Motion Sickness in Dogs

Many dogs get motion sickness when traveling by car, boat, or air.  Car travel is most common.  Dogs show their problem in various ways.  They may be constantly licking their lips, drooling excessively, yawning, whining, or crying out in distress, act afraid to move, and finally, vomiting.  They may even urinate or defecate in the car.

Motion sickness has several causes in dogs.  Young dogs may have more trouble because their equilibrium is not as mature as older dogs.  Some dogs may grow out of their motion sickness as their equilibrium matures.  The causes of motion sickness may also be behavioral and linked to bad experiences early in life with car rides.  If the only place you take the dog is to the veterinarian, the dog may associate the car ride with shots or other unpleasant things that happen at the veterinarian’s office.

Once neurological and behavioral causes have been ruled out, the diagnosis of motion sickness is pretty easy to make.  If the symptoms only occur in the car, the dog is probably motion sick.

Treatment of motion sickness involves as much training as it does drugs.  Taking the dog for frequent, short trips around the neighborhood so he learns his destination is not always bad can help significantly.

If training does not help, there are a number of drugs you can use to make your dog more comfortable.  It is important to consult with your veterinarian before you use any drug on your dog.  It is also necessary to refrain from sedating a dog traveling by air, as it has been shown to reduce the survival rate of the dog.

Antihistamines, such as Benadryl, have a sedative action that may calm your dog while traveling.  Other over the counter medications that may be useful include meclizine and dimeenhydrinate.  These drugs do not cause sedation but treat the nausea and vomiting.

Ginger given to the dog about thirty minutes before the start of travel can help the dog not get motion sick.  It is available in capsule form in many health food stores.  Ginger snaps will also help calm the motion sickness.  Your veterinarian can tell you how much ginger to give based on the weight of your dog.

In severe cases of motion sickness, stronger drugs such as acepromazine may be prescribed.;

Prevention involves training your dog to associate the car with pleasant things instead of bad things.  Rides to a dog park, friend’s house, or just around the neighborhood with a treat at the end of the ride can do more good than most of the drugs available to treat motion sickness.

Providing the dog a safe and comfortable place to ride in the car, such as a familiar crate, a seat belt, or in a bed the dog likes will also help the dog’s car sickness.  Your veterinarian can work with you to train and/or medicate your dog for a safe and pleasant trip each time the dog rides in the car.