Travel Troubles: Motion Sickness in Dogs

Dogs often love to ride in the car, but some dogs struggle with motion sickness no matter the length of the trip. Sometimes the cause is true motion sickness. In these dogs, the symptoms do not start until after the car is moving. Traveling with an empty stomach and anti-nausea medications are often helpful for these dogs.

If your pet salivates, urinates, or defecates before the car begins to move it is likely that fear or anxiety is the problem. Even though true motion sickness may not be the cause, previous episodes of motion sickness may cause anxiety about feeling ill and thus trigger nausea when the pet sees the vehicle. Though anti-nausea medications can be used, the best treatment is desensitizing the dog to the car

To begin, take your dog out to the car when the engine is off. If he or she goes willingly to the car without fear, reward them. Encourage them to sit inside the car and when this is accomplished without demonstrating fear, give them a treat. One time of good behavior is not enough; keep working with your dog until they will consistently get into the car calmly. Slowly over days to weeks progress from turning the car on to backing out of the driveway. Continue to slowly increase the distance while remembering to reward and praise your dog for calm, relaxed behavior.

As progress is made, it is very important to keep practicing the training so there is no backsliding to fearful or anxious behavior.