My Dog Gets Car Sick – What Causes Motion Sickness in Dogs

Picture of a Cocker Spaniel in a car

“Roadtrip!!!!!!” Who doesn’t get excited when they hear these words? Every family loves to go on vacation, and travelling by car can be a lot of fun. Since Fido is a firmly situated as an important part of your family, he’s on board to come along, and his “suitcase” is already packed. Trouble is last time you took Fido on a road trip it was pretty clear that his stomach would have rather stayed at home.

Car sickness is a problem that befalls many dogs. Yet it is necessary for car travel to play a part in your dog’s life.  After all, there are times when he will need to go to the vet, and it’s just not feasible for you walk him there. Many of Fido’s favorite haunts are a car ride away as well including his favorite day care, the groomer that he has come to love, and even some of his canine friends he meets up with for play dates.  But perhaps the biggest impetus for taking a car ride, in Fido’s estimation, is he has to get in there if he wants to go to the pet store.

Convincing Fido to get in the car is not that difficult a job. He seems to like the idea of going for a car ride. It’s once he’s in there, and the car begins to move that the problem starts. Your pooch suffers from canine carsickness.

Why does Your Dog get Carsick

There is no rhyme or reason as to why some dogs experience carsickness and others do not. Nor is there a common thread between whether it occurs only on short trips or longer ones. Some dogs respond poorly to motion just as some humans do, and the ensuing result is carsickness.

It has been suggested by experts that carsickness in dogs is similar to carsickness in humans. Motion sickness is most often seen in children as opposed to adults, though adults can suffer from it as well. In human beings, motion sickness is often the result of a lack of mature ear development which regulates our sense of balance.  As a child grows and his sense of balance is finalized, his motion sickness ceases.  While we do not know for certain if this is the case with canines, it is certainly possible.

Quite often in transporting puppies, owners will find the results of canine carsickness in the puppy’s crate. Yet as the puppy grows into an adult dog, motion sickness is rarely, if ever, seen.

Other leading experts propose that stress might be responsible for motion sickness in our dogs.  If your dog consistently throws up every time he goes on a car ride, he will likely start to associate the car with feeling unwell.  This anticipation of future illness might be sufficient to precipitate a reoccurrence.

It is also possible that if your dog only ever goes in the car when the final destination is some place that he doesn’t like that that triggers a stress response in him which then leads to being sick in the car. In this sense, it has little to do with motion and everything to do with EMOTION.

How you can prevent motion sickness in your dog

If your dog has suffered from motion sickness in the past, there are some things that you can do to try to help him.

Here are some ideas that may assist you in teaching Fido that road trips can be fun:

Travel to a destination that is fun for your dog

If your dog has learned to associate car trips with going places he really doesn’t like, it’s time to change his perception of the car. Choose a place that is relatively near to your home that your dog really loves. That’s the next destination for your road trip.

Make certain that you have a travelling partner with you to allow you to spend time with your dog during the trip to your destination.  By talking with him, praising him, and even playing with him, you can ease the stress of the journey for your dog.  And of course, once you arrive at your desired location, Fido will be leaping for joy!

Repeat this plan on the return car trip home.  Over time, Fido will learn that car trips don’t always lead to places that cause him discomfort.  Car trips can be fun too, and best of all, they lead to quality time spent with you.

Only enter the car on an empty stomach
Chances are quite good that if your dog has an empty stomach, he will have very little that he can throw up when in your car. When you plan to take Fido along with you in your vehicle, try to refrain from feeding him any food or treats for up to 6-8 hours prior to leaving the house. Water is still acceptable and encouraged.

While this technique works for some dogs, other dogs can become ill from not eating and benefit from having a little bit of food on their stomach prior to a road trip. Trial and error is what will work best here.

Stop often for breaks
Sometimes our dogs just don’t like being confined, and who can blame them? While you are working with your dog to prevent motion sickness, take frequent breaks. Short little walks with Fido will provide him with something to look forward to. You will enjoy these little forays to admire scenery you otherwise would have simply passed by, and Fido will appreciate the opportunity to stretch his legs and check and leave some “pee-mail”.

Keep your dog’s mind and body engaged
Bringing along your dog’s favorite toys is a great way to keep his mind and his body occupied.  Familiarity helps to calm stress, and giving your dog something else to focus on may help keep his tummy settled.

Make sure your dog has a good view
Dogs love to look out the window and take in what is going on around them. Ensure that Fido has a good vantage point from which to look outside and enjoy the view.

Let in some fresh air
When we are feeling ill, fresh air can sometimes help to settle our stomachs. It is the same for our dogs.  Being confined in an air-conditioned or heated space leads to stale air that stagnates and becomes difficult to breathe. Fresh air clears out the lungs and provides a feeling of refreshment. Breathing is a little easier and clearer, and automatically, both you and Fido feel just a little bit better.

Ask your vet for medication
Unfortunately for some dogs, motion sickness is a way of life, and there is just no getting around it. If that is the case for your dog, you must do all that you can do to keep the stress of travelling to a minimum for your dog.  Part of this strategy may include visiting your vet to discuss the possibility of a motion sickness medication to help your dog rest and remain calm during journeys.

It may also be wise to decide to leave Fido with family or friends or to board him at a reputable day care facility that he enjoys for the duration of your trip. He may be far happier there feeling well and having the comforts of home or a kennel he knows and loves than being with you and feeling sick the entire time away.

Motion sickness can be a real problem for some dogs.  Some will outgrow it; others will not.  Follow these few simple tips to help Fido learn that the car can be a vehicle that leads him to exciting new adventures!



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