Wanna go for a car ride? Some dogs go absolutely nuts when they hear these words. With a wagging tail and happy face, they just can’t wait to jump into the backseat and take off for an adventure. But, others dread the whole ordeal. If you’ve ever experienced a bout of car sickness then you can probably understand why. No one enjoys a queasy tummy and feeling like they’re on the verge of vomiting. But, car sickness is a common problem for both people and dogs … especially young puppies under one year old.
Read on to discover the two main causes, symptoms, and tips to cure canine car sickness.
Why Do Dogs Get Carsick
The two most common reasons dogs get carsick are from anxiety and motion.
Anxiety: First impressions matter. And, if you think about it from your dog’s perspective, their first (second and probably even third) impression of the car typically isn’t so great. Usually, they get in and go somewhere like the vet’s office where they get touched by strangers and stuck with needles; the groomer where they get scrubbed in the tub and blasted with the loud hairdryer; a daycare or boarding facility when you’re busy and need help caring for him. This anxiety can cause your furkid to feel a bout of car sickness as soon as you hit the gas pedal.
Motion: Dogs can get also sick from a car’s motion, especially puppies under one year old. That’s because the vestibular system — which is responsible for equilibrium and balance — hasn’t fully developed in puppies. The vestibular system — which is located in the inner ear — is an intricate system of nerves and semicircular fluid-filled canals that help the body gather information about position and spatial orientation. It also directly communicates with the part of the brain that signals nausea. Many pups will outgrow this, but, for some, it will continue.
Signs and Symptoms of Car Sickness
- Lips pulled back and tight facial muscles
- Wide eyes
Curbing Car Sickness in Dogs
Go For Short, Frequent Trips
Gradually introducing your canine kid to the car is essential, whether they’re dealing with travel anxiety or true motion sickness. Ideally, you’ll make this introduction when your dog is still a young puppy. But, these steps can still help mature dogs.
- Start by sitting with your pup in a stationary car. Introduce them to their car seat or preferred safety restraint. Offer treats and lots of praise!
- Once your pup seems calm and comfortable just sitting in the car, go for a quick ride. And by “quick” I mean really quick! For this first trip, just drive to the end of your driveway. Or, if you live in an apartment complex, drive to the other side of the parking lot. Then stop, get out, and let your pup stretch his legs. Make sure to offer lots of verbal praise and petting. After a few minutes, head back into your garage or your normal parking spot and go about your day. This will help your dog get used to the feeling of a moving car, while also showing him not all rides end somewhere scary.
- For your next outing, simply take your pup around the block.
- Once your pup seems comfortable with these super short trips, go for a slightly longer drive. Maybe you take him with you to a nearby strip mall or park. Wherever you take him, just make the destination fun.
These steps to get your dog more comfortable with the car may take a few days or several weeks. It all depends on your dog’s unique personality. Just remember to stay calm and never scold him for getting nervous or sick, as that will just make matters worse.
While your veterinarian can prescribe an anti-anxiety medicine, there are natural remedies you can try first.
- CBD Oil – This liquid gold helps to ease anxiety and promote calm inside the body. You can learn more about CBD oil for dog anxiety HERE.
- Dog Appeasing Pheromone (DAP) – DAP is a synthetic chemical that’s based on a hormone produced by lactating female dogs. It’s this hormone that helps keep puppies calm. While scientific studies show DAP works with puppies, researchers say it’s unclear if DAP works with anxious adult dogs. Still, if your dog is nervous in the car, it may be worth a try! While DAP comes in plug-in diffusers for the house, they also offer spray bottles for travel (check it out HERE) and calming collars (check those out HERE)!
- Thunder Jacket – A thunder jacket is a lot like swaddling a baby. The tightly wrapped garment applies pressure to your dog’s body, promoting a cuddly and secure feeling. This continuous pressure is believed to calm an anxious dog’s nerves.
- Pimp Your Ride – Pack the car with your dog’s favorite blanket and some special toys to make your vehicle a more inviting space.
- Exercise – Before your pup experiences a stressful situation (like going for a car ride), it’s great to squeeze in some exercise and mental stimulation. Going for a walk around your community, playing frisbee, throwing the ball for a game of fetch, working on new tricks, or agility training will help tire out your pooch and act as a great stress reliever. First, it stimulates the production of serotonin, a feel-good brain chemical. Plus, exercise gets rid of pent-up energy that can make an anxiety attack worse.
Traveling on a full stomach can worsen motion sickness symptoms and leave you cleaning up a pile of dog puke. So, it’s best to pull food several hours before a trip.
Cracking the car windows a couple of inches while driving can help balance out the air pressure, possibly reducing your dog’s nausea. Plus, since hot and stuffy temperatures can add fuel to the car sickness fire, a little air to keep the car well ventilated can go a long way.
Use a Booster Seat
Doggy booster seats are beneficial for a few reasons:
- They keep your pup anchored securely into the car.
- They give tiny dogs a better view of the world around them. For toy breeds, the motion of a moving car without a view of the road can trigger a queasy tummy.
- They keep your pup facing forward. As you already know from experience, looking out of the side windows causes objects to blur, which can make motion sickness worse.
Did you know ginger is a natural nausea remedy? Plus, it’s safe for dogs. Talk to your vet about ginger capsules (they’re easy to find at most health food or drug stores).
If all else fails, talk to your veterinarian about anti-nausea medications that help to prevent motion sickness and vomiting. There are several prescription medications on the market – your vet will recommend the best one for your pup. Your vet will also determine the best dosing for your dog’s weight and show you how to properly administer it.