Many dog owners like to travel with their canine companions, but what to do when your dog gets sick in the car? What about older dogs who may be prone to conditions like vestibular disease that causes vertigo and motion sickness? Some natural remedies might solve your dog’s problem and put both of you back on the road again.
Motion sickness is a common occurrence in dogs, with 10 to 15% of dogs in the United States and 23% of dogs in the United Kingdom suffering from it regularly. Although it is more common in younger dogs, perhaps because their inner ear is still developing, older dogs are also prone to motion sickness.
Regardless of your dog’s age, if they suffer from motion sickness, it makes traveling anywhere together a significant difficulty, and can negatively impact your dog’s sense of well-being.
Why does my dog get motion sickness?
Motion sickness is your dog’s response to real, anticipated, or perceived movement. Your dog’s body, eyes, and inner ear send conflicting signals to the brain. Motion sickness is a short-term condition that tends to cease once the travel period is over. Over time, dogs can experience less motion sickness due to repeated exposure to traveling if the attempt to change the situation is approached the right way.
Some dogs become extremely anxious before any car ride, having learned to associate travel with sickness and discomfort. Additionally, dogs with vestibular disease might be suffering from underlying ear infections or another idiopathic issue due to old age.
What are the signs of motion sickness in dogs?
The signs of motion sickness in dogs are very easy to spot. The most common symptoms are:
Inactivity or lethargy
Vocalizations, such as whining or whimpering
Pacing and restlessness
Crouched body posture
Many dog owners decide to use drugs similar to those prescribed for motion sickness in people, like Dramamine. Unfortunately, these drugs don't work for every dog and with some pets, the added sedation makes them feel worse. There is an anti-vomiting drug recently developed for pets, called Cerenia. Known to be pretty effective, it is now FDA approved. There are, however, natural options for your dog’s motion sickness if you hesitate to try medication just yet.
Ginger, an herb used in foods for centuries, is a long-standing home remedy for nausea and motion sickness in both people and dogs. It has anti-inflammatory properties and promotes healthy digestion while having a calming effect on the stomach. Ginger is safe for dogs in small doses. Always consult your veterinarian for advice on dosage amounts based on your dog's age, weight, and current health status.
While dog appeasing pheromones are a synthetic product, they are meant to have the same effect as the natural occurring pheromones released by nursing female dogs. In the home, the pheromones are emitted through a diffuser. In the car, spray the inside 15 minutes before your pup is going in the vehicle. The effects should last 4 to 5 hours.
Lavender provides aromatherapy benefits for your dog that can calm them down and help address nausea associated with motion sickness. Spray a blanket or your dog's bed with the oil before placing it the car. If you are not sure about using essential oils with your dog, check with your vet first.
There are several measures you can take with your dog from an early age to try and reduce or relieve motion sickness:
- Take your dog on very short rides if they are prone to motion sickness, gradually lengthening the rides as their tolerance increases
- Associate car rides with fun activities from a young age, such as trips to the beach and park (not just the vet)
- Exercise your dog well before travel so they are relaxed and tired
- For long trips, leave on an empty stomach
- Have a selection of special toys just for car rides
- Try a harness or seat belt to help your dog feel secure
- Many dogs prefer to travel in a crate which makes them feel safe
Motion sickness affects many dogs --- and dog owners --- daily. Although drugs are always an option to quell the symptoms of motion sickness, there are natural methods, too. Give these suggestions a try to end motion sickness so you can both hit the road, happily.