Does your dog exhibit symptoms of car sickness whenever you're on the road together? Unfortunately, they're not alone. Research suggests that 18-25% of our canine companions experience signs of motion sickness, such as restlessness, hypersalivation, and, in extreme cases, vomiting in the car. Although a common occurrence in younger dogs, canines manage to "outgrow" this condition by the time they celebrate their first birthday.
Symptoms of motion sickness don't always point toward a medical issue. For some dogs, car rides carry negative connotations. In their minds, cars are synonymous with seeing a vet or the monthly trip to the groomer. That's not car sickness — it's anxiety, and calls for a different remedy.
Today's article will teach you the causes and symptoms of motion sickness in dogs, as well as natural remedies that will turn car rides into fun, pleasant experiences!
Why Do Dogs Get Car Sickness?
Dogs experience motion sickness for the same reason humans do — an imbalance in the nervous system between what they see and feel. Puppies and young dogs tend to manifest more frequent signs of car sickness because their inner ear (i.e., their center of balance) is not yet fully developed, just like in our toddlers. Luckily, most dogs outgrow this condition once they reach one year of age (i.e., when the inner ear reaches maturity).
What Are the Most Frequent Motion Sickness Symptoms in Dogs?
Motion sickness becomes apparent through various symptoms, such as:
- Excessive drooling
- Panting, whining, and pacing
- Lip-licking or smacking
- A change in your dog's body posture
- Tight facial muscles
- Lethargy, vomiting, and diarrhea (in extreme cases)
Don't Mistake Car Sickness for Anxiety
Not all instances of motion sickness involve being in a moving vehicle. Dogs can associate people and objects with certain experiences, either good or bad. Is your dog chewing, crying, barking, licking, excessively panting, or trembling before every car ride? You're likely dealing with anxiety, not car sickness.
Your dog may have associated the car with the dreaded trip to the vet or the unwanted grooming session — the fewer the car rides, the stronger the association with a stressful event becomes. If anxiety affects your dog's body to a certain degree, they may even experience vomiting or diarrhea (think about how you would feel before a job interview or a big presentation). Motion sickness remedies are useless when dealing with anxiety — redirecting the negative association toward fun, enjoyable activities will kindle your dog's love for car rides!
What Are the Ideal Remedies for Car Sickness in Dogs?
Managing your dog's car sickness requires a diversified approach. First, your dog must forge a positive association with car trips. Once your dog understands that riding in the car can be a pleasant experience, you'll be ready to employ natural remedies to prevent motion sickness from reoccurring in your dog.
#1: Desensitization for Car Anxiety
Allow your dog to get used to car travel by taking several short trips. As a first step, let your dog hop in the car, then start the engine and wait for a few minutes. After a few days, repeat the process while adding a quick drive out of the yard and back. Remember to praise your dog repeatedly for good behavior. The more comfortable your dog is, the farther you can drive (around the block, around the neighborhood, then around the city). Of course, a yummy treat will never fail to get your furry friend excited about the next car trip!
#2: Avoid Feeding Your Dog for a Few Hours Before Car Travel
Winding road trips habitually trigger nausea in humans, too, not just in dogs. Traveling on an empty stomach (i.e., no food for a few hours before the trip) will help cut down on nausea symptoms while reducing the number of potty breaks. Supplement the lack of food by providing constant access to fresh water sources. Refrain from feeding breakfast if the car ride is in the early hours.
#3: Fresh Air Will Relieve Your Dog's Motion Sickness
If your dog is showing signs of motion sickness, simply opening a window might help. Not all dogs do well in a warm environment, which is why breathing in some fresh air might do the trick. However, what works for some dogs doesn't necessarily apply to yours, so experiment with a different remedy if your dog doesn't positively respond to this one.
#4: Natural Remedy #1: Ginger Snaps
Dog parents can alleviate symptoms of motion sickness in dogs through simple, natural remedies without having to go to the vetand geta sleep-inducing drug.
The first natural remedy on our list is ginger snaps. You've probably seen these thin cookies in stores or tasted them fresh out of Grandma's oven. Ginger is known for its calming effect on the digestive system — that is why ginger snaps are an adequate replacement for Dramamine. Organic ginger snaps are the healthiest option to feed your dog before a road trip. However, we don't recommend feeding ginger to dogs:
- Undergoing surgery
- On blood thinners
- Going into labor
- With diabetes or heart conditions
#5: Natural Remedy #2: Peppermint
Peppermint products can reduce nausea symptoms (and any gassy flatulence the dog might experience) by calming the muscles in your dog's stomach. Refrain from giving your dog diluted peppermint essential oil, as its high concentration can lead to liver and kidney issues. Also, don't combine peppermint with homeopathic remedies — focus on either one or the other.
