How to "Curb" Car Sickness in Puppies and Dogs

How to  Curb Car Sickness in Puppies and Dogs

Much like humans, dogs and puppies can also experience a feeling of illness while on car trips.  This car sickness can make pet travel, whether short or long, quite an ordeal for dogs and their families.  Fortunately, there are things you can do to help your dog in the car.

The most common reasons for car sickness in puppies and dogs are:

  • The ear structures used for balance aren't fully developed in puppies. This can cause motion sickness.  Fortunately, many dogs will outgrow car sickness.
  • Stress can also add to travel sickness.   For example, if your dog has only been in the car to go to the vet, he may make himself sick from the worry and apprehension of seeing the vet.
  • If your dog has been nauseous the first few times traveling in the car as a puppy, he may have conditioned himself to see car travel as a time when he will get sick. 

You can look for some common signs of car sickness in your pet, such as:

  • Inactivity
  • Restlessness
  • Excessive Yawning
  • Whining
  • Hyper Salivation (drooling)
  • Vomiting

Typically symptoms will go away shortly after the vehicle stops.

There are a number of treatment options available to help prevent car sickness for your puppy or dog.   Physical comfort in the car, reconditioning, medication and holistic treatments can all help to make car traveling a lot easier on your dog.  

1.  Physical Comfort in Car

Try these options to help make the car ride as physically comfortable as possible for your dog.

  • Face your dog forward in moving vehicle – if your dog is facing forward he will see less movement.  Looking out of the side windows causes objects to blur and that can cause or compound motion sickness.
  • If possible, avoid letting your pet travel in the rearmost area (cargo) because this is where there is the most motion.
  • Opening the windows in the car a little bit may help reduce air pressure inside the vehicle and allow for better ventilation.
  • Don’t give your puppy or dog any food for a few hours before getting in the car.
  • Try putting him in a travel crate.  Sometimes, this helps to keep him from looking outside too much and helps to keep any sickness he may have in a confined space.
  • Keep it cool in the vehicle.  A hot, stuffy ride can make car sickness worse for your dog.
  • Toys may help distract and entertain a high-strung dog.
  • Taking frequent potty breaks may also help.
  • Exercise before getting in the car to travel.

2.  Reconditioning

Sometimes reconditioning will help your dog to relax in the car.  Reconditioning is needed if your dog associates riding in the car with something bad, like getting sick or going to the vet.  Reconditioning takes patience for both you and your dog.  Here are some tips to help recondition your dog.

  • Try a different vehicle.  He may associate your vehicle with unpleasant memories.
  • Take short car trips to places your dog enjoys.
  • Gradually build your dog’s tolerance.  Start by sitting in the car with your dog with the engine off.   Do this over a few days.  Then, when he seems comfortable, sit in the car with the car idling.  After this, take a ride around the block.  Now you can try a longer trip.  By doing this slowly and over a period of time you are helping remove the stress of traveling from your dog.
  • Use treats to make the car a fun place for your dog.
  • Buy a special toy that they can only play with in the car.

3.  Medication

There are times when medications are necessary to help your dog during pet travel.  Some over-the-counter and prescribed medications are listed below.  

  • Anti-nausea drugs - reduce vomiting
  • Antihistamines - used to lessen motion sickness, reduce drooling, and help them to be calm
  • Cerenia and other related drugs that help reduce vomiting and help to sedate

Always discuss any medications with your veterinarian before using to make sure your dog is healthy, the dosage is correct, and that the medication won’t harm your dog.

4.  Holistic Approach

Holistic treatments are another option for a dog parents to try.  Some common holistic choices are listed below.

  • Ginger can be used for nausea.  Ginger snap cookies or ginger pills can be given at least 30 minutes before travel.
  • Peppermint, chamomile and horehound naturally help calm the stomach of your pup.
  • CBD Oil is used by many pet parents to calm their pet while traveling by car. This may help with car sickness.
  • Massage helps to relax your pet before you travel.

Always discuss any holistic remedies with your veterinarian before using to make sure your dog is healthy, the dosage is correct, and that the treatment won’t harm your dog.

Patience and training may help in preventing car sickness during pet travel. You may also need to stock up on certain medications or holistic remedies to help calm your dog if physical changes and reconditioning don’t do the trick.   Hopefully, with time and a little effort your dog will be able to ride safely and happily in your car!

Photo credit:  istock/Ocskaymark