Now that you have that cherished new puppy, you get to spend years bonding with your pet. Traveling to the park, hiking and camping all bring exciting opportunities to form new bonds and make new memories. Unfortunately, for a small number of dogs, these trips can also mean “car sickness”. Instead of fun, we end up cleaning up the smelly seats of our car. This problem can even progress to the point where the pet fights getting in the car, and owners may stop taking their pet on car trips. This becomes an even bigger problem when it prevents access to healthcare and grooming.
Car sickness is the result of an imbalance of sensory, visual and balance nerve inputs to the “balance and nausea” nerve center in the brain. Car sickness usually begins early in life. Younger dog’s nerves and reflexes are still developing and easily upset, but also their smaller size prevents them from seeing out of the car. Therefore, the motion they feel doesn’t match the sensation in the inner ear or what their eye is telling them. If pets are not secured by a seatbelt or carrier and they roam around the car as it is moving, this can increase the overloaded sensory inputs. After becoming sick to their stomach a few times, they begin to feel anxiety about the car. This anxiety increases the chances of further vomiting. There are even dogs who don’t vomit but are so inwardly nauseated by travelling they refuse to get into the car or they pant and drool.
Treatment involves multiple approaches. First, your pet should ALWAYS be secured in the car by a seat belt or carrier. Also, short trips around the block may help desensitize them to travel. It may help them experience nausea-free traveling to defuse anxiety. Traveling within 2 hours of a meal is also ill-advised. Make sure you always stay calm around your pet in the car and offer quiet praise and attention to a calm dog in the car. Staying calm yourself will help your pet stay calm.
Of all the treatments available, perhaps the most powerful is a medication called Cerenia (maropitant citrate). This medication helps to control and/or stop vomiting and when given at appropriate doses it significantly decreases the sense of motion sickness. Dogs who have become anxiety-ridden about traveling in the car may show improvement. Another great option for motion sickness is Dramamine (Meclizine hydrochloride). These medications are essential tools for any family that has a car-sick pet. If you are encountering travel troubles, contact us today to schedule a consult.
These blog comments, although based in scientific research, reflect our professional opinions only and are accurate and true to the best of our knowledge. They are for informational purposes and do not constitute treatment advice, nor should it take the place of seeking medical attention and a diagnosis from a trained professional. We reserve the right to change these blog comments if/as new research emerges.