You can make your own peppermint infusion by steeping 2 tablespoons of dried peppermint in 8 ounces of simmering water for 20 to 30 minutes. Allow the concoction to cool. The recommended dosage for dogs is:
- 1 teaspoon twice a day for small dogs
- 2 teaspoons twice a day for medium-sized dogs
- 1 tablespoon twice a day for larger dogs
#6: Natural Remedy #3: Catnip
If you've thought that only our feline pets can enjoy catnip, think again. This member of the mint family, also known as Nepeta cataria, can calm down an upset stomach and make your dog feel more restful. As a caveat, catnip seeds are unsafe for dogs, so be sure to purchase a tincture. The recommended dosage for dogs is 12-20 drops per 20 pounds of body weight. Administer 10-20 minutes before car trips for optimal effects.
#7: Natural Remedy #4: Fennel
Fennel provides the same soothing effect as catnip, and it's a valuable option for dogs who dislike the taste of peppermint. Refrain from feeding fennel products to pregnant or lactating dogs. The recommended dosage for dogs is 10-20 drops per 20 pounds of body weight.
#8: CBD Can Have a Calming Effect on Your Dog
CBD (cannabidiol) is always an option for dogs who experience motion sickness due to anxiety. The right amount of CBD oil varies from one dog to another — we recommend starting with a small dosage, which you can increase based on your dog's reaction. CBD oil, chews, and treats are all fantastic options for canines. Always start with a small amount and then increase as needed.
#9: Homeopathics Are Tried-and-True Remedies for Motion Sickness in Dogs
Some of the most common homeopathic remedies for your dog's motion sickness include:
- Nux vomica: Aside from being listed as one of the best treatments for car sickness in dogs, this homeopathic remedy helps relieve numerous other symptoms of digestive system disorders, such as constipation and indigestion. You can also give Nux vomica to your dog when they're experiencing hiccups, nausea, or vomiting.
- Sepia: This homeopathic remedy is especially appropriate for lowering anxiety levels in senior dogs. Sepia's effects are often immediate — your dog should return to their joyful self minutes after administering the remedy. The same applies to anxiety and nausea symptoms.
- Cocculus indicus: This homeopathic remedy serves as an emergency option when other remedies aggravate your dog's motion sickness symptoms. Cocculus indicus comes in especially handy if your dog curiously watches everything through the window.
How To Administer Homeopathic Remedies to Your Dog
The best way to administer a homeopathic remedy is to tip a tiny pellet into a glass vial cap, then drop the remedy into your dog's mouth without touching it with your hand. The human skin contains oils that can inhibit a homeopathic remedy's absorption once they come into contact. Likewise, you can mix the homeopathic pellet in a dropper bottle with some spring water — shake the bottle in your palm about 10 times, then use the dropper to administer the remedy. As long as the homeopathic touches the dog's mucous membranes (e.g., the gums), you're good to go. Refrain from storing homeopathic remedies in the fridge, as the refrigeration process will render them useless.
Although tried-and-true remedies for motion sickness, homeopathics do not exhibit the same results in all dogs. If your dog does not respond to any of the three suggested remedies, take a step back and reconsider your strategy.
Use a Crate or Car Seat To Limit Your Dog's Line of Vision
Watching the world fly by through the window frequently makes matters worse for some dogs. That is why restricting your dog's line of vision might be enough to ease their car sickness symptoms. We recommend using either a car seat or a crate to help your dog face forward and experience less bumpiness during a car ride. A quick Google search will uncover various car seat options specifically designed to reduce motion sickness. There's no telling which of the two solutions will effectively mitigate your dog's motion sickness, so take the time to experiment with both.
Time for Your Dog To Enjoy Going On Car Rides With You!
Although a common condition, motion sickness in dogs can easily be treated with proper desensitization techniques and remedies without resorting to prescription medications. You can gradually increase your dog's tolerance for car trips, up to the point where even the longest of road trips will become a source of joy and excitement for your dog. Contact us and check out our blog for more advice on dog nutrition, health, and training!
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