Tips for putting the brakes on pet car sickness
Posted May 28, 2015
Updated June 2, 2015
Queasiness in the car is never fun, and it's not just a human problem. Dogs and puppies sometimes experience motion sickness on car rides, creating a distressing travel ordeal for them and their families.
According to TripsWithPets.com, simple adjustments can keep car sickness from being a serious problem for pets.
The most common cause of car sickness is immature ears. The ear structures that regulate balance aren't fully developed in puppies, which can cause them to be more sensitive to motion sickness. Many dogs will outgrow motion sickness as they age.
For other pets, the stress of riding in the car generates the symptoms. Some dogs also self-condition, meaning that if they experienced nausea on a previous car ride, the animal may associate car rides with sickness and expect to get sick in the car.
Symptoms to watch for:
There are different ways to help combat car sickness. Kim Salerno, president and founder of Trips With Pets, recommends the following:
1. Increase the comfort level
- Turn a dog so that it faces forward. Motion sickness is related to the brain’s ability to process movement. The less blurring movement a dog sees out the window, the better it might feel.
- Keep your dog as close to the front seat as possible (but not in the front seat). The farther back in the car you go, the more you sense motion.
- Open the windows a crack. This brings in fresh air, which is soothing, and helps reduce air pressure.
- Avoid feeding your dog for a few hours before a car trip.
- Transport it in a travel crate. A crate will limit its view to the outside, and will help to keep any sickness it may have confined to a small space.
- Keep the temperature low. Heat, humidity and stuffiness can exacerbate car sickness.
- Distract them. Toys, soothing music, or just hearing you speak may help calm and distract a high-strung dog.
- Take frequent breaks. Getting out for fresh air or to stretch your legs can help it feel better periodically.
- Exercise before your car ride.
For dogs who have negative associations with riding in cars, reconditioning could be the answer. Reconditioning does take time and patience, but it really can help relax your dog.
- Drive in a different vehicle. Your dog might associate a specific vehicle with unpleasant memories.
- Take short car trips to places your dog enjoys. This will replace negative associations with positive ones.
- Gradually acclimate your dog to the car. Start by sitting with your dog in the car while the engine is off each day for a few days. When the dog seems comfortable, let it idle. Once it is used to that, drive slowly around the block. Gradually progress to longer and longer trips until your dog seems comfortable driving anywhere.
- Offer your dog treats, or offer it a special toy that’s just for car rides. This will make the car a fun and rewarding place to be.
While motion sickness can be helped in natural ways for some dogs, there are cases in which medication is the only option. There are both over-the-counter and prescription medications available, including:
- Anti-nausea drugs: reduce nausea and vomiting.
- Antihistamines: lessen motion sickness, reduce drooling, and calm nerves.
- Phenothiazine: reduces vomiting and helps sedate the dog.
Caution: Always discuss any medications you plan to give your pet with your veterinarian to ensure that your dog is healthy enough to take them, will be given the correct dosage, and won’t suffer any adverse effects.
4. Holistic approach
Holistic treatments are another way to go for dog parents. They really can be effective, and are worth trying. Some common holistic choices include:
- Ginger is used to treat nausea. Try giving your dog ginger snap cookies or ginger pills at least 30 minutes before travel.
- Peppermint, chamomile and horehound naturally help calm the stomach and nerves of your dog. These are available in pills and teas.
- Massage can help sooth and relax your pet before you travel.
In short, with some patience, training, or the right medications or holistic treatments, you and your dog will be able to ride safely and happily together anywhere you need to go!