Using Meclizine in Dogs for Motion Sickness Prevention

Meclizine, also known by its brand name Bonine, is a human antihistamine that has been proven effective at controlling the symptoms of motion sickness. Although it is not registered for veterinary use, it has been safely prescribed for canine use under veterinary supervision.

Let’s look at what the symptoms of canine motion sickness are, how meclizine helps control them, what its side effects may be and if there are any circumstances in which this medication’s use is not recommended.

What Canine Motion Sickness Looks Like

Symptoms of motion sickness in your dog present themselves shortly after a trip in a moving vehicle begins. They include:

  • anxiety
  • diarrhea
  • drooling
  • inability to move
  • lip licking
  • unexpected elimination in the vehicle
  • vomiting
  • whining
  • yawning

If your dog’s vomiting is particularly severe, he can become dehydrated and may even die if he does not receive veterinary attention.

Some dogs outgrow motion sickness, while others have problems with the condition throughout their lives. Patient training before trips begin, coupled with medication to relieve symptoms during journeys, may offer some dogs eventual relief from motion sickness, especially those who have had unpleasant trips in their past that make them less likely to enjoy travel.

How Meclizine Controls Motion Sickness Symptoms

Meclizine is a specialized medication that prevents your dog from becoming motion sick by regulating the level of signals your dog’s eighth cranial nerve sends to his brain from his vestibular apparatus, the part of his ear that helps him process movement and position. An excessive amount of incoming signals results in motion sickness, while a regulated amount creates a symptom-free dog.

Meclizine is available in tablets or capsules. It should be administered about 30 minutes before travel to prevent symptoms. Work with your veterinarian prior to taking your dog on a trip so that your dog receives a proper dosage level.

In addition to its benefits in controlling motion sickness symptoms, meclizine can also be used to treat canine vestibular disease (a condition that affects a dog’s balance) under veterinary supervision.

Common Side Effects of Meclizine

Although meclizine has fewer side effects than other antihistamines, it still may cause a few minor symptoms in your dog, including:

  • appetite loss
  • diarrhea
  • dry mouth
  • increased heart rate
  • lethargy
  • urinary retention
  • vomiting

When Meclizine Use Is Not Recommended

Although meclizine is generally considered safe for canine use under veterinary supervision, it is still not recommended for all dogs. Here are some canine medical conditions for which meclizine use is not recommended:

  • bladder abnormalities
  • glaucoma
  • prostate enlargement
  • heart failure
  • hyperthyroidism
  • liver disease
  • stomach abnormalities

The medication is also not recommended for use with pregnant or lactating females since it has been shown to cause some birth defects and to decrease milk production.

Certain types of medication, such as heparin, sedatives and tranquilizers, may interact with meclizine, so its use with these drugs should be closely monitored.

Meclizine will affect the results of skin allergy tests. Discuss a medication schedule with your veterinarian so you will know when to discontinue meclizine use before the test and when to resume it after the test is concluded.