Dogs & Motion Sickness
You may be wondering if dogs can get sick from traveling and the answer is yes, they are a lot like humans in the sense that motion, especially car rides, can make them sick. Not to worry, it is a common occurrence and although we see it more often in younger dogs, there are ways of preventing it altogether.
Why Do Dogs Get Car Sick?
To understand the ways in preventing motion sickness, it’s first important to understand why dogs may get car sick to begin with. There are two factors at play:
1. Psychological – if a dog is not used to car rides and only does it once or twice a year, this can increase anxiety which leads to feelings of nausea. Many owners do not have a need to put their dog in the car and go for a drive besides vet visits, so dogs may associate it with something anxiety-inducing.
The trick to this is to start conditioning your dog to enjoy car rides. Go for short drives around the block (to their favorite park) and/or give them a treat when the ride is over. This will help them to associate positive feelings towards driving and lessen the risk of getting anxious and sick in the first place.
2. Physical – as we mentioned above, dogs and humans are similar in the sense that car rides can disrupt our sense of balance and create sensations of nausea. Our eyes see we’re moving and the inner ear senses motion (the vestibular system that is in charge of balance), but our muscles feel we’re sitting still. All of these signals are sent to the brain and well, the brain becomes confused. That’s when dogs and humans begin to feel the sensation of car sickness.
The reason that puppies are more likely to become car sick is the same reason as a child: the aforementioned part of the inner ear isn’t fully developed yet so it’s more prone to feeling a sense of imbalance.
Now if young dogs experience car sickness frequently, as they develop into adulthood and overcome the “physical” car sickness, they may still attach negative feelings towards drives and as a result, become sick from psychological symptoms. That’s why it’s important to understand how to prevent car sickness in dogs and puppies.
Treating Car Sickness in Dogs
So what can we do to help out our fur babies so they feel good when they go for a drive?
Here are a few actions you can take if you want to avoid giving them medication:
Conditioning – if your dog experiences bad anxiety when going for car rides, try going on small jaunts around town. Do something to elicit excitement, like bringing their favorite toy or rewarding them after the ride. This will help them associate car rides with fun!
Play classical music – research shows that classical music can help ease a dog’s anxiety. Try putting on some music if you sense their nerves.
No big meals before the drive – try to refrain from feeding your dog 6 to 12 hours before a car ride. It may help to give them a small meal, but eating a large quantity beforehand is not a good idea.
Block the side windows – since looking at movement while sitting still is the culprit for motion sickness, it may be best to buy a couple of car shades to block the side windows. Objects quickly passing by will make their eyes flutter which can lead to nausea and vomiting.
Secure your pup – you should always make sure your dog is secured in the car, whether it be with a harness or seatbelt. Keeping them secured in one spot can help encourage them to face forward and fixate on a point of interest so they can sense the motion of the car and the movement with it.
Exercise them before – take your dog on a walk and let them run around before you go on your drive. A tired dog will feel more relaxed and may sleep the entire trip.
Natural Remedies for Preventing Car Sickness in Dogs
So now you may be wondering what to give your dog for motion sickness. It may be better suited for you to first consider natural remedies. Please note, while we want to provide the best information for you and your dog, we encourage you to talk with your vet before making any decisions.
Below are some of the most popular natural remedies that may help alleviate car sickness:
Ginger – ginger has been a popular herb to take for people with an upset stomach. It is generally safe for dogs and can help stave off nausea while promoting healthy digestion. Try giving your dog some canned ginger before a drive.
Pheromones – dog owners are able to purchase synthetic pheromones, which can be used to aid highly anxious dogs and alleviate car sickness tendencies. Simply spray it in your car 20 minutes before your drive – it should be enough to ease your pup for a few hours.
Lavender – lavender can be used to relax and reduce symptoms associated with car sickness. It comes in the form of an essential oil, which can be sprinkled on a pet bed or blanket. Please note: essential oils can be toxic to some pets, including cats, so please consult with your veterinarian before using any essential oils.
Medicine for Dogs with Motion Sickness
If your dog’s motion sickness continues to persist and you would like to try something else, medication can also be used as a solution. Many dog owners wonder is Benadryl or Dramamine is safe to give to dogs and the answer is yes!
Dogs will reap the same benefits as humans when they’re given anti-nausea pill or antihistamine. Of course, consult with your vet to ensure the right dosage.
There are also prescription medications you can get that will aid in preventing car sickness and the associated symptoms.
Hopefully now you have a bit more clarity as to why dogs may get car sick and the preventive measures you can take to mitigate it. It’s important to always discuss this with a vet, but as dog owners, it’s a relief to know there are solutions readily available. Going for car rides shouldn’t have to be a burden for you or your pup! Safe travels, friends.