Tips for Preventing Motion Sickness When You Travel with your Pets

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Last week we drove up to Big Bear for our vacation. BigBear is about 7,000 feet above sea level and the only way to get there is a long windy, twisty mountain road. It’s a beautiful ride, but for anyone who gets motion sick, it can be treacherous.
 
As I was driving up this year, I was wondering about dogs and motion sickness. We’ve been fortunate that none of our dogs suffer from it – maybe because they ride in the car almost everyday to the dog park, so they are conditioned, but many dogs do suffer from it, just as humans do.
Motion Sickness in Dogs

Motion sickness is caused by condition where there is a disagreement between visually perceived movement and your vestibular system’s sense of movement. [Wikipedia]. Your vestibular system (found in the inner ear) controls your sense of balance, so when your visual perception doesn’t match up with the movement your body is feeling, you may experience motion sickness. The same thing can happen with dogs. It occurs most frequently in puppies or young dogs who’s ear structure is not fully developed.
 
How do you tell if your dog is getting motion sick? Well, since they can’t tell you when they are sick, you need to be aware of the symptoms:

  • Excessive licking of the lips
  • Yawning
  • Drooling
  • Restlessness
  • Whining

 

If your dog is displaying one or more of these symptoms, it might be a good time to stop for a break. Other tips for preventing or forestalling motion sickness:

  • Make sure your dog has an empty stomach – feed them at least 5-6 hours before your road trip.
  • Use a seatbelt/harness that keeps your dog facing forward.
  • Keep the car cool and calm – no heavy rock music.
  • Make frequent pit stops to let your dog out to walk around and reset their bearings.
  • Make the car ride fun – start with short trip to the local park, distract them with a peanut butter filled Kong or other treat.
  • If all else fails, you can try treating them with holistic medication – ginger is good for upset stomachs, or ask your vet for a prescription medication to calm your dog and their stomach.

 

How about you – do any of you have a dog who gets motion sick? How do you treat it?
 
Additional Readings:

Dogs and Motion Sickness
My dog gets sick when we travel. What causes this?
Canine car sickness: What to do about it
 

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14 Comments

  1. I know of a trainer who helped someone cure their dog’s motion sickness training them to use a wobble board and that’s what we did with Phoenix and she doesn’t get car sick anymore. Everything else we tried (other than not feeding her any food) failed, even anti-nausea meds from the vet.
    Lauren Miller (ZoePhee) recently posted…Sisterly LoveMy Profile

  2. Great suggestions. We had one Lab who hated riding in the car, and then we noticed that she drooled during rides (indicating nausea). Well, in our ignorance, we had her in a backward facing crate. As soon as we put her in a seatbelt facing forward that allowed her to see out the windows, the problem was solved. We also opened the windows a bit every now and then to give her fresh air as we drove. So, your post would have helped us a lot! I hope it helps others who are struggling with this.
    KB recently posted…Wordless Wednesday: Rainy but BeautifulMy Profile

  3. thanks for great tips… I will follow your advice with the empty stomach, maybe it goes better when Easy really had no food for 5-6 hours…and it’s probably easier to remove when he turns into a fountain :o)
    easy rider recently posted…easyblog HAPPY INDEPENDENCE DAYMy Profile

  4. Thanks for this! Good suggestions. We have the car sickness problem with Jasper and actually found a product that works great for him. My friend, Vicki Rae Thorne of Earthheart has an aromatherapy product called Travel Calm. It smells beautiful but, more important, when I spray some on my fingers and rub into Jas’ ears 20 mins before we get into the car and then again once we’re in the car, he doesn’t throw up. We discovered this on a long road trip to upstate NY, when we still lived in NYC. He was vomiting, we used the product every 10 minutes a few times and then he wasn’t vomiting and hasn’t again, as long as we use the product. Pretty cool, huh? Have you found any product you love that works for car sickness?

  5. I’m lucky I guess, Sam doesn’t get sick, he only goes flat like a pancake in the car as soon as the ignition is turned. All those tips sound like great advice though. Now if he’d only sit up and look out a window when we’re moving. 😉
    Monika recently posted…A Dog Walks into a Nursing HomeMy Profile

  6. We’ve heard of dogs having motion sickness too, but thankfully we don’t have the problem. Such a bummer not being able to ride in the car!
    Emma recently posted…The Dog Days Of SummerMy Profile

  7. I am so fortunate that none of my dogs suffer from motion sickness. We do have a good number of clients dogs/cats that do. For long rides we prescribe cerenia and that really helps them.
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  8. The boys don’t suffer from it but Pierre does get an upset stomach. I give him a tripe treat and it settles.
    M. K. Clinton recently posted…It is a SnoodMy Profile

  9. Had that problem with Leo – puked everywhere we went. Ginger didn’t work, so before our 8 hr trip to Charleston, we were told to give him 1/2 tablet of dramamine. He slept almost the entire way, but when we traveled in and around Charleston he was cured! Seems the long journey along with the drugs helped him overcome whatever he was afraid of. He never got sick again! I so miss that big guy 🙁
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