Dog Travel Sickness: How to Help

Travel sick dog | Animed Direct

Dog travel sickness can be a common problem in dogs of all ages, from puppies to adult dogs. It can make travel extremely stressful for both pets and their owners, especially if you want to enjoy adventures a long way away from home. While travel sickness tablets for dogs can be a good short term solution, behavioural therapy is usually the best way forward long term, as it’s often caused by anxiety.

What Causes Dog Travel Sickness?

True motion sickness in dogs is fairly uncommon. It is thought to be a result of certain types of movement affecting the balance centre in the brain.

However, many dogs who demonstrate the symptoms of travel sickness do so as a result of anxiety. Car travel is an unfamiliar experience that can cause high levels of stress. More often than not, it is this anxiety that is causing a dog to feel nauseous and unwell in the car.

Some dogs may ‘grow out of’ travel sickness, often because they have simply become more familiar with it, and no longer feel anxious. But is always best to address dog car sickness early on. If left unmanaged, symptoms can get worse until travelling in a vehicle is no longer an option.

How Do I Know if My Dog is Car Sick?

While vomiting is of course the most obvious symptom of dog travel sickness, there can also be other slightly less obvious symptoms related to nausea in dogs. These include:

  • drooling
  • lip licking
  • yawning
  • excessive
  • swallowing
  • panting
  • a general reluctance to be in or around vehicles

What Can I Give My Dog for Travel Sickness?

There are some cases of true motion sickness that unfortunately can only be managed with prescription medication through your vet. These medications are known as antiemetic, or anti-sickness medications.

Pet prescription medications, or POM-V’s, can be purchased through Animed Direct. However, they do require a valid written veterinary prescription before they can be dispensed.

However, the majority of cases of dog travel sickness can be managed and treated with behavioural therapy. This is because symptoms are often largely caused by anxiety around travel. Speak to your vet or a qualified dog behaviourist about the best way to do this with your pet. You can also try our tips at the end of this blog.

For some dogs, supplements can also be suitable.

Supplements and Travel Sickness Tablets for Dogs

If your dog shows symptoms at even the jingle of the car keys, they may be starting to feel sick at just the thought of a car journey. For these dogs, where anxiety is a key factor in their discomfort, calming supplements can provide effective travel sickness relief.

Zylkene capsules can act as great travel sickness tablets for dogs. These supplements contains a natural ingredient derived from a protein in milk called casein, which has clinically proven calming properties.

YuMOVE Calming Care supplements are another good option for anxious dogs. These tasty tablets help to support natural calming pathways in your dog’s brain using scientifically proven ingredients.

Other options include calming sprays, which can be applied to your pet’s bedding or carrier. Adaptil uses pheromone technology to send comforting signals to your dog, while Pet Remedy contains a unique formulation of calming essential oils. They can even be sprayed on a bandana or coat so your dog can take the benefits with them.

Not all dogs enjoy tablets, and sprays may require repeat application depending on the length of your journey. An Adaptil collar, which also uses pheromone technology, is a great option for dogs that need anxiety relief on the move. Dogs can simply wear the collar all day long, with no need for repeat applications or tablet ingestion.

All dogs are different, so consult your vet to see what the best treatment might be for your dog’s travel sickness.

Can I Give My Dog Anti Sickness Tablets for Humans?

No, you should never give dogs any medication intended for humans. Human travel sickness tablets will not be effective in your dog and may have serious side effects.

How Else Can I Help My Dog’s Travel Sickness?

As well as trying supplements, there are other simple changes you can make to your dog’s journey to help reduce feelings of car sickness, as well as behavioural therapy techniques you can try. Here are our 6 top tips to help your dog’s travel sickness:

1. Make Sure Your Dog Feels Secure While Travelling

How your dog travels can heavily influence how they feel about the journey. If they struggle with separation anxiety, travelling alone in the boot may cause them to be fearful. Having someone ride in the back seat to be closer to them or moving them to the back seats may be beneficial. Other dogs may feel more secure in a crate or carrier.

When creating a space in the car for your dog to travel in, ask the following questions: Are they able to lay comfortably? Is the surface secure and not slippy? Trial different beds and blankets to find the perfect fit for your furry friend. We love the Henry Wag microfibre noodle pet mats for giving your dog a cosy surface that also helps keep your car clean!

NOTE: It is important to make sure that your dog is suitably restrained while travelling, as outlined in the Highway Code. Any animal that is travelling unrestrained in a vehicle runs the risk of incurring a fine as well as invalidating your car and pet insurance.

These fabric travel crates from Henry Wagg are great way to keep your pet contained and they are easy to store with their fold-away design. A car seatbelt clip is also a good way to ensure your dog is suitably restrained.

2. Build a Positive Association with the Car

Try taking your dog out to the car but without travelling anywhere. Simply practice being in and around the vehicle. Use some tasty treats to try and build a positive association with being in the car. Some owners find letting their dog have their favourite chew or even their dinner while sat in a stationary car can help them to feel more confident.

When your dog starts to feel more comfortable with being around the car and is happily getting in and out for their treat, try starting the engine. For some dogs, this may not cause any reaction. For others, it may knock their confidence slightly. It is important to carry on at your dog’s speed. Once they are comfortably accepting each stage without any reaction or reluctance, it is time to start moving the car.

3. Stick to Short Journeys

For some dogs, even a short drive to the end of the road and back can be a big achievement. Use gentle encouragement to offer them comfort and support. Slowly build up the duration of the journeys.

4. Feed your Dog at Least 3 Hours Prior to Travel

Travelling on a full stomach is not ideal, especially if your dog suffers from travel sickness. Aim to feed them 3 hours prior to travel to give them time to digest their meal.

5. Exercise Your Dog Before the Journey

This will help to use up any extra energy and encourage them to sleep in the car. It also gives your dog a chance to go to the toilet before getting in the car.

6. Plan Your Journey

It is always important to factor in toilet breaks for your dog on longer journeys. Try to find quieter spaces along your route where your pet can have a peaceful break, and get some fresh air.

Wrapping Up: Dog Car Sickness

With time and consistency, you should be able to increase the length of your journeys and start planning longer trips away with your pup. If you have a puppy, it’s a great idea to introduce them to the car gradually while they are young to avoid adverse reactions later. If you need more help, speak to your vet or local dog behaviourist for further advice to ensure your pet can receive more tailored advice and recommendations.

Animed Veterinary Nurse, Beth Walker
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