How to deal with car sickness in dogs

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Is your dog prone to getting sick in the car? Does he suffer from nausea and is apprehensive towards car rides? The good news is that you can improve car sickness in many ways. Let’s look at how you can help your pup travel happily in the car!

#1 Evaluate your setup

Dogs often become car sick when they are able to watch what is going on outside. Seeing other cars, houses, trees etc. fly by can easily turn your dog’s stomach upside down. Try to find a setup in which your dog is not watching the outside world.

This is best done by using a crate in the car. This setup will keep your dog safe in the event of an accident as well. You can drape blankets over the crate to limit your dog’s view of the outside.

If a crate is no possibility, consider having your dog ride in the backseat with a seatbelt, and use some tinted film on the windows.

#2 Experiment with feeding

Most dogs do best if they have a little bit of food before riding in the car. Too much food and their stomach is likely to rebel. If they didn’t eat at all though, their stomach can be sour and actually make them more likely to throw up. Feed your dog a small amount half an hour before heading out.

#3 Do practice trips – a lot!

If your dog is getting car sick, your first impulse may be to limit car rides as much as possible. This is actually often counterproductive, as it does not give your dog enough exposure to overcome this issue.

It is helpful to do frequent, but very short trips. They can be as quick as a 2 minute drive up and down your road. The more often your dog rehearses getting into the car, driving a short time and getting out without throwing up, the more his car sickness will improve.

Try to take him along on many errands. Over time riding in the car will become an everyday task that is easy-peasy for your dog!

#4 Be aware of trigger stacking

Trigger stacking is a phenomenon found in humans and dogs and refers to the fact that stress is cumulative. If you had a stressful day at work, you might find even a small inconvenience at night at home (such as being out of milk) to be highly frustrating.

The same happens with dogs! They are much more able to tolerate stress if they have had a good day so far. Do not put your dog into the car if you know something else already stressed him earlier. If you are doing your car practice runs, make sure he is in a good mood. This will stack the cards in your favor and make it much more likely that your ride will be a success!

#5 Explore medication with your vet

Like for people, there are also a number of medications for dogs with car sickness. Of course, you should always consult with your vet before attempting to give your dog any drugs. Even Benadryl can help significantly with car sickness for some dogs.

Mention your pup’s car sickness at your next vet visit and ask for something to give your dog before car rides. Any kind of treatment will work best if you combine it with the other ideas described above.

The Bottom Line

Car sickness is a common occurrence in dogs, but with a few changes you can help your dog feel better. Changing the setup of your car is an important first step: Your dog should not be able to see outside, as the world racing by can quickly make him sick. You should take him on many short practice car rides. Don’t make the mistake of only taking him on long rides when you really cannot avoid it. Frequent and brief trips will improve his tolerance of the car much faster. Do not take your dog on a car ride if he has already been stressed – instead, only go on trips when he is in a good mood!

Your veterinarian may have some suggestions for medication you can try in addition to the other ideas. Benadryl can help many dogs feel a lot better already. 

Let’s get your pup on the road!

Author’s Bio:

Steffi Trott is the owner and founder of SpiritDog Training. Originally training dogs in-person, she added online training to her business in 2018. Steffi strives to provide game-based, positive training solutions for owners and their dogs. When she is not training other owners’ dogs, she competes in dog agility or hikes in the New Mexico and Colorado wilderness with her own 4 dogs.

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