Dog Car Sickness: Causes And Prevention

Did you know that dogs too can get carsick? Or did you find out the hard way? This article will explain why this happens and give you tips on how to prevent it.

dog car sickness

Car sickness is something most of us have been through at least a couple of times. Dogs are no exception!

While dogs in general love sticking out their head through the car window without getting sick, canine car sickness is not at all uncommon.

So why does it happen and can it be prevented?

Taking your dog in the car with you is inevitable for many dog owners. If it turns out your dog likes it, traveling with your dog can be great for both of you. However, it can become really unpleasant if your dog doesn’t function well in moving vehicles. Is there anything you can do? And what’s behind it?

Why Do Dogs Get Carsick?

There could be many different reasons behind your dog’s motion sickness. First of all, puppies are more prone to car sickness as their equilibrium is not fully developed yes. This means that the ear structures responsible for balance are not completely developed. This is why some puppies outgrow this with time and stop getting car sick. However, not all puppies do.

A common reason behind car sickness is stress. For instance, if your dog knows that you’re going by car someplace unpleasant, for instance the vet or to someone it doesn’t like, it’s highly likable that the sickness is caused by a strong, negative emotion.

Another common reason is a so-called conditioned reaction. This means that your dog may have linked car rides with vomiting, if that was his first experience in the car. Later on, even when the equilibrium is fully developed and the stress gone, the dog is still associating car rides with nausea.

What Are The Warning Signs?

If you notice any of the following signs in the car, you can be pretty sure that your dog is getting carsick:

  • Excessive drooling
  • Ongoing whining
  • Lack of energy
  • Vomiting
  • Lethargy
  • Licking lips
  • Yawning
  • Regurgitation

How Can Motion Sickness Be Prevented?

Fortunately, there are many tips and tricks when it comes to treating and preventing car sickness in dogs. The two are often interchangeable, so we’ll list the most common ways to tackle car sickness here:

  • Lower the car window a couple of centimeters. This will balance the air pressure in the car which can reduce the nausea. You should also make sure the car is cool and ventilated, as unpleasant smells can make the situation even worse.
  • Don’t let your dog eat too much before the car ride. Then right before, give him a small piece of candy as they seem to reduce sickness. However, never give chocolate or other treats with xylitol as they’re toxic to dogs.
  • For some dogs, the cure to car sickness is an empty stomach. Make sure your dog doesn’t eat anything for some time before the car ride. Give water instead, in limited amounts.
  • Stop often. If your dog gets carsick only during long rides, maybe the problem is they’re too long. Make frequent stops and give your dog time to walk around a bit and do what it has to do. During the breaks, you can give water or ice cubes.
  • Give treats you know your dog likes. Just don’t overdo it as you don’t want your dog to get sick from too many treats.
  • Strap you dog into the seat with a special seat belt for canines, as this will make the dog face forward and reduce the chances of nausea.
  • However, if the motion sickness is linked with negative experiences, it’ll be necessary to change your dog’s perception.

    How Do I Change My Dog’s Perception Of Car Travel?

    As mentioned, the reason behind your dog’s car sickness could be negative associations with car rides. So, you’ll have to transform the car experiences into something positive. Check out the following tips:

    • Choose a pleasant destination that’s a short ride from your home. It could be a park, the beach or something else you know your dog likes and where he feels relaxed. Once you reach the destination, play with your dog and spend as much quality time together you think necessary. When you get back home, spend time with your dog, just like at the destination. After a couple of hours you can give your dog treats. Repeat this a couple of times and extend the length of the car rides gradually – with time your dog will hopefully understand that car rides don’t have to be a negative experience.
    • Drive on a nice road with a nice view. Make sure your dog can see the scenery and encourage him or her to look out the window. This can prevent nausea and will make your dog link car rides with something pleasant to look at.
    • If you can, change vehicle. Your dog may have associated motion sickness with the car it was in the first time the sickness happened. Big cars could be a good idea, as the dog will have more space and won’t feel so claustrophobic.
    • Buy new, special toys your dog will associate with the car ride. Don’t bring them home with you; your dog should only play with them in the car.
    • Bring along someone who can distract the dog. If you’re alone in the car, you can’t distract your dog and drive at the same time. Naturally, it should be someone your dog feels comfortable with. You can also bring some toys your dog likes as a distraction.
    • Build the tolerance to cars gradually. Have your dog approach the car at first and spend some time in it, without turning it on. When the dog feels comfortable in the car, start taking very short rides (a couple of minutes) and make them longer and longer every time.

    Before you read on, check out these 5 home remedies in the video below!

    What If Nothing Works?

    If your dog doesn’t outgrow this problem or responds to any of the previous tricks, there’s one option left – medication. Just like people, dogs too can benefit from medication as a way to prevent motion sickness. There are a lot of different medications, prescription and over-the-counter. The most common are:

    • Anti-nausea drugs
    • Prescription drugs, for sedation and reduced vomiting
    • Antihistamines, reduce drooling and sickness

    Conclusion

    Yes, dogs can get carsick as well! Even though you maybe though that car rides are something all dogs enjoy, that’s not necessarily true. In fact, most dog owners experience this at some point.

    Motion sickness is more common in puppies, as their equilibrium isn’t fully developed. However, nausea can also be associated with stress or because the dog has linked car rides with their first negative experiences.

    Fortunately, there are a lot of ways you can prevent this from happening. The most important thing to do is to change the dog’s perception of car rides and transform it into a pleasant experience. There are also tones of small tips and tricks you can do, such as opening the window a bit or reducing food intake prior to the car ride.

    The bottom line is – this is not a serious problem and is something almost every dog and dog owner go through. Some find out the hard way, but if you haven’t yet – be prepared that it could happen and try to deal with it accordingly.

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