When our Jack Russell/terrier mix sisters Sophie and Kelly were puppies, we began taking them with us when we’d go for rides. Kelly loved hopping in the back seat and she settled right in, but Sophie wasn’t as keen about it. In fact, our very first ride ended with Sophie throwing up in the back seat. There is hope, however, for dogs that get carsick.
What causes carsickness in dogs?
The ear structure of puppies is still developing, and their balance is thrown off when they are in a moving vehicle. Usually it’s just puppies and young dogs that have a problem with an upset stomach, but a dog that experienced nausea in the car as a puppy may carry that anxiety with him as he gets older. If a dog equates an unpleasant experience – such as a trip to the vet or to a house where the cat picks on him – with riding in the car, he can make himself sick worrying about where he’s going. You may actually be going to visit someone he loves or taking him to a dog park to hang out with his canine buddies, but he doesn’t know that.
Signs of carsickness
The end result is vomit in the backseat, but before that happens most dogs will be inactive, uncomfortable, listless or uneasy. They may whine, yawn or drool. Some dogs will have a definite “I’m going to throw up” look. Others, like my dog Sophie, won’t show any signs of carsickness and will throw up with no warning. Sophie has always been apprehensive about getting in the car, so we’re always prepared, “just in case.”
It’s important to try and make a car ride as pleasant and positive as you can to help reduce the stress your dog is feeling. Instead of just taking him in the car for vet visits, include other trips where the destination gives him something fun to do, like a dog park or an afternoon hike. Teach him that car rides can also be fun which can help reduce his stress.
Most dogs love riding in cars, unless they have been traumatized at an early age. When you brought your dog home for the first time, did they ride in your car? Even if your dog was delivered to you in another vehicle, your dog has an instinctual understanding that allows them to see your car as an extension of the pack’s space, as well as its importance to the pack.
Have you ever parked next to a vehicle with a dog in it that went absolutely nuts for seemingly no reason? Has your own dog ever protected your car after you left them in it? Any dog left in a vehicle is capable of acting this way because they see the family car as a movable den. They feel safe in it just as they do at home. Dogs like having a job to do, and they’ll watch over the vehicle you have left them in charge of. It is instinct that makes a dog guard the vehicle they are in. You’re the alpha member of the pack, and as a lesser member some dogs feel the need to defend your vehicle to the best of their ability.
Skye loves to sit and watch the scenery passing by the truck window. I’m amazed that she doesn’t get dizzy at times trying to see everything at once. She never gets bored, and is always interested in what she is watching. On long road trips she has been known to lie down for a bit, but then she will hear or smell something and she is up like a jack-in-the-box to see what she might be missing. Have you ever looked back as you are entering a store to see what your dog is doing in your vehicle? I have, and Skye’s gaze is often glued to me as I enter the store. What makes this more interesting is that when I exit the store, it isn’t long before she catches my scent and stands up, and her body begins to wag as I return to my truck.
Dogs also love riding in cars because of all the odors that come in through the vents and the windows that are cracked. Cow manure laid on a newly plowed field; the llamas, sheep and goats in a field we pass by, newly mown grass in the road ditches. Maybe it is the French fries at the local McDonald’s my dog smells as we drive by. Whatever it is, her nose is glued to the dashboard vents.
As a responsible pet owner, I don’t take Skye with me when the temperatures are too warm or cold for her. We’ve already had temperatures here that could cause her to have heat stroke if I left her in the car. Even on a cloudy day, if the temperature is warm enough (with or without humidity) a car can heat to dangerous levels in a matter of minutes, and cracking the window won’t help your pet.
You should make sure your dog is restrained in your vehicle. I used a short lead attached to Skye’s collar and tethered to the truck. Doggy seat belts and harnesses are available and while giving your dog freedom, will keep them safe. Don’t allow your dog to hang their head out the window, because flying bugs and debris from vehicles around you can injure them. For more information on how to protect your dog in the car, see my article Vehicle Safety and Your Dog.
If your dog suffers from motion sickness, don’t feed or water them before you travel. They won’t suffer from not eating and are less apt to disgorge their meal on your car seats. Discuss using a medication for motion sickness with your vet or homeopath, but be sure to test it at home before you travel. Traveling with your dog can be a wonderful experience; it opens your eyes to a different point of view.
The personal opinions and/or use of trade, corporate or brand names, is for information and convenience only. Such use does not constitute an endorsement by CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods of any product or service. Opinions are those of the individual authors and not necessarily of CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods.
The personal opinions and/or use of trade, firm, corporation or brand names, in this blog is for the information and convenience of the reader. Such use does not constitute an official endorsement or approval by CANIDAE® Natural Pet Food Company of any product or service to the exclusion of others that may be suitable. All opinions in this blog are those of the individual authors and not necessarily of CANIDAE® Natural Pet Food Company.