You love your dog and want him to be with you wherever you go. Unfortunately, she doesn't travel well. For most dogs, a car ride is a cause for celebration, but motion sickness is getting in the way of even casual little jaunts around town and putting a major damper on that road trip you've been planning for years.
Learn the causes of motion sickness, how to prevent car sickness in puppies, and what to give dogs for car sickness. You could be rolling down the highway making memories with your best friend sooner than you think.
Dogs and car sickness causes
Just as children are more prone to motion sickness than adults, puppies and young dogs are more frequently afflicted with motion sickness than older dogs. The vestibular system, a structure of the inner ear that maintains balance, is not fully developed in young dogs, and many will outgrow motion sickness as they mature. However, some will continue to associate their earlier nausea with riding in the car.
Stress is another factor that can contribute to motion sickness. If a dog has only traveled to the vets and never experienced travel to fun destinations or hanging his head out the window on a trip through the countryside, he may get motion sickness from worrying himself sick.
Keep in mind that other conditions may be responsible for your dog's aversion to the car and resulting nausea while traveling. An orthopedic condition or anxiety unrelated to motion sickness could be the culprit, so be sure to consult with your veterinarian.
Signs of dog motion sickness
Motion or travel sickness in dogs presents with several visual and behavioral cues and is evident in most cases. Some of these include:
- Serial yawning
- Licking and smacking lips
Dogs will appear to be in some distress, may vocalize, and start whining. Retching and vomiting will usually follow signs of uneasiness, listlessness, and general malaise. Some dogs may have bowel movements or urinate while traveling.
Prepare for car travel
Make travel for your dog as comfortable as possible. Before you go anywhere, spend time with her in the car with the engine off as often as you can. Make each "test drive" appealing with treats and praise, acclimatizing her to the vehicle, and making it a positive experience. When you are going somewhere, bring along her favorite blanket and a toy or chew.
It sometimes helps to have your dog facing forward rather than looking out the side windows. Also, sitting up front safely tucked into a dog harness or in a kennel is preferable to the back of the vehicle where it's bumpy, and there's more sense of movement. Remember to disable the passenger airbags whenever your dog rides in the front. Some dogs will feel more secure and less anxious in a crate or carrier.
Having a traveling buddy along for the ride who can distract your dog with lots of love and attention, toys, and doggie games can make a difference for some dogs. Or if you have two or more dogs, bring the whole gang to help him chill out — he may feel more comfortable with his pals along for the ride.
During the car ride
Traveling on an empty stomach may work for your dog so try to feed him at least four hours before travel. However, as you work through some techniques to help alleviate your dog's motion sickness, you may discover that having a small meal beforehand works best for him.
Taking frequent, at least once an hour, rest breaks during your trip can make a huge difference for a dog who is uncomfortable and prone to motion sickness while traveling. Pack a bowl and fresh water on ice for refreshment and take a spin around your rest stop to stretch your dog's legs and pique her interest. Usually, countless other dogs have visited with their people and marked the spot so lots for your dog to check out before you get back on the road again. And the next stop is yet another whole new adventure for her.
Keep in mind dogs live in the moment, so look at travel from your dog's perspective. Imagine how he feels: sitting in one place, doing nothing, maybe a little cramped, trying to understand the confusing feeling of inertia, and looking at scenery that's just one big blur. He doesn't know where he's going—and he's getting worried. It's ideal if you can travel in your roomiest vehicle to give him lots of space, crank open the windows a few inches for loads of fresh air and see what a difference it can make in his traveling moment.
Motion sickness medicine for dogs
When all your attempts to quell your dog's queasiness fail to turn your nauseous canine into a seasoned traveler, you may need to resort to some dog motion sickness medication or homeopathic treatments. But before you consider any over-the-counter human remedy for your dog, always consult with your veterinarian. A host of herbal and homeopathic products for canine motion sickness including flower essences are available online or through pet supply stores.
The prescription drug Cerenia is a powerful anti-nausea medication approved for dogs of all ages. Dramamine can also usually be used as a dog car sickness remedy, but check with your veterinarian first for safe dosage guidelines. Natural holistic herbal remedies that may be beneficial to the dog with motion sickness are ginger, chamomile, or peppermint. Always consult with a homeopathic vet before administering herbs.