Dog travel sickness is a common affliction that can make even short trips stressful for your furry friend. Much like in people, travel sickness causes nausea, vomiting, and anxiety for dogs who suffer from it. Fortunately, there are several things that you can do to manage your pup’s symptoms, from counter-conditioning them to providing motion sickness medicines.
If your dog shows signs of canine travel sickness, it’s best to talk to your vet. Motion sickness can be caused by anything from inner ear problems or vestibular disease, to anxiety and traumatic experiences in the car. Only your vet can accurately diagnose your dog, so don’t delay in asking for advice.
What Are the Symptoms of Dog Travel Sickness
The symptoms of motion sickness in dogs are similar to those in humans. If your dog experiences motion sickness, they will show signs of nausea, including excessive drooling, swallowing a lot, panting, and retching. Some dogs will vomit after showing these signs. Because they feel sick, some dogs will yawn, whine, and pace in the vehicle and may struggle to settle. Other dogs become lethargic and inactive as they try to cope with the discomfort. Finally, some dogs will have diarrhea as a result of travel sickness.
Understandably, some dogs become anxious about traveling because of their travel sickness. This stress can make their symptoms much worse and even short journeys can become a struggle. Signs that your pooch is afraid to travel include shaking before travel, having accidents in the car, and refusing to get inside the car. Other dogs might bark and whimper in distress.
Why Dog Travel Sickness Happens
Motion sickness in puppies and young dogs is common. This may be because parts of the inner ear are not fully developed yet, and as a result, the inner ear is not yet able to regulate your pup’s balance. Travel sickness due to this is often known as “true” travel sickness. Some puppies “outgrow” this kind of true travel sickness by the time they reach one year of age. Similarly, some dogs with vestibular conditions may be predisposed to nausea, especially in the car. But if your dog is older and free from vestibular conditions, what else is to blame?
Many dogs become anxious and feel sick when traveling simply because they are not used to it. Not only are many dogs not properly conditioned to be in a vehicle, but the overwhelming stimuli that come from being inside one can be stressful too.
There are many sights, sounds, and smells that can be frightening to a dog that has not encountered them before. Dogs that travel only to visit the vet, for example, may also associate travel with a stressful experience. This leads to more anxiety and distress, worsening your dog’s symptoms and causing more vomiting and diarrhea. With all of this in mind, it often helps to counter-condition dogs that are afraid of travel.
How to Treat Dogs With Motion Sickness
Some over-the-counter medicines are effective at treating symptoms of motion sickness in dogs. However, these medicines do not address the underlying cause. Make sure to speak with your vet about your dog’s symptoms, as severe anxiety and vestibular disorders can lead to travel sickness in dogs. As always, check with your vet before giving your pooch any medicine – they can tell you the best dose for your dog.
Benadryl is a vet-approved antihistamine that you can buy over the counter. While Benadryl is usually prescribed for humans, it can also be safely given to dogs in moderation. Generally speaking the dose for a dog is 1 milligram per pound of bodyweight. This means that one 25 milligram tablet is suitable for a 25 lbs dog. But how does Benadryl help with motion sickness? In summary, antihistamines like Benadryl appear to dull the inner ear’s ability to detect motion. As well as this, they block messages that go to the part of the brain that controls nausea. Benadryl is thus best taken before travel to prevent your dog’s nausea, rather than during travel or after travel.
Dramamine, or Dimenhydrinate, is an over-the-counter antihistamine and anticholinergic drug for treating travel sickness and nausea. Similar to Benadryl, Dramamine helps with travel sickness by disrupting the vestibular system in your dog’s ears. The best way to find the appropriate dosage for your pet is to speak with your vet, as they can take into account your dog’s size, health, and age. When giving your dog a Dramamine tablet, 2 to 4mg per pound of body weight is usually safe when given in 8-hour intervals. Be aware of the potential side effects of Dramamine, which include diarrhea, sleepiness, a dry mouth, and difficulty going to the toilet. Overall, Dramamine is a less potent form of Benadryl.
Similar to Benadryl and Dramamine, Bonine is an antihistamine that helps to treat travel sickness in dogs. Bonine inhibits the vestibular system in the inner ear which helps to prevent nausea. While all of this sounds promising, you must not give Bonine to a dog with glaucoma, heart disease, high blood pressure, or seizure disorders. These tablets can also cause dizziness and disorientation whilst calming your dog’s stomach. Make sure to talk to your vet about giving your pet Bonine before trying it. If your vet approves of your use of Bonine, the most common dose is 25mg once daily.
