Does Your Pet Get Car Sick? What To Do and How to Prevent It

by
January 30, 2011
Comments (5)

Aside from the fact that dogs may sometimes tumble about in the car because they are overly excited and stimulated, they also get stressed. Some of their tail wagging, window watching, and panting is not “happy” but rather nervous and panic reactions to being a car. As much as they may enjoy it because they are trained to know that a car ride can lead to either a romp at a dog daycare, a visit to a friend, or a trip to the dog park, the ride itself, can be stressful. Your dog may relate a car with being taken away from its’ home and this can invoke a strong mental and physical form of trauma, which shows itself in the form of being sick and vomiting and shaking.

What can you do?

The first step to trying to reduce the chances of your dog being car sick is to re-train her attitude about the car. You can begin by taking short drives to a local dog park or somewhere fun and welcoming to pets. During the drive, keep the music low, talk to your dog in a calm voice, and soothe her as best you can. Then play, exercise, and make the time there 100% enjoyable for her. It doesn’t need to be a whole day out but it does need to be awesome. Then the drive home should be calm, soothing, and low energy as well. She should be a bit calmer naturally after exerting some energy. When you are home, reward her with praise or a treat. Let her know that getting in and out of the car is a good thing and leads to fun times but also she will always come back home with you as well.

Try to do this frequently. Pets are comfortable with habits. Pretty soon she’ll be ok with the car and associate it with good times and lots of fun.
If your dog is ok with the car and just seems to get overly stimulated and nervous about the motion of the car and keeping her balance, invest in a dog seat for the car. Sometimes dogs get extremely stressed out if they do not feel secure on their feet. Some will want to only walk on carpets, some will crawl across a surface and shaking, and others will not even try. A moving car is beyond their control, the turns that toss them off the seat, and the stopping and starting motions can make them scared. Their physical response can also be due to the strong smells of the road, other cars, smoke, exhaust, and motion.

Try the following to curb sickness:

1: Travel on empty. If you’re taking a long trip, it’s a good idea to not feed your pet for 4 to 6 hours before the road trip. Having an empty stomach will make your pet less likely to vomit. If he does get sick, then it will mostly be liquid and no food. However, you can give you pet some fresh water and that won’t upset her stomach and may actually help make her feel a little better.

2: Do not smoke in the car with your pet even if you open the windows. They are sensitive to smells and smoke alone can make a pet feel funny. Add smoke to motion and you will have more than just an ashtray to clean up.

3: Some pets may feel better if they don’t have a completely empty stomach. You can try a small meal before a trip but keep it tiny. Some pets need a little food to help keep them from getting sick.

4: On long drives, take breaks. Stop every few hours and let your dog walk around, take a break, and have some water, maybe a treat, and a little time to explore the new places.

5: You can let your dog ride in the passenger seat in the front as long as you secure her with a dog harness or dog car seat. There isn’t as much movement in the front of the car as there is in the back.

6: Crank the down the windows to let fresh air into the car.

7: Pets, like us, can get distracted if they can watch the horizon line and scenery. If they can watch the passing scenery, it’ll help cut down on sickness.

Comments

5 Responses to “Does Your Pet Get Car Sick? What To Do and How to Prevent It”

  1. Mary-Alice says:

    I love all of these tips EXCEPT #5, proposing that you let your dog travel in the front passenger seat. This is only an acceptable idea if the passenger seat air-bag can be deactivated. Otherwise, you’re running a terrible risk that your air-bag (which can be triggered by even a relatively mild event) will injure or kill your dog.

  2. Kathy says:

    You are 100% correct. Normally, I wouldn’t advocate for a dog to ride in the front seat as well. However, if your dog is extremely sensitive, de-activating the airbag, moving the front seat as far back as possible from the dash, and driving with some extra caution, may be necessary.

  3. DC Millwater says:

    I have a Border Collie who used to get car sick A LOT! It’s down to a rarity now though..here are a few more tips that worked for us:
    I got an inexpensive ‘pop-up’ crate for her..nothing more to it than a windshield shade. Secure it WELL in the back seat and be sure there is enough air circulating. I left only one side open, that way she ‘saw’ less movement and the motion part was lessened.
    About an hour before a ride, I sprayed (lightly!) a fine mist of natural lavender on the car seat
    NOT too strong and not ON the dog ..let it dry well first.
    I also got something from a co. called ’8-in-1′ that is very easy, inexpensive and does not adversely effect her..it’s natural chamomile, lavender, called a ‘Calm Charm’ and just hooks on her collar.
    Also, dogs can normally ingest a small bit of chamomile tea and it helps settle them..do NOT add anything else to it and ask your holistic vet first what amount you can use. Only @ an 1/8 c. is fine for our 37lb. girl.

    For a few weeks we ‘practice’ rode, by staying parked in the driveway and only presenting her with new toys or treats there. She has a favorite song (if you are into that) ‘It’s not easy being Superman’ or ‘Sweet baby James’.
    These are songs she gets to hear when she has her favorite events, like laying belly up on the bed or being combed. So that CD in the car is associated with ‘all good things.’
    Oh..one more thing…Have a lot of layered towels in the car (or pee pee pads) and clean up as soon as you can without making a big deal over it.
    It’s hard enough to get sick in a car without having the poor critter having to sit in it! Just pull off the top towel and stick it in a sealed bag to wash later.
    They CAN get over it..it just takes patience and understanding.
    and NEVER make them think they did anything ‘wrong!’ They can’t help it.

  4. Karen Culver says:

    I’d like to add another “tip” having to do with car sickness. If you know your dog is prone to car sickness and may throw up and still want to take pooch along, try putting a plastic tablecloth like the ones you use at picnics on the back seat. That way, if your dog does “loose his cookies in the car” you can wipe down the tablecloth easily and not ruin your upholstery. Also, I like the idea of distracting your pet with her favorite chew toy or maybe some other novelty toy to get her attention on the fun toy and away from her stomach. Finally, ice cubes are another good idea for combating car sickness.

  5. Great article. Cool.

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