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Developed in collaboration with Andrea Johnson, DVM | Co-Founder | PetVet365
Last reviewed: December 14, 2023
Motion sickness in dogs is common, but manageable. Here we will look at 10 ways you can minimize and possibly even prevent motion sickness in your dog.
Your dog’s motion sickness can be an issue if it hampers your lifestyle. If you are used to traveling to hike with your dog in the mountains or just taking a short car trip to the dog park for exercise, motion sickness can keep you from your (and your dog’s) favorite activities.
And, if you are reading this guide, odds are that you have had your car’s upholstery christened with the morning’s breakfast on your last trip to the groomer’s.
Fortunately, there are ways that can help prevent your canine companion from getting car sick. This guide will look at some of the most common.
Your dog’s motion sickness is most likely caused by either
An underdeveloped vestibular system – the part of the inner ear that regulates balance – is generally the cause of a dog’s motion sickness. That is why motion sickness is more common in puppies and younger dogs than for adult dogs. This is because the vestibular system in puppies is not fully developed yet.
Many dogs eventually outgrow motion sickness once their ears have fully matured, but not all do.
In some cases, dogs are conditioned to get sick in the car. They have associated a car ride with an unpleasant experience, like going to the veterinarian. The stress and anxiety they equate with a car ride literally worry them sick.
Car-related anxiety is not true motion sickness; it is a conditioning issue, and it can be unlearned with time and effort.
The symptoms of motion sickness and the signs of anxiety are similar. You may see signs like:
Your veterinarian may prescribe a customized, compounded medication. These medications are mixed by trained, licensed compounding pharmacists and often come in dosage forms designed to make giving or applying the medication easier and more accurate.
There are a few things you can proactively do to make car trips a better experience for your dog. Remember that true physical car sickness and stress-related sickness often go hand in hand. You want to condition your dog to associate a car ride with a positive experience, so you need to do all that you can to make that happen.
Motion sickness is common in dogs. It can stem from physical reasons – like not yet developed ear mechanisms in young dogs – or from anxiety form a bad association with car trips. Many dogs will grow out of it, but for those that don’t, there are some things you can do to make traveling easier for your canine companion. These range from desensitization and behavioral modification to prescription, herbal, and OTC medications.
Talk to your veterinarian about ways you can help save your pet from the discomfort of travel sickness. It might just save your car’s interior.
That depends. Motion sickness is more common in puppies and younger dogs. It is possible that they will grow out of it. If your dog is mature, it cannot be cured, but you can take steps to make your dog more comfortable during car rides.
Vomiting in the car can be from motion sickness, travel anxiety from a previous unpleasant experience in a car. It could also be from an undiagnosed underlying medical condition. If you are concerned, talk to your veterinarian.
Dimenhydrinate (Dramamine®) – the same drug people take for motion sickness – works for some pets. Be sure to talk to your veterinarian to get the correct dose for your dog. There is variation based on age, breed, other medications, and concurrent conditions. Also, there are some formulations that can contain harmful ingredients.
Veterinarians sometimes recommend diphenhydramine, brand name Benadryl®, for dogs to treat travel anxiety and motion sickness. Talk to your vet about the correct formula.
If your dog does not get sick while traveling, you can stay on its feeding schedule. But if they tend to vomit, it is best to avoid food. Depending on the severity of their travel sickness, feed them anywhere between 2 and 8 hours before getting on the road.
This article is meant to provide general and not medical advice. We strongly recommend that a veterinarian be consulted for the specific medical needs of your animal.
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Andrea Johnson, DVM, is co-founder of PetVet365, a franchise company that creates new veterinary practices around entrepreneur owners determined to reinvent the animal healthcare profession and to offer the highest quality care for pets and their families.
She began her career as an associate veterinarian with a practice in Kentucky and eventually became owner and chief medical officer for 15 Banfield Pet Hospital franchises in Kentucky, Ohio, and Indiana, with 75 veterinarians on her team. She was a veterinary consultant for LegacyVet and a self-employed consultant prior to co-founding PetVet365.
She holds a BS degree in biology from Marshall University, an MS degree in Biology and Biological Sciences from Marshall University, and a DVM degree from the University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine.
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