While most dogs love to be in the car, some suffer from motion sickness and battle with nausea, drooling, and vomiting, while others have anxiety. Often both motion sickness and anxiety happen at the same time, where a dog experiences physical motion sickness and then will associate car rides with that unpleasant feeling.
Young puppies can have issues with balance and spatial orientation meaning they will suffer motion sickness which they can outgrow as they get older.
While some dogs experience motion sickness from a physical issue – the vestibular apparatus – for other dogs, the problem is emotional; it’s literally all in their heads. It is extremely important that a puppy’s early exposure to the car be a positive experience.
Socialisation Can Benefit Motion Sickness
Early socialisation can play a key role in helping puppies and young dogs develop a positive association with riding in the car. If the only time a dog rides in the car is when he’s driven to the vet, the groomer, or the boarding kennel, there’s a good chance they will decide that a car ride is not a good experience. When people get a new dog, one of the first car rides is usually to the vet for the initial wellness exam, which is often stressful.
It’s important that puppies and dogs have opportunities to enjoy car rides, such as going on short rides to fun places. These can help teach a dog that riding in the car is a good thing. Drive to the park for a fun walk. Drive to a friend’s house for a play date.
Treating Motion Sickness and Anxiety
To help reduce the chance that your dog will experience motion sickness, or to help minimise its effects, it is recommend to position your dog in the car so that they are facing the direction of travel.
Whether it’s riding restrained via a seatbelt or inside a carrier, facing forward helps the brain make sense of what is going on, which can lessen the chance of motion sickness.
Many dogs who suffer from motion sickness do better when the windows are open, to help equalise air pressure in the car. Traveling on an empty stomach will also help minimise the effects of motion sickness. If you can, exercise your dog a few hours before travel to aid with their overall relaxation.
When riding with a dog who is getting car sick, it’s important for you to remain calm. A negative or hysterical response to a dog throwing up in the car can easily add to a dog’s anxiety.
There are also several natural approaches to treating motion sickness and its associated anxiety:
Rescue Remedy – Contains Impatiens, Star of Bethlehem, Cherry Plum, Rock Rose, and Clematis.
Tactile techniques – Some dogs are also comforted by tactile techniques, such as wearing a compression garment such as a ThunderShirt.
Helping your dog to feel happier and more confident near and in the car will help them to relax and improve their motion sickness.
While it can be frustrating to deal with a dog who has motion sickness, understanding what is behind the issue is an important first step in reducing the problem. Developing a plan of action alongside time and patience will help your dog on the road to recovery.