Updated: Oct 25, 2022
What causes this?
Many dogs love car rides and have no problem with motion sickness. However, the majority did not start out that way. It's very common for puppies and young dogs to get car sick from the motion, stress, and excitement. The reason may be due to the fact that the parts of the inner ear involved in balance are not fully developed. They will often “outgrow” motion sickness by the time they are about 18 months old. A lot of adult dogs become anxious during travel due to a lack of conditioning and the overwhelming unusual stimuli associated with moving inside a vehicle. Dogs that travel only a few times a year (typically when visiting the vet) are not used to car rides and often associate the car ride with the stressful experience that follows.
This causes anxiety and stress, and may result in vomiting and diarrhoea. Puppies that experience traumatic or frightening first rides may also associate future travel with that stressful event. Helping your dog overcome the stress and anxiety of travel will mean that your pet can accompany you on trips
Signs your dog may be experiencing motion sickness include:
Whining and pacing
Smacking or licking lips
If you think your dog is going to vomit, stopping the car and taking him for a walk may help temporarily relieve his stress.
How can I prevent motion sickness in my dog?
Desensitizing your dog to car travel may take some work, but it can be accomplished.
The best way to ease your dog’s travel anxiety is by taking several short trips. Start by simply placing your dog in your car, starting the motor, and sitting there without moving for a few minutes. The next day, repeat this process, but back out of your driveway and then return. Be sure to praise your dog and offer a food reward for good behaviour. Next, try a trip around the block. Gradually work your way up to riding comfortably for 20 to 30 minutes.
You cannot force your dog to “get over” or “deal with” his anxiety. Traveling in a confined space in a motor vehicle can be frightening for a dog and requires time to adjust. Make sure you maintain a calm and cool attitude, and do not scold your dog if he begins to howl or whine. Visible anxiety is a sign to stop the current training and start again another day. Continuing to expose your dog to a stressful situation will only cause him to further associate the car with displeasure and fear and cause setbacks in your training. Car rides in a carrier can also be good practice for traveling in an airplane or train.
Tips to make your dog’s travel more enjoyable and help reduce motion sickness
Withhold food 12 hours before travel.
Use a carrier or dog safety harness.
Keep the car cool and quiet.
Include the sweet smell of home. Add a t-shirt or blanket with your scent to your dog’s carrier.
Offer special trip toys.
Also talk to your vet as they have Anti-anxiety medications that can help. Always follow instructions from your veterinarian carefully.
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