How to Recognize and Prevent Canine Car Sickness

November 11, 2015

car sick grantBy Langley Cornwell

Most dogs love to ride in the car, no matter whether it’s a short trip to the dog park or on a long road trip. The key phrase here is “most dogs.” For those of us who have dogs that get motion sickness – also called car sickness – it can be a challenge to even take the dog to the vet when necessary. If your dog does not do well in the car, you’ve probably driven past happy dogs with their head sticking out of a car window enjoying the wind, and thought: wouldn’t it be nice to be able to do that with my dog? So, why do some dogs enjoy car trips while other dogs get sick riding in the car?

Fear and Anxiety

If your dog is not accustomed to riding in the car, he may become anxious and essentially work himself up into being sick. Many times, especially in the case of anxiety motion sickness, it can take about 15 minutes before the dog vomits. To alleviate fear and anxiety and help your dog enjoy trips in the car, you will have to train the dog to associate the vehicle with good things.

Without going anywhere, spend time with your dog in the car. Walk the dog out and let him sniff all around the car. Then open the door and reward him with a CANIDAE Grain Free Pure Chewy Treat or his favorite toy when he gets in easily. Join the dog in the car and continue to speak to him while encouraging him to sit in the seat and relax. Simply lying beside you may make the dog feel less anxious about the fact that he’s in the car.

It can take a few days before the dog willingly goes to the car and gets in when you open the door. Once the dog is comfortable being inside the car, the next step is to start the car and move it just a little bit at a time. For example, back out of the driveway and then pull back in. The next day, take a trip around the block.

Always be positive and reward your dog for accepting these changes. Over time you can build up the length of trips in the car, and you’ll notice much less anxiety and car sick flysalivating while the dog is riding along. Slowly desensitize your dog to car travel; before you know it, trips in the car will become second nature with no more pacing, whining or vomiting.

Motion Sickness

Because dogs have a different center of balance and are much smaller than we are, it may be that car trips make some dogs feel off balance, similar to what humans experience when they have motion sickness. Talk to your veterinarian about this. They may recommend special medications that are made for dogs to help alleviate vomiting due to motion sickness.

Some dog pace, pant, yawn, whine and/or shake in the car. Even if he doesn’t vomit, your dog is still most likely suffering from motion sickness. If you’ve gone through the steps to address fear and anxiety and practiced the desensitization tips listed above, it may be time to talk to your vet about a type of anti-anxiety medication that will make car travel easier on your dog.

Despite medication and relieving anxiety, some dogs are just not comfortable riding in the car. If that is the case, you may have to adjust your expectations and only take your dog along when it is absolutely necessary. If your dog suffers from canine car sickness, do yourself a favor and cover the seats and floorboards with easily washable material to prevent a big mess in your car. Good luck!

Top photo by Grant/Flickr
Bottom photo by fly/Flickr

Read more articles by Langley Cornwell

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