What are Motion Sickness?
Travelling by land, sea or air can cause your dog to have bouts of motion sickness. There is a high likelihood that a dogs balance can and will be affected by the movement, and the visual aspect of motion can cause physical sickness. Some pets are anxious about travelling, and as a result of this begin to have anxiety, or exacerbate the angst they are already feeling. Going for a car ride is a fun experience for many dogs, but for those who suffer from motion sickness, a car ride is a dreaded event. Fortunately, many dogs will outgrow the problem.When a sense of balance and equilibrium is disrupted by constant movement or rocking, motion sickness can occur. Dogs who experience nausea and vomiting while in the car (or on a boat or airplane), can become very uncomfortable and may even begin to feel apprehensive when they know they are about to travel.
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Symptoms of Motion Sickness in Dogs
Though the impact of suffering from motion sickness is not a dangerous one, your dog feels the discomfort and stress that go along with what could be a pleasant, enjoyable experience. Distinguished by signs that the sensory system is disturbed, you may see your pet exhibit the following symptoms:
- Drooling (some dogs who are particularly anxious about the car ride may begin to salivate before they even get in the car)
- Physical shaking
- Excessive panting
- Yawning (when nervous or anxious dogs yawn, it can be in an effort to calm themselves and can be seen as a sign of stress)
- Whining or yelping
- Showing uneasiness
- Showing reluctance or inability to move
Causes of Motion Sickness in Dogs
The primary cause for motion sickness in dogs is thought to be an excess stimulation to the vestibular system within the inner ear. The vestibular system incorporates the brain and inner ear combination that processes the sensory information. Dogs may be getting conflicting signals from the sensory organs, relayed through the inner ear, which in turn cause discomfort and sensory confusion:
- The eyes may be sensitive to the motion seen as the car moves
- Skin receptors on the feet are confused by the movement
- Joints and muscle receptors are tracking the change in balance which may be agitating
- The central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) is confused, leading to mixed up signals
Diagnosis of Motion Sickness in Dogs
While the condition of motion sickness is very obvious, the exact reason why your dog suffers from it may not be. Young puppies often suffer from motion sickness simply because their vestibular systems are not yet mature. In these cases, the puppies often outgrow the problem. However, it is important to be calm with your pet if he is prone to vomiting in the car. Do not get angry, as your puppy can grow to associate car rides with an eventual outburst from you. The veterinarian may recommend that you take your puppy for very short rides, not long enough for the vomiting to start, in order for them to still feel a sense of enjoyment about car rides.
Another reason for motion sickness in dogs can be an inner ear problem such as infection (caused by yeast or bacteria), or trauma to the ear (caused by inner ear nerve damage). The veterinarian will treat these issues accordingly when diagnosed at the time of examination.
Anxiety about being in a car, boat or airplane can also be an explanation for motion sickness. If anxiety strikes, and it is indeed the case, the chances are high that your dog will most likely display the anxious behavior before even getting into the vehicle.
Treatment of Motion Sickness in Dogs
As with most animal conditions, the preferred treatment dictated by the veterinarian will vary based on the reason for the motion sickness, and the age of the dog. The veterinarian will determine which treatment is safe and appropriate for your pet. Options may include:
Puppies and young dogs - Puppies whose systems are not yet matured, as well as young dogs, may benefit from a gradual acclimatization to vehicle rides. Taking your dog for short car rides will give them the sense of safety and fun if they are kept to a very short duration (even up the street and back only), gradually increasing the distance. This will teach them balance techniques and reduce the nervousness that they may feel, or the dread that nausea is sure to ensue.
Maropitant, an NK1 receptor antagonist, can be given. This medication blocks the receptors that cause the nausea and vomiting. Treatment is given only once on the day of travel, which makes it a favorable choice. This medication is given to dogs for motion sickness over the age of four months.
Dogs with an inner ear infection - Puppies and dogs with motion sickness due to an inner ear infection or trauma will be treated with acupuncture, antibiotics or medications that will treat the condition and combat the problem of motion sickness.
Dogs with anxiety - Puppies and dogs with anxiety should undergo conditioning therapy to treat the motion sickness. Fear of being in a moving vehicle is often the cause of the anxiety. Examples of conditioning treatment may be putting your dog in the car, without starting it and giving treats while the dog sits in the car. After a few sessions like this, start the car but don’t move it. A few sessions later go a very short distance, and so on. Giving your dog a favorite toy to take along on the ride may ease anxiety as well.
Dogs with severe anxiety that does not seem to let up, and appears before he even gets in the car, may benefit from the use of a sedative such as Phenobarbitol. This will relax your pet and reduce or eliminate the nausea and vomiting. It's important to trust the doctor, with years of education and experience the veterinarian (DVM) or in some cases the veterinarian technician is absolutely the best person to determine what method of treatment is going to be the most effective in treating your pets motion sickness.
Recovery of Motion Sickness in Dogs
Many dogs will outgrow the equilibrium problems. Canines with anxiety will often begin to relax as well, as they mature and receive conditioning therapy. For those who do not have relief from this problem may need medication before travelling in every case.
The veterinarian can make suggestions that will help you and your canine companion cope with travelling difficulties. If you are taking your dog on a long trip, take several breaks along the way so he can relieve himself. Offer water to avoid dehydration. Feed your dog a minimum of one hour before travel. In the car, give your dog plenty of room to lie down as this may ease the sense of motion. Some dogs like to have a view of the outside, so provide this in addition to a bit of fresh air. With time and a bit of work, you may succeed in making travelling easier for both you and your dog.
Motion Sickness Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals
Hi, I have just gotten a puppy two days ago and we went for a ride in the car yesterday for only a few minutes, but now my puppy has been vomiting all day. He is urniating and only drinking water he won't eat and food is is very restless. Is this normal ? Should I be worried and about how long do you think this will last?
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