going 50mph. He’s never since day one barffed in a vehicle. Never been agitated once.


You’re right, it is out of control now. That’s why I’m desperately seeking help. It is close to causing danger while driving. A local girl suggested a crate/kennel as you did. I thought that’s going to make things worse for him. I bought the XXL kennel in Taiwan 6 months before the flight so that he’d get used to it… and he LOVES it like a little home but I haven’t used it since the flight 4 years ago.

In 11 years, he’s NEVER tried to sit in my lap while driving. As soon as we hit 45 he’s in my lap and trembling. It reminds me how he steps on a thorn, or gets hurts, or cut… and he immediately comes over to me so that I will make him better. I tending to think he’s in PAIN in the car, physical or psychological.


THANK YOU all very much for helping. We really appreciate. I love him more than everything in the world. I wanted to take him to visit all my friends and family on a car vacation this spring but this just started happening last month.

I’m afraid he’s going to have a heart attack he’s so nervous in the car. I am going to have to leave him at home. I’m rural so it’s dangerous in the yard. He’s gotten into fights with the raccoons before. We have cougar and bobcats too. Not to mention the lion like feral cats. Oh man!


Have you recently changed anything on the car, such as installing new tires? Something has to have changed. Your dog was fine for a long time in this car, and all of a sudden, now, he’s not happy. What changed?

Your dog is getting old. He’s eleven. Some breeds don’t even live that long. Who knows what’s happening to his body? Something is making him uncomfortable at speed. I hope you can figure out what it is, but it may be the dog, and not the vehicle. Does he do this in all vehicles, or just yours?


I’ve done nothing overtly to the Matrix.

I know he’s getting old but he acts like a puppy. I have adults, who have dog experience, call him a puppy. People nearly collapse when I tell them he’s 11. He’s active but mellow and nothing obviously has changed with him. In the next day or so we’ll be testing him out in friend’s cars. Then it’s a Veterinary ear specialist, if there is such a thing.



The only things I know that can cause a very high pitched noise at speed are dry front wheel bearings, disk brake pads that are nearly worn out and some kinds of air leaks. So I’d check the wheel bearings and regrease them, and I’d check to be certain the disk pads aren’t in need of replacement. Sounds (!) like you car is whistling or screaming at high frequencies and driving the pooch nuts.


My Boston Terrier is more wild in my wife’s car than mine. We’ve noticed it before but never thought of the sound frequency difference! We thought he just preferred my ratty old car than her nice Benz…

Maybe your boy’s hearing has changed as he’s gotten older? Maybe he can’t see very well? It’s odd that this change just happened.

My dog goes to sleep as soon as we hit an interstate - nothing to see like on a surface street or highway!


Rent or borrow a car and see if the dog behaves the same way.


Talk to your vet. In the meantime, ask him about "doggy dramamine"j. We had a beagle who did not like to travel in a car, and the vet prescribed a calming medication that was given about a half hour to hour before the start of the trip. It worked very well, calmed the dog down, and he snoozed for most of the trip. This would provide immediate relief until you figure the rest out.


Maybe its time to start leaving the dog at home before one of his panic attacks causes an accident and injures or kills someone…



I got him into two other vehicles and he did the same thing (about 50% less panic than our car). The trip was much shorter, only about three miles so it seems it’s related to him and not the vehicle.

We’re going to the VET today.



We’re going in today and I’ll ask the VET.