Curing Motion Sickness in Dogs

by Nancy Boland

As you already know, motion sickness in dogs is a very real problem, and it can make even the shortest trips stressful for you and your dog. Fortunately, there are things you can do to quell their nausea, from conditioning them to car rides to using dog motion sickness tips and tricks and even medications.

What Causes Dog Motion Sickness?

Dog motion sickness is more commonly seen in puppies and young dogs than in older dogs, just as carsickness afflicts more children than adults. The reason for this is because the ear structures used for balance aren’t fully developed in puppies. This isn’t to say that all dogs will outgrow travel sickness, though many will.

If the first few car rides of your dog’s life left him nauseated, he may have been conditioned to equate travel with vomiting. Stress can also add to travel sickness, so if your dog has only ever ridden in the car to go to the vet, he may literally worry himself sick on the road.

car sickness 1

Signs of Dog Motion Sickness

Dogs don’t turn the unflattering shade of green that people do when they’re experiencing motion sickness, but some signs of impending sickness can include:

  • Inactivity
  • Listlessness
  • Uneasiness
  • Yawning
  • Whining
  • Excessive drooling
  • Vomiting

Treatment

The best way to prevent dog travel sickness is to make the car ride as comfortable as possible.

Your dog will experience fewer nauseating visual signals if he faces forward while you’re driving, rather than looking out the windows. One way to guarantee this is by using a specially designed dog seat belt. Even though you can’t be sure your dog will face forward while riding in a travel crate, this is often a preferred alternative for safety and they do have the added benefit of containing vomit, should your dog become ill.

car sickness 3

Another thing that may help your dog’s motion sickness is to lower your car windows a couple of inches while the car is moving. This helps balance the air pressure inside the car with the air pressure outside, which may help reduce your dog’s nausea and discomfort. Also, be sure to keep the car cool and well ventilated, as a hot or stuffy vehicle can contribute to sickness.

One trick to preventing dog motion sickness is to limit your dog’s food consumption prior to travel. Obviously the less food your dog has consumed the less likely he is to be sick. Ginger is also a natural anti-nausea spice and many find that feeding their dog small amounts of ginger biscuits during car rides can help when they start to show signs of nausea.

If your dog has learned to associate riding in the car with feeling stressed and nauseated, there are a variety of techniques you can try, including:

  • Taking short car trips to places your dog enjoys, like the park
  • Gradually building your dog’s tolerance to car trips; start by getting your dog used to approaching the car, then spend some time in the car with the engine off. When your dog is ready, take short trips (around the block, for example) to build tolerance before progressing to longer car rides.
  • Using treats for positive reinforcement (not too many to induce nausea, possibly ginger flavoured again)
  • Buying special toys that your dog enjoys and only has access to in the car

Medications

Sometimes dogs don’t outgrow motion sickness and don’t respond well to any of the previous tricks and tips.  There are a variety of over-the-counter and prescription medications that may reduce or eradicate your dog’s motion sickness symptoms.

These include:

  • Anti-nausea drugs
  • Antihistamines, which can lessen dog motion sickness, reduce drooling, and offer sedation

Always consult with your vet for advice before purchasing medication online or over the counter.

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