Motion Sickness in Dogs

For anyone who has ever had a dog vomit on a car ride, you know that motion sickness in dogs is real.  It can make even the shortest of trips with your pet stressful for you and your dog.  Fortunately, there are things to do make car rides more enjoyable for everyone.

So what causes motion sickness in dogs?  Searching the web, I found out that motion sickness is more common in puppies because the ear structures that control balance are not fully developed.  While most dogs will outgrow motion sickness, there are some that will not.  If your dog experienced motion sickness as a puppy, he may associate those feelings every time he travels in the car.  So this stress will make your dog worry himself sick on any car trip (and not because he is going to visit his friendly vet.

Learning to identify the signs of motion sickness in your dog will go a long way to making everybody’s trip more enjoyable.  Some signs include:

  • Listlessness
  • Nervousness
  • Whining
  • Excessive drooling
  • Vomiting

Making the car ride as comfortable as possible also helps.  Placing your dog in a specially designed seat belt, or a crate will help to get your dog facing forward instead of looking out the side windows.  With more and more cars having front passenger airbags having your dog in the front seat is not a good idea.  Lowering the car windows a bit will help to balance the outside air pressure to the air pressure in the car.  Humans don’t like a hot, humid car, so keeping your vehicle a little cooler with air movement goes a long way to keeping everyone  comfortable.  Of course, limiting what your dog eats right before a car trip also goes a long way in preventing any unfortunate accidents!

There are also a few ways to help your dog disassociate the stressful feelings of riding in the car:

  • Not making any road trips for a week or two;
  • Changing vehicles to help disassociate riding in just one car;
  • Taking shorter trips to places your dog likes to go (like to the park);
  • Sitting in the car with your dog with the engine off, do this for a few days then take short trips (around the block);
  • Giving a few special food treats when in the car (not too many to make him nauseated;
  • Finding a favourite toy and keeping it in only in the car.

If these preventive tactics fail and your dog does not outgrow motion sickness, there are over the counter and prescription medications that may lessen the severity of the symptoms.  Remember to consult with your vet about what the best treatment is for your dog’s motion sickness.