Dogs love that occasional car ride to the nearby shops or (with Bruno or Bella quite happily unaware) to the vet. That incessant tail-wag, the spring in their step, and the ‘smiling face’ as they plop their cute butt on the
car seat, is all too familiar.
But what about longer road trips? Anything longer than a couple of hours in the car? It is a little known fact that one out of every five dogs inevitably gets car-sick. But learn they must, because a family outing without the family-dog is not quite the same.
There are ways to help your dog cope with car or motion sickness. And it is imperative for us humans to help them, so our furry friends can continue being healthy while embarking on newer adventures with us. But it is important to first understand what we’re dealing with, so we can move on to seek an effective solution.
Plausible reason for motion/car sickness in dogs:
Motion sickness is often known to occur in younger puppies – the same as usually with babies more often than adult humans. This is mostly because the ear structure is not entirely developed yet in babies and puppies, because of which, traveling in the car simulates a nasty feeling of vertigo as the car moves!
Car sickness is also caused in several dogs simply because of the fear of the sounds a car makes, the unfamiliarity and fear of being in a moving ‘thing’, the largeness of the car itself, and the general strangeness of the myriad smells and sensations.
Symptoms of motion/car sickness in dogs:
Nausea, resulting in moaning, whining, or retching
Anxiety, often surfacing as pacing around on the car-seat, pawing the window, and whimpering noises
What can we do to help our doge?
As dogs grow out of their puppy phase, most of them will outgrow this problem. However, some unfortunate dogs, left to their own devices, will continue to struggle with car-sickness throughout their lives.
It will no longer happen because of the balance mechanism of their ears, because they’re adult now and their ear structure has likely matured. But if your dog continues to get car-sick, it is simply because their mind is now conditioned to associate the feeling of nausea, with car rides. And that feeling stays anchored in their minds unless we take measures to (gently) jolt them out of it.
Ways to help dogs combat nausea during car rides:
Limit your pet’s food consumption for a couple of hours before a road-trip
Just before getting into the car, give your pet a small, sweet treat (no chocolate or anything with xylitol). It could simply be a piece of their favorite fruit, as well.
Always have your pet sit on the car-seat facing forward, at first. This helps prevent nauseating visual cues.
Make sure the car is cool and well-ventilated.
Even if the air conditioning is on, roll down the windows by an inch. This helps balance the air pressure inside the car with that outside.
If you have a pet dog prone to get car sick, give her/him atleast a week or two off when there are no car-rides involved.
Use treats to make the car a fun place for your dog – but be careful not to overdo it.
Provide special toys in your car that your dog only has access to when s/he is in the car.
If monetarily feasible, get a new car. I know this is crazy, but a new car with its new smell and sound will kill any past association your dog has relating to past unpleasant experiences.
Gradually build your dog’s tolerance to car trips. Begin with really short car rides, perhaps, 5-10 minutes of driving to and back; then, build on from there.
In essence, continue to be patient and loving towards your furry family member. They are really trying to not vom on the car-seat, and truly appreciate it when they feel that you understand.
Cheers and happy parenting!