How Do I Help My Dog with Car Sickness?

How Do I Help My Dog with Car Sickness?

Ever had to ride in a car with someone who is car sick? You know how awful it can be. And that’s when it’s an actual person who will verbally tell you that you need to pull over or, at the very least, roll down the window. When dealing with a dog in the same scenario, you won’t have that luxury. If you’re lucky, you may get a light whimper or an attempt to pace before they empty the contents of their stomach all over your back seat. And as bad as it is to have to clean up a car full of dog puke, seeing your four-legged friend in so much pain is considerably worse. There are various warning signs you need to be aware of, along with some preventative measures you can take to help combat the issue.

What's the Cause

We typically link car sickness in dogs to either physical or psychological issues. There are even times when the psychological problems will directly lead to the physical. But the key reason behind why dogs (and humans for that matter) get car sick is thought to be directly related to the sense of balance. It’s most commonly found in young dogs because their inner ear structures that aid in balance aren’t completely developed. And just as with humans, some pups unfortunately will never outgrow this affliction. It’s this vestibular system that processes sensory input by incorporating the inner ear and brain function. If your dog is receiving contradictory signals through the inner ear from these sensory organs, this can cause sensory confusion in addition to discomfort.

  • It may be that their eyes are overly sensitive to the motion they see as the car moves.
  • The shift in equilibrium is tracked by joint and muscle sensors, which may be irritating.
  • The movement confuses the skin receptors on the feet.
  • The central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) is mixed up, resulting in confusing signals.

Helping your dog overcome travel stress and anxiety will not only allow you to take your pet on more regular trips but will also allow you to spend more quality time with your best friend.

Signs to Look For?

Dog yawning

Though the effects of car sickness in dogs are not harmful, your dog will endure discomfort and tension as a result of what could otherwise be a problem-free and delightful experience. With dogs and car sickness, there are several warning signs you’ll want to keep a lookout for. Vomiting is the most obvious visible indicator, but there are other indications that your dog is becoming car sick:

  • Excessive lip licking, panting, or swallowing
  • Whining
  • Yawning
  • Urinating
  • Shaking
  • Pacing around
  • Wide eyes

You obviously want to avoid causing any suffering to your beloved doggo if at all possible. In the next section, we’ll go over some preventative measures you can take to curb any discomfort your pup might endure.

How to Prevent?

 Dog riding in a harness with a safety harness.

You will undoubtedly do everything possible to help alleviate your dog’s carsickness. This will not only spare you from having to clean up any vomit or other bodily fluids, but it will also reduce or eliminate any discomfort they are feeling. There are several strategies you may use to improve your dog's car riding experience.

Use a Special Seat Belt or Harness

There are a variety of specialized car seats, harnesses, and seat belts available to help keep your dog nice and safe while driving. An anxious dog can hurt themselves, along with causing an accident, if they’re not properly secured. You'll want to pick a harness that fits your dog properly and use it on a regular basis. To get them acclimated to the device, take them on several short outings around town before embarking on any big journeys. This way, if for any reason they don’t like the current setup, you can make the necessary changes needed before you hit the road for longer trips.

Adjust Your Dog's View

The motion of the car moving may be the culprit that’s triggering your dog’s car sickness. Anyone would find it nauseating to watch the world pass by in a blur through a side window. To help with this, you can place a sunshade on the window closest to your dog to obstruct their view and hopefully get them to look forward. Another option is to put them in the back center seat, where they will be more inclined to stare out the front window. You can use a harness or seat belt like we previously touched on to keep your dog in place. You could even use a hard-sided dog crate to limit their vision.

Limit Their Food Before the Trip

Limiting their food intake for twelve hours before longer travels can be extremely beneficial. Ensuring that they have an empty stomach will aid in the reduction of nausea and the need for frequent potty breaks. Whenever possible, you’ll still want to supply them with fresh water. And just before you take your trip, you can give them a small sugary candy that will help reduce their feeling of nausea. Make sure you don’t give them chocolate or any other treats that use xylitol, as they are both toxic to canines.

Lower the Windows

Although this strategy may seem self-evident, we feel it's still worth mentioning. Simply lowering the windows a few inches will help to keep the car nice and cool in addition to the added ventilation. This balances the inside and outside air pressure, which can reduce nausea. Ensuring your car is cool and ventilated should reduce any feelings of nausea your pooch may be feeling. Which allows them to enjoy the car ride without issue.

Give Them Treats to Chew On

Dog chewing on a rawhide.

Providing your pooch with a tasty treat for them to focus on can be very helpful in reducing the causes of car sickness. The idea is that they'll be so focused on gnawing their treat that they won't be able to pace around in discomfort in the backseat. You'll want to give them something they shouldn't have any trouble eating and that you know they enjoy. You'll want to give them something they shouldn't have any trouble eating and that you know they enjoy. For this reason, we recommend you avoid introducing any new treats that they may not like or might even be a choking hazard.

Medication or Supplements

There are a variety of medications and supplements you can give your pooch to aid with car sickness. There are anti-nausea medications that prevent vomiting in a stressed-out dog and anti-anxiety medications that are specifically made for only the most stressed dogs. Just bear in mind that some of these prescriptions require you to start days, if not weeks, before travel to ensure they are as effective as possible. If you’d like to try an over-the-counter alternative instead, we carry a supplement that’s specifically formulated to help ease anxiety brought on by unfamiliar situations. We infuse our Relax Supplements with full-spectrum CBD that’s baked right in (not sprayed on after the fact like other subpar products on the market) along with including other beneficial all-natural ingredients that encourage a relaxing effect. This is a great option for those who have exhausted all other options and are looking for an all-natural alternative.

Vet holding a puppy.

We’ve gone over the many reasons for car sickness in dogs, what signs to look for, and the preventative measures you can take to avoid any future problematic trips. If, after reading this article, you have seen no positive results regarding your dog’s car sickness, you’ll want to give your local veterinarian a call and see what they recommend.

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