Taking car rides can be exciting for many dogs. Seeing new places, catching a breeze outside the window, and being with their favorite human can make most tails wag. But traveling with a dog who suffers from motion
sickness can be an entirely different experience. Instead of happy anticipation of whatever
adventure is coming next, you could be serenaded with whines and heavy
breathing from an unhappy pup. And if you’re driving cross country with a dog,
it may mean lots of unexpected stops.
Your veterinarian may be able to prescribe medication to help ease motion sickness in dogs, but you may be wondering if you can give travel sickness medicine for humans to your canine pal.
The good news is that you can! While dosages may differ, you can use many kinds of human travel sickness tablets for dogs, and get back on the road in a jiffy! Read on to discover how to identify motion sickness in your pup, and how to use over the counter human motion sickness medicine for dogs.
What is Motion Sickness?
Motion sickness is a highly uncomfortable feeling of nausea that mammals can develop when riding in a car, plane or boat. It happens when our inner ears which control balance feel motion, but our eyes don’t see it, and these two conflicting signals create a neural mismatch in the brain. This mismatch can confuse the brain and make it think we’ve been poisoned. Histamine neurotransmitters then take messages to our stomachs to get rid of the toxin. What we are left with is a queasy stomach that thinks it needs to empty itself!
Since the inner ears aren’t fully developed in young mammals, puppies are often more susceptible to motion sickness than older dogs, though they can grow out of it. And since many dogs are either too small to see out the windows, or are often stuck in the backseat, their view of the trip usually doesn’t match the motion they feel when the car is moving, which can increase their feeling of travel sickness.
If your dog is experiencing motion sickness, you may hear them whining, panting or licking their lips. Your dog could be pacing, or be very lethargic. Excessive drooling can be followed by heaving, vomiting, or even diarrhea. If your dog is feeling the effects of travel sickness, they sure aren’t enjoying the adventure!
How Travel Sickness Medicine Can Help
Whether you have it for your own motion sickness, or discover your dog’s nausea while on the road, human medication for travel sickness can be a quick and safe fix to help your dog have a much better experience. Most are available at any pharmacy and grocery store, and some can even be purchased at gas stations, making this remedy easy to find too!
Anti-nausea medications are also antihistamines. Remember those histamine neurotransmitters that are sent by the brain to tell the stomach it’s been poisoned? Antihistamines work by blocking those histamines from delivering their messages, which stops the nausea in its tracks! As an added bonus, most antihistamines also make your dog drowsy, which can help if your dog has travel anxiety, or is feeling nervous from the car sickness.
But before you start dosing your dog, be sure to adjust the recommended amount on the label. Most dogs will need less of any antihistamine or anti-emetic medication than a human would, so always do the math to ensure your dog stays safe.
Common human travel sickness tablets that can be used for dogs include:
- Dramamine or Gravol, active ingredient: dimenhydrinate.
Dosing for dogs: 4 to 8 mg per kilogram of your dog’s weight, up to 3 times daily.
- Benadryl, active ingredient: diphenhydramine hydrochloride.
Dosing for dogs: 2 to 4 mg per kilogram of weight, 2 to 3 times daily.
- Bonine or Antivert, active ingredient: meclizine.
Dosing for dogs: 2 to 6 mg per kilogram of weight, one time daily.
To help stop travel sickness, these medications work best when given 30 to 60 minutes before a road trip with your dog, and can last from 3 to 6 hours. Many people in the U.S. measure weight in pounds rather than kilograms, so be sure to convert this number before calculating the correct dosage. Since 1 kilogram equals 2.20 pounds, a 22-pound dog will weigh 10 kilograms. For smaller dogs, children’s formulations may work better for dosing, just be sure that they don’t contain xylitol which can be lethal to dogs.
Though antihistamines are generally safe when used correctly, there can be side effects besides the drowsiness. They can cause a dry mouth and decreased urination, so be sure to give your dog plenty of water. They can also cause vomiting and diarrhea too, which can be tricky as those are also symptoms of motion sickness. You’ll want to watch for vomiting and diarrhea that are excessive, or are present even when motion has been stopped for a time. Discontinue use right away and seek veterinary help if the condition continues.
An overdose of antihistamines can also be dangerous, which is why correct dosing is important. If you suspect your dog is experiencing an overdose, seek veterinary attention immediately.
More Travel Tips for Dogs
The best road trips for dogs are the ones where they feel great and are excited to explore the world with you. While medication can help keep your pup feeling pawrific, there are other ways to help reduce travel sickness in dogs. Withholding food for several hours before the trip begins can help reduce nausea. Using a dog booster seat or raised carrier so that your dog can see out the front window can reduce or eliminate motion sickness. Letting in fresh air can also help, just be sure your dog isn’t in danger of falling out of the window!
Some dogs who have experienced motion sickness in the past can develop travel anxiety in anticipation of the bad feelings they remember. Antihistamines can also help sedate your dog and reduce this anxiety. Playing soft music, having a favorite toy, or even an item that smells like home are easy ways to help your dog feel safer too. Aromatherapy and products that contain dog pheromones can be beneficial too. When planning trips with a dog, it’s always a good idea to pack a dog first aid kit complete with any medications or items to make sure your pooch is ready for whatever the adventure throws at them.
Whether a trip to the park or taking a vacation, with a little planning, you and your pal can have a furbulous adventure that’s worth barking about!