Riding in Cars with Dogs: What to do if Your Dog Gets Car Sick

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dog car sickness

Motion sickness is a very common thing. If you’re prone to it, you know  it can make your trip miserable. The same is true for dogs who get car sick. It’s no fun for them, or you. But what can be done to alleviate the symptoms of car sickness?

The Cause

The cause for motion sickness in dogs is the same for motion sickness in humans. It is more common for children and puppies to experience being car sick than it is for older dogs and humans. The structures in the inner ear, which regulate balance, are not fully developed in puppies and babies until they are older; as a result it takes less provocation to produce nausea and vomiting.

Another contributing factor to motion sickness in dogs is riding while looking out of a side window, rather than facing straight ahead. The mechanism in this instance is related to the eyes constantly changing focus as the dog watches the world go by.

Car sickness can also be psychosomatic. If trips to the vet are the only rides your dog takes, he may become emotionally agitated when riding in the car, which can manifest itself in the form of motion sickness.

Advance Warning

Warning signs your dog is having trouble include panting, yawning, and drooling. Other signs include licking the lips nervously, whining, immobility, and urinating in the car.

Treatments

There are several avenues to explore when seeking effective relief for car sickness.  The same things that help treat motion sickness in humans, also works with dogs.  Placing the dog in a position where he is facing forward and looking ahead, rather than to the side in the car, is a simple solution that may effectively solve the problem immediately.  You can purchase a special harness that connects to the seat belt in your car. If your dog is in the front seat, position the seat as far back as possible if your car is equipped with air bags to avoid injury from an air bag in the event of an accident.

If you have an SUV or station wagon with more than two rows of seats, avoid placing the dog in the rear of the vehicle since movement will be more noticeable. Cracking the windows slightly to allow a stream of fresh air to flow through the car will help also.  Avoid feeding immediately before a car ride. Along the same lines, keeping the car cool can sometimes help, or placing your dog in his crate for the ride, which reduces the sensation of motion.

There are medications available to treat motion sickness if necessary. Always consult your vet before giving any medications.  Often times your dog will suffer from motion sickness as a reaction to a bad experience with this issue.

When a dog experiences legitimate motion sickness, he or she may equate car travel with the unpleasant effects of car sickness, and expect the result of any car ride to produce the same unpleasantness.  If this is the case, retraining the brain may be the cure.  Some things to try include a short trip in a different vehicle to assess whether the problem may have its roots in the mentality of negative association.  Other things to try are giving a special treat only in the car, or a favorite toy. You can also build up your dog’s tolerance by a series of non-threatening experiences in the car, such as simply sitting in the car with the engine off, then moving on to sitting in the car with the engine simply idling, followed by short trips around the block.  These baby steps allow your dog to be reconditioned to see riding in the car as a pleasure, not a trial.  Before you know it, you will be rolling down the block with your best friend riding shotgun, head out the window and “smiling” from ear to ear!

Photo Credit: istockphoto.com

Have you dealt with dog car sickness?

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