Can Dogs Get Carsick?

When you're riding in the passenger seat of a car or in the back of an Uber, you start to feel queasy in your stomach, and maybe even feel like you're going to throw up. These are indications that you suffer from motion sickness. If you've seen your dog indicate he has similar symptoms, he may be carsick, too.

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Getting motion sickness is not a big deal, but it can make your dog feel uncomfortable. If you travel often with your dog and you're upset that he's under the weather, there are steps you can take to prevent and treat motion sickness.

What is motion sickness?

Motion sickness occurs when traveling in a car, bus, train, plane, boat, or some other form of transportation. It happens when a dog's brain senses movement through signals from their muscles, inner ears, eyes, and joints and the signals do not concur. For example, your dog may be using his eyes to stare at the back of your chair, which is not moving, but his inner ear signals to him that he is indeed moving.

Do all dogs get motion sickness?

Not all puppies and dogs get carsick. However, it is more common in puppies than adult dogs, because parts of the inner ear that help balance them are not yet fully developed. Usually, puppies won't get carsick after they turn one year old because they outgrow motion sickness.

Signs of motion sickness

If your puppy or adult dog exhibits certain symptoms during car travel, he may be experiencing carsickness. These symptoms include drooling, having diarrhea, lip licking, vomiting, pacing, being lethargic, whining, and swallowing.

Carsickness vs. car anxiety

Many puppies and dogs do not suffer from motion sickness; instead, they are dealing with car or travel anxiety. They may only go on car rides a few times a year, and they might always go to the veterinarian at the end of the car ride— a scary experience on its own. If they don't travel often, the stimuli and movement can easily overwhelm them and lead to them having motion sickness.

If dogs have medical issues with their inner ears, then they may be more likely to suffer from motion sickness. Additionally, puppies may remember traumatic first rides in cars and associate that with all future travel, even when they are adult dogs.

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Treating motion sickness and anxiety in your dog

If you see your dog exhibiting signs of motion sickness or anxiety, you can stop the car and take him outside for a short walk. The fresh air and movement could calm down his stomach and nerves.

Before giving your dog any sort of medicine, whether it's over the counter or not, you should speak to his veterinarian. There could be another medical condition that's causing the carsickness, and you don't want to irritate it with the wrong kind of medicine or treatment.

Though you shouldn't give your pet any medicine without your vet's consent, they may recommend Benadryl, Dramamine, Bonine, or ginger to treat him. For instance, ginger is a natural anti-nausea treatment that people have been utilizing for centuries. All of these medicines can help with the symptoms of carsickness and ensure your dog has a better experience while traveling.

One note: CBD may also help your dog, but the ever-growing CBD industry is largely unregulated. Getting a bad CBD product could be harmful to your pup. Again, ask your vet about using CBD before buying it in a store or online.

General tips for car anxiety and sickness

Some other tips for curbing your dog's sickness or travel anxiety during car rides include making sure the car's temperature is cool on the inside and the windows are cracked open. You should make sure your dog exercises 20 minutes before getting into the car and he doesn't eat or drink too much leading up to the car ride. Make frequent stops along the way if you see your dog is exhibiting symptoms of motion sickness. Ensure travel is a good experience by praising him while he's in the car.

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Traveling safely with your dog

You always need to practice safety when taking your dog on car rides. Don't let him roam around the car because not only could it make him feel sick, but also it could lead to a car accident or your dog getting injured. For instance, if your dog is walking around in the backseat and you brake hard, he could slam into the seat. If he's on your lap, he could get hurt in the event that your airbag went off.

Also, your dog may become anxious if you leave him in the car. If it's 70 degrees outside, then the inside of your car could reach 100 degrees in as little as 20 minutes, which would not only make your dog sick, but could kill him as well. Leaving your dog inside the car and cracking a window on a hot day is dangerous, so always take him with you when you leave your vehicle.

To keep your dog in place in a moving car, you can buy a dog harness that straps into a seatbelt or put him in a hard or soft crate on the floor in the backseat. If you put his crate on the seat, purchase straps that will allow you to attach the crate to your seatbelt system just to be safe.

Always have water and a bowl in the car for your dog; it could help him feel better if he's experiencing any sort of sickness.

Summary

Puppies and dogs can get carsick, and puppies are more likely to get it than dogs are. By taking some preventative steps and knowing how to spot the signs of motion sickness, you can him them feel better in no time and guarantee he has a safe and fun car ride with you, wherever your travels take both of you.