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Pets and Car Sickness

Some pets have a tough time with car sickness.  It’s especially common in young puppies and kittens who are not used to regular car rides.  Most pets will outgrow the condition with maturity and experience. 

Dog in a carWith adult animals, your veterinarian can help distinguish if your pet has true motion sickness related to the movement of the vehicle or has anxiety related to riding in the car. Dogs with motion sickness tend to be fine when the car is parked but will start to drool, vomit, or have diarrhea once the vehicle starts moving.  Booster seats with pet seatbelts can help some dogs, because they can look out the window.  Their brains can “make sense” of the motion when they can watch the scenery pass by and may be less likely to be sick. Short trips (even around the block) may be helpful for some dogs as they are getting used to the motion of the car.  There are some medications which help with motion sickness and any related nausea right at the level of the brain.  Your veterinarian will be able to prescribe this type of remedy if it is appropriate for your dog.

Dogs with anxiety may whine or otherwise act excited or fearful about getting into the car in the first place.  Some animals get so upset that they will also drool or throw up.  Your veterinarian can help you determine whether the main concerns are related to being confined, the movement of the vehicle, fast-moving traffic, or the noise of being out and about.  These dogs will benefit from learning how to “relax” in the car. Practice with the car at rest in the driveway.  Have your dog jump in and out of the car; have her sit in her seatbelt for a few minutes at a time; or give her a command to lay down in her crate.  When she is quiet and calm, she gets rewarded with a food treat or play outside the car.  Once you have worked up to driving, start with short trips.  It can be helpful to have a second person sit in the backseat with the pet to help soothe them and distract them by rewarding positive “car behaviours”.  Prescription medication is available for pets with severe anxiety problems, but they will not be effective without consistent and frequent sessions to address the behavioural component of their anxiety.  Talk to your vet about the best approach for your dog and her car sickness.

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