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Travel Sickness

So you and pup are happily cruising down the road on a sunny Sunday afternoon on your way to a play in the park. Suddenly, he's not looking so hot. Before you know it, those treats you gave him before you left home have reappeared - in a puddle of vomit all over your freshly vacuumed seats.

Dog travel sickness, or motion sickness, can make even a quick trip up the road a stressful experience for you and your dog. Fortunately, there are things you can do to conquer pup's nausea and make travelling a tail wagging adventure again.

What Causes Dog Travel Sickness?

Ear development

Just like car and air sickness affects more children than adults, dog motion sickness is more common in puppies and adolescents than in older dogs. This is because the ear structures used for balance aren't fully developed in puppies and young dogs.

Car equals blahh

Not all dogs grow out of motion sickness. If the first few car rides of your dog's life made him or her sick, they may associate travel with vomiting, even after their ears have fully matured.

Worried sick

Nausea may cause anxiety and this can further aggravate the situation. Motion sickness can create a vicious cycle.

How can I tell if my dog has travel sickness?

Furry faces mean dogs don't turn a tinge of green like humans when they're experiencing motion sickness, but there are some signs you can look out for, such as:

  • Sluggishness
  • Lethargy
  • Anxiety
  • Yawning
  • Excessive drooling
  • Whining
  • Vomiting

If you are unsure if your dog has motion sickness you can take a short quiz at www.dogsinmotion.ca

How Can I Treat My Dog's Travel Sickness?

Make the car ride as comfortable as possible for your dog:

Face front not side

Make your dog face forward rather than looking out the side windows. It's not a good idea to let them ride in the front passenger seat, because of the dangers of airbags. Instead, you could either use a specially designed dog seat belt or let them ride in a crate.

Lower the windows a little

Lowering your car windows a couple of inches while the car is moving helps balance the air pressure inside with the air pressure outside. It also keeps your car cool and well ventilated.

Less food before travel

Don't give your dog a big meal before you hit the road. Then, right before the trip, give them a small sugary treat (like a jellybean), which is known to reduce sensations of nausea. But remember, chocolate is poisonous to dogs so never use this as a treat.

Tips For Stopping Travel Sickness By Association

If your dog equates riding in the car with stress and sickness, you can:

  • Take a break from car trips for a couple of weeks
  • Use a different car
  • Go on short car trips to places your dog enjoys, like the park.

Then slowly build up your dog's tolerance to car trips again by:

  • Getting them used to approaching the car
  • Spend some time in the car with the engine off
  • Take trips around the block

Using treats to make the car a fun place (but not too many or those car seats could be under attack again)
giving them special toys just for the car.

How Do I Treat And Prevent My Dog From Getting Travel Sickness?

Your veterinarian can prescribe medication for your dog to prevent motion sickness. There are innovate new products available which are developed just for pets to help make motion sickness a thing of the past.

If your dog suffers from travel sickness, or you are all heading away on a holiday, talk to your veterinarian about what's best for your pawed passenger.

Additional Information

To download a fact sheet about how to prepare your dog for travel, click here.

Veterinary Partner: Canine Behaviour Series
Carsick Puppies
Kathy Diamond Davis, Trainer

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