Car Sickness in Dogs

Car sickness in dogs can upset the best-laid plans of a dog owner. However, through a combination of training and medication, many dogs can overcome motion sickness and become contented car travelers.

Signs of Canine Car Sickness

Clinical signs of motion sickness in dogs don’t completely resemble those of a carsick human, but some do overlap. Look for:

  • whining
  • shaking
  • uneasiness
  • drooling
  • excessive swallowing
  • yawning
  • listlessness
  • vomiting

The Cause of Canine Car Sickness

Car sickness in dogs is a problem most commonly seen in puppies. Many dogs, in fact, outgrow the problem as they mature and the balance centers in their inner ears develop.

If your dog does not outgrow car sickness, it may be because he comes to associate car travel with drooling and vomiting, or he may be stressed by car travel if he only rides to is the veterinarian’s office or any other place that he finds unpleasant. Other dogs that don’t outgrow car sickness may become so excited by the prospect of car travel that they make themselves sick.

Training to Overcome Canine Car Sickness

If your dog’s car sickness continues into adulthood, you’ll need to help him learn to think of car rides as a fun thing to do.

The first thing you can do to help your dog is to have him travel on an empty stomach whenever possible. It’s best to withhold food for six to eight hours prior to a car ride.

To train your dog to enjoy car travel, start by just sitting in the car with your dog in his travel crate. Talk to your dog and reassure him that the car is a fun place to be. Let him play with a favorite toy in the car so he begins to create pleasant associations with the car.

After your dog seems comfortable sitting in the car with his favorite toy and the car engine off, turn the engine on and let it run for a few minutes. Reassure your dog that all is well. Once your dog is accustomed to the sound of the running engine after a few in-car sessions, back the car out of the garage or up the driveway. Test your dog’s reaction and verbally reassure him if he seems tense or anxious. Repeat this step and gradually extend the amount of time your dog is in the car and the distance you drive until you reach the end of your driveway or street.

Once your dog is comfortable riding down the street, take him for a ride around the block. Monitor his reaction and reassure him if he becomes upset. Lengthen the distance of your rides, and try to end up at fun places like a park or the pet supply store for a new toy or leash occasionally.

Medications to Treat Canine Car Sickness

Some dogs continue to experience car sickness even after their owners attempt to train them to associate positive experiences with car travel. For these dogs, medications may be required to help calm them down enough to tolerate car rides.

Both over-the-counter and prescription medications are available for dogs with car sickness. Discuss medications with your veterinarian before giving any to your dog so you will know what to expect in terms of side effects.