Having a dog who suffers from dog car sickness can be a major headache, whether you just need to drive your dog to the vet or are dreaming of taking a road trip together. And if your dog gets dog travel sickness travelling by car, what about other forms of transport?
I was lucky that my dog never got car sick even when a puppy (just as well, as our first car trip together was a two-hour drive home from the breeder). But if your dog suffers from dog motion sickness, I’ve put together this list of remedies on consultation with fellow dog owners.
1. Hope They’ll Grow Out of It
A common refrain from people who have dealt with a car sick dog in the past is that their dog just grew out of it. Most often, this was once their dog stopped being a puppy, at around 12 months of age.
If this is the case, you could just minimise any trips with your dog until they reach this stage, until they grow out of their puppy car sickness. But you don’t know if this will happen in advance, and it might not be enough for some dogs. It’s better to try some additional steps to help your dog not be car sick, and hope that with assistance they’ll grow out of it.
2. Acclimatise Your Dog to Car Trips
The first step you should try to help your dog grow out of dog motion sickness is to gradually acclimatise them to trips in the car. The aim is to get your dog used to travelling by car on short trips to fun destinations, and then increase the duration of the trip.
Even extremely short trips such as down the street to the local dog park or dog beach, then getting out of the car for some fun, is ideal as a first step. Additionally, you might also try letting your dog sit in the car while it’s stationary, even feeding them or playing with your dog in your car.
For especially anxious dogs, who may even be triggered by the sound of you picking up the car keys, make sure you go especially slowly. If you go too fast, you’ll end up upsetting the work that you’ve done so far. Give plenty of treats for each new step.
3. Make Sure They’re Comfortable
If you weren’t comfortable sitting in your car, why would you want to travel by car? It’s just the same for your dog. A comfortable dog is more likely to enjoy the experience of a road trip and not get motion sickness.
Put your dog’s bed into the car, whether on the back seat or in the rear, depending on the size of your dog and their bed. Add some of their favourite blankets. Give them a toy to help distract them.
If your dog is travelling on the back seat, have someone sit beside them. Often dogs just want some company and reassurance, including wriggling onto your lap!
4. Give Them a Booster Seat
Just like children are less likely to get car sick if they can see out of the window, the same thing applies for many dogs. If you have a small dog who is too short to see out of the window, consider purchasing a booster seat for your dog. (I’ll be soon putting together a list of recommended booster seats for dogs.)
As an alternative, some people allow their dog to sit on the front seat, so that they can see out even without a booster seat. However, as well as being illegal in some places, even if this isn’t illegal it puts your dog as serious risk of injury if the air bags go off, a possibility even following a minor rear-ender.
5. Open Up a Window
Another trigger for dog travel sickness is hot, stuffy conditions inside of the car. Consider opening the window next to your dog, to allow in a constant stream of fresh air. Some people swear by letting their dogs put their head out of the window, but for safety reasons it’s best to not open the window far enough to allow this.
If you’d prefer not to open a window and you have aircon vents in the back of your car, make sure the aircon vents are open and the aircon is on fresh rather than recirculate. Also consider using sunshades on windows, just like you would for children, to prevent hot sunlight shining directly on your dog.
6. Don’t Feed Your Dog Before a Car Trip
If you’re hopping into the car with your dog first thing in the morning, consider skipping feeding your dog breakfast that morning, delaying it until after your car trip.
Alternatively, get up extra early to feed your dog, so that they haven’t had anything to eat for an hour or two before getting in the car. For some dogs, you might need to leave an even longer period. In particular, some dogs are triggered by wet food, so stick to kibble.
7. Give Your Dog Some Ginger
One of the simplest natural remedies for dog car sickness that many dog owners swear by, is giving their dog some ginger before a car trip. Just like ginger tea can quickly settle your own upset stomach, ginger is also a great anti-nausea remedy for dogs.
The easiest way to give your dog ginger is to break off a small piece of any type of ginger biscuit, whether ginger nut cookies or ginger snaps. The amount depends on your dog’s size. (Be sparing with small dogs.) Give it to them about half an hour before getting in the car.
Alternatively, you could grate some raw ginger into their food (mince combines well), give them some crystallised ginger pushed into a piece of cheese, or give them cooled, unsweetened ginger tea to drink in place of water.
8. Try a Calming Product
For dogs whose car sickness is due to them being anxious about travelling in the car, another potential remedy to give your dog for their car sickness is an anti-anxiety product.
There are a wide variety of dog anti-anxiety and calming products available in most pet stores. Some examples including Bach Rescue Remedy Pet Drops, Adaptil Dog Stress Relief Spray and Adaptil Stress Relief Collars. Always make sure you follow the instructions, including the recommended dosage size.
9. Or Speak to Your Vet
Finally, if you’ve tried lots of different remedies for your dog’s car sickness and nothing has yet worked, consider speaking to your vet. They may be able to prescribe your dog anti-nausea tablets.
While some anti-nausea medications for pets can be purchased off the shelf (such as TravelEze in Australia), other medications may only be available from a vet. Your vet may also be able to recommend a human medication, such as Phenergan, at an appropriate dosage level for your pup. However, never give your dog human medication without the advice of your vet.
Often travel sickness medication is only needed for a short period, not for life, just to help your dog grow out of their travel sickness.