It often seems our dogs aren’t far removed from our own maladies, and that’s certainly true of car sickness. Many dogs, especially puppies, are susceptible to car sickness (or just plain motion sickness, since a boat or airplane may cause just as much distress). The good news is, most dogs with motion sickness eventually outgrow it.
Motion sickness is the result of over stimulation of the inner ear, and–just as in humans–it can make a dog miserable.
Stress is another major factor in car sickness, since many dogs come to equate car travel with a trip to the vet or a kennel. Also, if a dog’s been in a car accident, the trauma could linger. (The same applies to other unpleasant experiences on the road, such as being startled by passing trucks.)
Conversely, dogs can become overexcited at the prospect of a happy trip to the dog park. On a long ride (when your eager pup wrongly guesses he’s a few minutes from hopping out), that can cause fatigue and sickness as well.
The most obvious symptom of motion-induced car sickness is vomiting, at which point you’ve already discovered your dog is carsick.
Precursors to vomiting may include salivation and yawning as well as rapid panting and pacing. If a dog’s exhibiting this behavior even before the engine’s turned on, it’s likely he won’t enjoy the ride.
When it’s time to see a vet
Chances are that your dog will outgrow motion-induced car sickness. But if he’s having a particularly hard time with travel, ask your vet about using Dramamine to help. Keep in mind that Dramamine can cause drowsiness, so give your dog a chance to rest and recover from the medication–don’t expect a romp in the park the moment after you arrive.
How to prevent car sickness
- To help prepare your dog for travel, don’t feed him food or water right before the trip; dogs travel better on an empty stomach. If your dog doesn’t tolerate traveling with the munchies, give a quarter of his normal food before leaving.
- Take rest stops. You know your pet best–learn his signs of motion sickness and stop accordingly. Some dogs travel fine for hours; others need to stop frequently.
- Open the window enough so your dog can take in some fresh air, but not so much that he can jump or fall out of the window.
- Letting your dog ride up front can help, since there’s less movement. Be sure he’s strapped in with a dog safety belt. Some travel kennels also buckle in.
For more tips, visit our Expert Q&A on car sickness.