Dogs and car rides. They seem to go together like bees and honey. There are times when it can be stressful to take dogs for car rides, though, and chief among these is when your dog has car sickness. It’s no fun for you to clean up the car, and it must not be any fun for your dog to feel sick, either. What can be done about car sickness in dogs?
Causes of Car Sickness in Dogs
It helps to understand the common causes of car sickness in dogs before you attempt to help your dog with hers.
Puppies often experience motion sickness. Young dogs may experience car sickness that they grow out of. It is thought that this is caused by an immature inner ear structure, the part of the body that helps control balance and vertigo. Some signs of motion sickness in dogs are:
- Becoming very still
- Looking and acting uneasy
- Drooling excessively
Stress. Stressful situations can cause dogs to vomit. Your dog may become stressed during car rides if she is only taken to places that he associates with negative events such the veterinarian’s office, the groomer, or a boarding facility. Car rides can also be linked with stress if your dog is a rescue that associates a car ride with leaving but not returning to her home.
Reinforcement. Once a dog has experienced nausea or stress in relation to a car ride a few times, it can become a learned behavior. The dog may always have the same reaction in the car because that is the association she has made with it.
Tips for Decreasing Car Sickness in Dogs
Now that you know some of the common causes of car sickness in dogs, it will be easier to formulate a plan for combatting it. Below are some tips for helping your dog with her car sickness:
- Position your dog in the front of the car and keep her facing forward with a dog seatbelt harness. Having your dog face the direction of travel can help her use her eyes to sort out the confusing balance messages that her ears are sending her.
- Limiting your dog’s food and water intake for a SHORT period of time prior to a car ride may decrease her risk of car sickness.
- Lower the car windows a few inches to equalize the outside and inside pressures. This may help your dog’s ears to be less overwhelmed by pressure differences.
- Keep the temperature in the vehicle cool. Being too hot can add to your dog’s anxiety and nausea.
- Try a different vehicle to see if your dog’s car sickness is a negative response associated with a particular car.
- Take your dog on very short car rides (start with around the block) to desensitize her to them. Make sure you give your dog praise for getting into the car.
- Take your dog to enjoyable places like the dog park, pet store, or a trailhead to start a walk so she can begin to develop positive associations with car rides. Taking your dog places that she loves in the car will help her to enjoy riding more and even look forward to it.
If your dog has severe problems with car rides, you may need to work very slowly toward helping her accept them and help desensitize your dog to her fear of car rides:
Medication can help a dog from getting car sick. but never give medications to your dog without discussing it with your veterinarian first. Many human medications are toxic to dogs or need different doses than humans take.
Using the above tips can have you and your dog-enjoying car rides together, free from sickness and stress.