Some dogs seem so happy when they’re riding in the car. They hear the car keys jingle and they’re ready to hop in for an adventure. They stick their heads out the window and feel the breeze. They share their excitement with other dogs in other cars.
Other dogs... are the complete opposite.
Some dogs strongly dislike car rides. In some cases, they even get sick. This leads to unhappy dogs and very messy seats that someone with a strong stomach needs to clean up.
More important than the stains on your seats is the health and welfare of your pup. Inevitably, your dog will need to leave the house for vet appointments and the occasional family outing. How do you make this experience tolerable for your canine companion?
Car sickness is a form of motion sickness, which is relatively common in dogs. Younger dogs are more likely to be affected than older dogs, and your dog’s disposition will play a role in the way the symptoms of car sickness manifest.
Addressing the causes of car sickness and taking preventative measures can help your pet get from point A to point B with as little stress as possible.
What Causes Car Sickness in Dogs?
Several things can contribute to car sickness in dogs. Some of them can be overcome with management techniques, while others may require the assistance of a veterinarian.
Stress and Uncertainty
Some dogs have outgoing and adventurous personalities. They like to meet new people and new pets while traveling to exciting places.
Dogs that prefer their routine and don’t often go on expeditions may be emotionally tense about the car ride. They don’t know where they’re going or what’s happening.
If the last time your dog got in the car, they were spayed, neutered, or underwent an uncomfortable procedure of some kind, your dog remembers. The same goes for dogs who were dropped at a shelter by their previous owner.
Dogs have strong memories. Their association with car trips might be provoking a negative emotional and physical response if it’s aligned with a bad experience.
Something Your Dog Ingested
Dogs traveling on a full stomach, particularly if they’ve eaten people food, may be more sensitive to motion sickness. Some medications can also cause nausea or diarrhea as a side effect, and the excitement and motion of a car ride may cause a bodily response.
Inner Ear Conditions
Some dogs are more prone to motion sickness due to conditions relating to their inner ear. The inner ear controls balance, and if it can’t find equilibrium, fast or unpredictable motion may make your dog sick. If your dog also gets sick from playing or running, a trip to the vet is in order. It’s best to rule out any serious underlying conditions.
How To Tell If Your Dog Is Experiencing Motion Sickness
Many dogs will vomit or have diarrhea as a result of motion sickness, but it doesn’t always present the same way in every dog. The duration of the car trip can contribute to the significance or array of symptoms.
- Vomiting or heaving
- Diarrhea and gas
- Panting or excessive salivating
- Whining or crying
- Attempts to find a way out of the car
If you believe your dog is experiencing motion sickness, find a safe place to pull over. Your dog may need to vomit or relieve themselves, and standing on stable ground will give your dog a nice break.
Preventing Car Sickness in Dogs
The risks for car sickness can be minimized by better preparing your dog and your car for the trip. Some dogs may always express mild symptoms of car sickness, but doing everything within your ability to make the trip pleasant can help your dog adapt.
Prepare for the Trip
If your dog has a tendency to vomit or have diarrhea before a car trip, plan in advance. Withholding food for 8 to 12 hours can reduce the potential for both events. Don’t restrict access to water, as this poses the risk of dehydration. Feed your dog once you’re home and settled in.
Make Your Car Accommodating
A hot car blasting loud music will make the environment feel too chaotic for your dog who is already stressed by the circumstances.
Keep your car cool and ensure that the air conditioning can reach your dog. Instead of playing loud music, opt for something softer. A podcast or talk radio at a reasonable volume may be easier for your dog to handle, especially if your pet is used to listening to people talking.
Dogs rely heavily on their sense of smell. If your dog has a blanket, bed, or stuffed toy that smells like home, bring it on the trip. This will make the car feel like a more familiar place. Alternatively, taking a well-worn dirty shirt out of your hamper can serve the same purpose. Your dog will have your scent close by, which may evoke feelings of security.
Keep Your Dog Calm
Many dog owners find that pet-safe CBD can help to soothe environmentally-induced distress in their dogs. Give your dog a weight-appropriate dose of VetCBD Hemp’s CBD Tincture about an hour before your trip. Your dog may feel slightly more relaxed, taking the edge off of the tension they feel about traveling.
Make Your Dog Feel Secure
If your dog paces or scrambles around the car, a pet carrier is a safer option. Your dog may feel more secure in the confines of the carrier and won’t pose dangerous situations, like attempting to jump into your lap for comfort while you’re driving.
If you aren’t using a carrier or if you don’t have one large enough for your dog, keep the windows rolled up to avoid your dog attempting to escape the car.
Give Your Dog a Distraction
Puzzle toys may keep your dog busy on car rides. If you already use a puzzle toy to keep your dog occupied when you’re leaving for work, bringing in the groceries, or cooking dinner, the same technique may work for longer car trips.
Your dog may need some time to adjust to the idea of car trips being a normal part of life. Many people find that bringing their dogs to the pet store is a great way to help them get used to traveling. It certainly doesn’t hurt that pets tend to leave the pet store with special toys or rewards, which may reinforce the idea that travel can be positive.
If you’re planning a coffee meetup with a friend or family member that your dog likes, choose a location with a dog-friendly patio. This gives you the perfect excuse to take your dog on a fun trip where they’ll be rewarded with affection and quality time from someone whose company they enjoy.
If nothing else seems to help, your veterinarian may prescribe CERENIA® (maropitant citrate), the only FDA-approved anti-nausea medication for dogs (and cats).
This is an injectable medication that can be used once daily, and it is non-sedating.
It’s Worth the Effort
If you’re consistent with your efforts to keep your dog calm and comfortable, your dog may eventually come around. They may come to enjoy car trips, especially if they perceive those trips as a calm experience that results in something fun.
In the meantime, VetCBD Hemp’s CBD tincture can help your dog get over the hurdles of that occasional emotional tension.
Dogs Remember More Than You Think | NPR
People Foods to Avoid Feeding Your Pets | ASPCA
Why Does My Dog Sniff Everything? Making Sense of Scents & Noses | AKC
CERENIA (maropitant citrate) - Prevent Canine & Feline Vomiting | Zoetis US