A pug sitting in a car seat

It sounds like a cruel joke, but we can assure you, dogs get motion sickness all the time. Contrary to the plethora of images depicting happy dogs riding in cars, trucks, tractors, and everything in between, they simply don’t come equipped to handle the sensations associated with traveling. Instead, like most new things, they have to become acclimated to the experience. 

When it comes to preventing canine car sickness, or easing symptoms, we’ve got you covered!

Early Exposure

After the age of 1, young dogs have a fully developed inner ear. Before that, they really don’t have a strong grasp on their balance. As a result, puppies and younger dogs may acutely feel the effects of canine car sickness more than their older counterparts.

The Right Introduction

Even with fully developed inner ears, many older dogs that didn’t receive a positive introduction to the car, or training opportunities can experience negative side effects. Typically the result of minimal conditioning to the sensations attached to vehicular movement, associated symptoms may be similar to car sickness. 

Both canine car sickness and heightened anxiety/stress can cause vomiting and diarrhea. 

Medical Problems

There are certain medical conditions, such as infections, vestibular disease, or prescription medications that can expose pets to increased waves of nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea. Please contact us with questions about these diagnoses.

Staying In Front Of Issues

Many owners don’t realize their pets aren’t well until the following symptoms become obvious:

  • Whining and increased vocalizations
  • Pacing (different from excitedly looking out through both side windows)
  • Drooling
  • Uncharacteristic lethargy or inactivity
  • Smacking or licking lips

Vomiting and/or diarrhea can quickly follow any of the above. We recommend stopping the car, taking your dog outside, and encouraging them to walk and to relieve themselves. 

Preventing Car Sickness in Dogs

Helping your dog overcome canine car sickness is pretty straightforward, although it requires your patience and time:

  • Place your dog inside the car and start the engine. 
  • The first few times you don’t even have to go anywhere. 
  • Give them lots of reassurance, praise and rewards. 
  • Stay as neutral as possible, your dog is learning to take emotional cues from you. 
  • Over the course of several weeks, take them on numerous short trips (less than 30 minutes) before even thinking about heading out for longer drives. 
  • If you ever see signs of stress or anxiety, stop the process and give them a break.
  • Never scold your dog if they’re having trouble accepting the car.

Crate Training

One of the best things dog owners can do for their best friends is crate training. If they already view their crate as a place of security and comfort, try carrying them inside their crate to the car. Place old t-shirts inside the crate, or their preferred blanket. Provide toys to distract them.

Other Tips for Success

Canine car sickness can be mitigated with soft music and a comfortable, cool temperature inside the car. Insist on hourly bathroom breaks and offer continuous access to cool, clean water. 

For longer trips, try to withhold a big meal within 12 hours of travel. If their tummy is empty, the nausea will be less severe.

If all else fails, we can discuss possible medications to help canine car sickness. As with anything related to your dog’s health and wellness, our team at Brodie Animal Hospital is always here for you.