Does Your Dog Get Car Sick?

Some of my dogs experience motion sickness, but others don't. How about your dogs?


It’s finally summer! This is the time of year when my wife and I get to spend more time with our dogs playing in parks, hiking on trails, and going for a refreshing swim in the lake or streams. It’s also the time of year when we load up the car, dog included, to head to the mountains or beach for a well-deserved family vacation.

Sometimes the biggest challenge is getting our dogs in the car and making sure they don’t succumb to car sickness during the trip. Packing everything up and driving to our vacation destination can be stressful on us as well as on our dogs. It made me wonder if a lot of dogs experience motion sickness when traveling.

I discussed this topic with Dr. Reddy, my vet at Windermere Animal Hospital, hoping he would have some recommendations for Dogster readers. He confirmed for me that pets, just like people, can suffer from motion sickness.

“Most of the motion sickness problems can be controlled with prior training like taking pets on short car rides and slowly increasing the ride time,” Dr. Reddy says. He suggests getting your dog used to the travel crate or carrier by bringing it out a few days before your trip.

But what if your dog is happy to get in the crate, but still suffers from travel sickness? Dr. Reddy suggests you talk to your vet about pretreatment, which involves medications like antihistamines, anti-nausea pills, or sedatives. He prefers to prescribe Benadryl (1 mg per pound of your dog’s weight), and will sometimes prescribe sedatives like acepromazine or diazepam — but he stresses that you should talk to your vet first, and definitely do NOT use human prescriptions for your pet.

During my college years I had a wonderful Pomeranian named Neecie. She loved traveling everywhere with me during those years. I attended a college less than hour from my parent’s house. Though I had my own campus apartment, it had a very small refrigerator and no washer or dryer. This forced me to travel to my folks’ house once or twice a month. Well, that was my excuse anyway. It had nothing to do with Mom doing my laundry for me and allowing me to raid their refrigerator in order to restock the one in my apartment.

Neecie always enjoyed going for a visit to my parents’ house and always seemed to know when the trip was going to happen. Was it was because I was talking about the trip? Was it because she saw the dirty clothes basket overflowing? Or, was it because she knew the fridge was empty and I was living off of mac-n-cheese for a week? In any case, she always knew and waited patiently at the door to leave.

Before we hopped in the car for our ride, I would take her out for a walk. I knew she had a history of getting sick in the car while riding. Though I started getting her used to riding as a puppy, she never really took to the actual ride. During the walk she would completely relieve herself. I would then walk with her to the car, place her in the back seat, and she would lay down for the ride. Within a few blocks from my apartment, a foul aroma would permeate from the back seat. I would pull over to the curb, look in the back seat where she would politely be sitting, and look next to her to see a clump of poop next to her. I knew it came from her, but I wasn’t sure how she had another round of poop in her when she just relieved herself. I felt bad for her and would always try to console her. Fortunately, my college cars were old clunkers with vinyl bench seats. The seats were very easy to clean and occasionally were hosed down at the local car wash.

I’ve learned over the years that motion sickness for dogs is a lot like human motion sickness. Stress is definitely a contributor to motion sickness. Staying calm before, during, and after the trip is very important for us and our dogs. Here are a few other helpful tips that I’ve used over the years that have worked well:

  • Ginger snap cookies: The ginger in the cookies seems to relieve the symptoms for shorter trips.
  • No food: Try not to feed your dog within three hours of a trip. A full stomach that starts to feel uneasy during the trip could trigger some very messy results.
  • Facing forward or backward in the car: Looking out of a front or a rear window, compared to a side window, seems to help. I believe this helps their equilibrium. It’s a lot like looking out the side of a roller coaster and not looking or facing forward. It is very hard to focus and can make you feel dizzy.

None of my other dogs have had motion sickness issues. Some have joined our family at a young age and some were much older. Hopefully, your dog will never experience motion sickness when traveling. If they do, try some of the suggestions above and see if they will help.

Does your dog like traveling? Do they experience motion sickness? Tell us about your experiences in the comments!

Read more on traveling with your dog:

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