Taking your dog on a trip, either a short ride to the park or a longer ride to Grandma’s house, should be fun for you and your canine companion. And for many dog owners this is true – their dogs hop in the car, tail wagging and head hanging out the window, ready to explore the world with you. However, if your dog does not fit into the “happy camper” category and is hesitant about getting in the car, or drools and whines or even throws up on a car ride, your dog is experiencing motion sickness, or gastrointestinal distress, much like a person does, and will need extra care to make the car ride enjoyable for all.
Motion sickness in dogs can be caused by a physical problem, especially if seen in young dogs. Puppies, like children, are more sensitive to car sickness because their equilibrium in their ear has not fully developed. If you suspect that this is the case, your dog will grow out of motion sickness as they mature. If car trips are necessary for the car-sick puppy, try not feeding your puppy for 5 or more hours before the trip, bring toys and even a human or canine companion to ride with your puppy for distraction and comfort, and take frequent outdoor breaks. In extreme cases, your veterinarian may suggest over the counter or prescription medication for your car sick puppy.
Motion sickness in dogs can also be caused by an emotional problem, most often the effect of a bad car riding experience at a young age, or sometimes the result of the car ride always being associated with a veterinarian appointment or kennel boarding. If this is the case, you can help your dog overcome this fear by taking a number of short car trips to fun destinations. To help the tummy, don’t feed your dog several hours before the car ride, have plenty of water, open the windows (not too far) for fresh air, bring along toys and, if possible, a human or canine companion for distraction, and make frequent fun stops! Play with your dog before and after your car ride, giving plenty of praise.
Traveling with your dog and exploring new places is a fun adventure for all! Overcoming motion sickness in your dog is possible with time and effort. And remember, even a short trip requires preparation. Always have water on hand, a leash for outside the car, and plan to stop often. And let the wind ruffle your fur!