How to Prevent Car Sickness in Dogs
True travel sickness in dogs is manageable and there are measures that you can take to help your dog feel better. Your aim is to make your pup’s car ride as comfortable as possible.
First, keep your car cool and provide proper ventilation. Overheating can lead to more stress and worsening symptoms, so preventing this from happening is a good measure to take.
You may also lower a car window to balance the air pressure for your dog.
Additionally, you may consider investing in a dog seatbelt attached to a harness to help your dog to look forward rather than sideways. Lastly, some dogs benefit from traveling in crates for added security and safety. While traveling in a crate does not guarantee that your dog will face forward, many people use crates to help more anxious dogs feel safe.
What to Do if Your Dog Has Associated Car Travel With Stress
Counter-conditioning often helps to treat anxiety associated with travel in dogs. The best way to do this is to begin with several short trips before taking longer journeys. This may take several days or weeks to be effective, as you cannot force your dog to “get over” their anxiety and they need plenty of time to adjust. Make sure that your dog is confident with each step before going on with the next one and always reward their progress with training treats or dog toys.
Your aim is to build up your dog’s confidence in traveling over time. You can begin by walking your dog to the car at times when you do not intend to travel. Reward your pooch for being near the car. Once your dog is confident to approach the car, start encouraging them to jump inside with the engine off. Once your dog is happy getting inside, repeat this, and try turning on the engine.
The next day, do this again, but this time back out of the driveway and then return. When your dog is confident inside the car, you can try driving for one or two minutes and gradually build up the journeys over time. Do not forget to monitor your dog closely and look for signs of anxiety and nausea, taking breaks if you need to. Also try to provide areas of safety for your dog, such as a home blanket or travel bed.
Dog Travel Sickness Symptoms – FAQs
Have any more questions or concerns about dog travel sickness? Feel free to browse our Frequently Asked Questions section for more details. If in doubt about your pet’s health, always ask your vet for advice.
Your vet can prescribe or recommend medication to help your dog’s travel sickness. Certain types of over-the-counter medications, herbs, and CBD oil have shown effectiveness in managing symptoms of dog travel sickness. Over-the-counter medications include antihistamines like Benadryl and Dramamine. Similarly, ginger is a herb with anecdotal evidence as being effective in controlling nausea. There are no specific studies to show how ginger helps dogs with car sickness, but some vets swear by it. Ginger can be given in powder, capsule, or fresh root form with or without food. You should use ginger with caution if your dog also takes NSAIDs or anti-coagulants. As with any treatment, it’s best to talk to your vet about what to give to your dog for motion sickness.
CERENIA® (maropitant citrate) is the only FDA-approved veterinary drug for treating symptoms of motion sickness in dogs. The manufacturer of CERENIA® suggests giving your dog this medication with a small amount of food two hours before traveling, once a day for up to two days in a row. These tablets are prescription-only, so you will need to talk to your vet about your dog’s travel sickness before you can use any.
Puppies often outgrow true motion sickness by the time they are one year old. This is because the structures of the inner ear have time to completely develop, and by this age, puppies are accustomed to traveling. Like in humans, motion sickness’ symptoms should resolve as soon as the motion stops, but they may last for an hour or two in more severe cases.
Dogs can get car sick and throw up because nausea is a symptom of motion sickness. This symptom occurs because of a conflict of signals between the brain and the inner ear. While the ear detects movement and balance, the eyes detect a stationary object, and this conflict causes disorientation symptoms such as nausea and vomiting.
There are no studies to suggest that CBD oil helps dogs with car sickness. However, a 2010 study highlights the potential for CBD as an anti-emetic in a range of emetic species. Cannabinoids help to control vomiting in cats, pigeons, ferrets, and least shrews. As nausea and vomiting are key symptoms of car sickness, CBD thus has potential in managing these distressing symptoms. More research is necessary before we can confidently recommend CBD oil for car sickness in dogs.
Dog travel sickness doesn’t have to be a permanent problem for your pooch. With counter-conditioning, supplements, or veterinary medication, your dog can learn to enjoy life on the road just as much as you do! As always, be sure to check in with your vet before giving your dog any new medicines.