If you’ve ever had to clean up after your dog has been sick in your car, you know car sickness in dogs is no fun for either of you. Let’s take a look at what causes it and what you can do about it.
Causes of Dog Car Sickness
There are two main reasons why your dog might get sick in the car: inner ear trouble and stress.
Like humans, dogs get their sense of balance from their inner ear. When things are “off” in their inner ear, it will often affect a dog's sense of balance. As you probably already know, losing your sense of balance is a major cause of motion sickness. What you may not know is that puppies are more likely to get carsick than full-grown dogs because their inner ears aren't fully developed.
Another cause of car sickness is stress. You may have heard the phrase “worrying yourself sick." I don't know who said it originally, but I know they could have been talking about dogs. Many dogs worry about car rides. If your dog associates the car with unpleasant experiences like the vet, or if the sounds of the road makes him nervous, he may get sick out of pure anxiety.
Dog Car Sickness Cures
How do you give your dog relief? These 8 strategies will keep your dog from getting nauseated:
• Start slow. Before you embark on a road trip, get your dog used to the car. First, let your dog check out the car to see it’s not a big deal. Open and close doors so he hears the sounds of doors shutting, the open-door warning beep, etc. Once he’s used to that, take short trips around the neighborhood. Then work up to longer drives.
• Make car rides a positive experience. Take car rides for more than just vet visits – to interesting places for walks, dog parks, friends’ homes, the feed store, a dog-friendly restaurant.
• Full gas tank, empty stomach. Many dogs do better with an empty stomach, so don’t feed them for a few hours before you hit the road. If that doesn’t work for your dog, try a small meal a few hours ahead. Some dogs do better with just a little food in their belly. (Either way, keep water available at all times.)
• Drive carefully. If your dog is prone to car sickness, take it easy beind the wheel. Higher speeds make bumps feel bigger and windy roads shakier. Weaving between cars can also make your dog feel queasy. Ease up on the gas and make turns smoothly.
• Use anxiety-relieving tactics. Take your dog for a walk before getting in the car so that he’s more tired and therefore more settled. Have your dog wear a thunder jacket for dogs, which relieves anxiety of all kinds.
• Protect your car with a back seat hammock. Not only will the hammock protect your seats in case of sickness, it will prevent your dog from climbing in the front seat. Reducing his motion and activity will reduce his chances of getting sick.
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• Try ginger. Have you ever drank ginger ale to settle your own upset stomach? The ginger root in it is what does the trick. While soda is a bad idea for dogs, ginger root capsules and fresh grated ginger are dog-safe options. Talk to your vet or a veterinary alternative medicine practitioner about how much is good for your dog's size.
• If all else fails, ask your vet. She'll be able to recommend medication and determine the correct dosages for the size and breed of your dog. Also, persistent nausea may be connected to another illness. Only your vet can make that diagnosis.
Car sickness in dogs is a nuisance. Use the 7 tips above to make car trips more enjoyable for both you and your dog.
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Photo credit: Valerie Everett (top)