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When Your Dog Gets Car Sick
Car rides can be a big source of anxiety for your dog and for you, especially
if you have a pup who gets car sick. Sometimes it’s necessary to take your dog
in the car, so figuring out how to best make your pup comfortable for the ride
is really important. Understanding why dogs get sick can help you figure out
how to best help them enjoy car trips and avoid major messes on the car
Some car sickness is caused by actual motion sickness. Just as smaller children tend to get motion sickness worse than adults, puppies tend to be more affected by the motion of a car than adult dogs. This happens because the ear structure that helps them feel balanced is not fully developed yet. Often, puppies will outgrow car sickness. If your dog becomes ill on the first car ride, he or she may associate throwing up with the car, and it can be more difficult to outgrow car sickness.
Another major factor of dog car sickness is not from motion, but rather from the anxiety of travelling in the car. While some dogs love going for a cruise with you, others are very fearful of car rides, especially if they associate a car ride with going to the vet’s office or a kennel. If your dog is an anxious rider and that’s what’s causing the sickness, don’t give up hope. There are ways you can help ease your dog’s mind and help avoid car sickness.
You can start by changing your dog’s associations with car rides. If your dog is only used to going to scary places, start traveling somewhere fun with your dog to make car rides a positive experience. Find a relaxing place to travel that’s fairly close to home, like a park with wide, open spaces. Bring a friend or family member along for the ride to help ease your dog along the way. When you reach your destination, make the trip fun for your dog by playing. On the ride home, have your friend or family member calm your dog for the trip and when you arrive play with your dog just as you did at the park. Let your dog rest for a few hours and then give him or her a few treats. Repeating this process will soon give your dog positive associations with car trips and he or she will realize the car is not a reason to get sick.
Another way you can help your dog avoid car sickness is to have your dog travel on an empty stomach. Try not to feed your dog for about 6 to 8 hours prior to riding. Instead give your dog some water and feed him or her once you are done riding for the day. Stopping frequently along the route can also help your dog avoid getting sick. Make sure to give water or ice during each stop and go for a short walk.
Seeing the scenery and enjoying the fresh air can help your dog avoid getting sick. Make sure your dog is secure and able to see out the windows. Crack the windows for fresh air and there’s a much better chance at having a pleasant car ride.
If you’ve tried all of the above and your dog is still getting ill, ask your vet for other suggestions.
Lisa Marino, CPDT-KA, KPA-CTP, PMCT, has taken her varied teaching experiences and applied them to helping owners understand and train their beloved four-legged family members. She has more than four years’ experience leading group dog training classes at Best Paw Forward in Hartland, WI, and opened Head of the Class Dog Training LLC in Winchester, VA in 2012, where she conducts group classes and private lessons, as well as helps owners to modify their dogs' problem behaviors.
Lisa earned her CPDT-KA in 2012, is a 2015 graduate of the prestigious Karen Pryor Academy and is a Pat Miller Certified Trainer.
She has 4 registered therapy dogs and is a Pet Partner Therapy Team Evaluator and a member of HOPE AACR. As a former middle school teacher, she works well with families and children and does school presentations on various dog related topics.