How to Help a Dog Who Has Motion Sickness
After several months of quarantine, most of us are eager to get out of the house and venture beyond our four walls.
With more retailers, restaurants, and other businesses opening up, many of us are returning to something that slightly resembles our previous routine. For pet parents, skipped grooming appointments and delayed wellness visits to the veterinarian are finally on the calendar.
Understandably, now that your dog has grown accustomed to spending every hour by your side, you likely want to bring him along to every dog-friendly destination possible. And you may be worried about how he’ll adjust to a new routine if you leave him home alone.
One of the great things about dogs is that they’re almost always willing to tag along with their favorite people. Whether you’re taking a ride to the park, running errands (just make sure you NEVER leave a dog alone in a parked car when it’s warm or hot outside), or taking a short road trip for a change of scenery, most dogs will probably be just as excited as their parents about getting out of the house.
However, for dogs that suffer from motion sickness, even a short trip in the car can be a “ruff” experience.
Motion Sickness in Dogs is Very Common
Dr. Joyce Login, DVM, told me something that I’ll never forget about the problem of canine motion sickness. According to her, “Dogs with motion sickness are truly miserable.”
That single comment really hit home with me! If you’ve ever experienced motion sickness, you know what an awful feeling it is. Dogs shouldn’t have to endure the misery of motion sickness any more than humans should.
Up until about a year ago, I was happy to say that Chilly didn’t have motion sickness – or car sickness. But after having a few conversations with Dr. Joyce Login and speaking with our veterinarian, Dr. Cole, I began to notice that Chilly was demonstrating some of the signs of a dog with motion sickness.
- He doesn’t like to get in the car.
- He won’t look out the car window.
- He looks unhappy in the car.
- He pants in the car.
Chilly turned ten this year, and these signs have definitely become more pronounced as he has aged. These signs could be due to an onset of motion sickness, or they could mean that he’s developed some anxiety about traveling by car. In any case, our veterinarian has prescribed a treatment for vomiting because of motion sickness that we plan to use the next time we take him along in the car. I’ll talk more about that treatment later.
Chilly isn’t alone. Many of my dog mom friends also have pets that suffer from motion sickness. My friend, Heather, told me that her Goldendoodle, “Phylis” (yes, that’s her real name), gets sick on every trip they take and that it’s become a real problem, both for the pup and for the family.
Canine motion sickness is much more common than many of us realize. In fact, it affects a whopping 48% of dogs!! Fortunately, there are effective treatment options.
Addressing Your Dog’s Motion Sickness with the Help of Your Veterinarian
Unfortunately, very few pet parents are talking to their veterinarian about their dogs’ motion sickness. As a result, they aren’t getting the help they need. And, because there are so many other things that they need to address at a regular visit, our veterinarians don’t typically bring it up during an exam either.
So why wouldn’t the parents of a dog with motion sickness ask their veterinarian about the issue? Often, it’s because they don’t recognize or understand the signs. They may think it’s a “mental thing” that their dog might just get over. Or they don’t even realize that their veterinarian could help.
In many cases, pet parents just stop taking their dog places, either to avoid the potential situations that make their dog vomit, or just because they can tell how miserable they are, and they want to spare them the ordeal. This is not the only option. If you notice signs of motion sickness in your dog, talk to your veterinarian and ask for help!
Signs of Motion Sickness in Dogs
Many dogs can get motion sick even on a short car ride. So, a simple trip to the veterinarian or the groomer can result in a miserable pooch! Trips by plane or train can also trigger them. Some dogs even get sick from other activities like boating.
Vomiting is an obvious sign that your dog is suffering from motion sickness, but it’s not the only one. There are several other signs you should be aware of. Just because your dog doesn’t “Ralph” in the car doesn’t mean he’s not feeling sick. Some of the signs of motion sickness would be easy to dismiss if you don’t know what you’re looking for, so it’s important to understand all of the potential signs. Signs of motion sickness include:
- Dry heaving
- Excessive lip licking
- Excessive panting
- Bracing stance
If you notice your dog doing any of these things when you travel, you should talk to your vet. You can also take this online quiz to help you decode some behavior and signs that might be caused by motion sickness.
Help for Dogs Who Vomit Because of Motion Sickness
Many years ago, veterinarians would prescribe things like acepromazine, Benadryl®, or Dramamine® for motion sickness because there wasn’t anything else available. They’re human drugs, not made for dogs, and they only mask the signs, rather than make your dog feel better and they can make your dog sleepy or drowsy. We don’t want or need that!
Of course, you don’t want your pup to get sick or vomit either. Besides the fact that it’s no fun to clean up a car full of your dog’s last meal, vomiting can be painful, exhausting, and anxiety-inducing for your dog.
Thankfully, there’s a treatment for vomiting due to canine motion sickness that works without making your dog drowsy or loopy. The next time we bring Chilly for a ride, we will be treating him with CERENIA® (maropitant citrate), the first and only veterinary FDA-approved anti-vomiting medication for dogs. This video explains how CERENIA can help a dog with motion sickness.
Dr. Login explained to me that CERENIA is an anti-emetic (anti-vomiting) medication and that it addresses the cause of vomiting due to motion sickness. CERENIA works by blocking a chemical in the brain that controls vomiting.
For use at home, it comes in a once-a-day tablet form. To administer, give your dog CERENIA with a small amount of food, two hours before traveling. It’s safe to give to your dog once a day, for up to two days in a row.
CERENIA is only available by prescription. So, if your dog shows signs of vomiting because of motion sickness, make sure you talk to your veterinarian about whether CERENIA can help before your next ride!
Be Prepared to Travel With Your Dog
Controlling your dog’s motion sickness will help both of you enjoy local and distance adventures, including taking longer road trips, and so much more!
But, if you’re planning a little getaway with your dog, vomiting from motion sickness isn’t the only thing you need to be prepared for. You’ll want to make sure you bring along everything you need to keep him safe and comfortable, in addition to anything you might need in case of an emergency.
Does that sound a little overwhelming? This travel checklist takes the guesswork out of planning a trip with your pooch.
Canine motion sickness doesn’t mean that you need to choose between leaving your dog home all the time or watching him be completely miserable in the car. With a simple solution to vomiting, your furry best friend can stay right by your side and enjoy every minute!
IMPORTANT SAFETY INFORMATION: Use CERENIA Tablets for acute vomiting in dogs 2 months and older, and for prevention of vomiting due to motion sickness in dogs 4 months and older. Safe use has not been evaluated in dogs with gastrointestinal obstruction, or those that have ingested toxins. Use with caution in dogs with hepatic dysfunction. In people, topical exposure may elicit localized allergic skin reactions, and repeated or prolonged exposure may lead to skin sensitization. See full Prescribing Information.
Kristen Levine has a consulting relationship with Zoetis Petcare.
This Post Has 7 Comments
My dog Penny has been vomiting for days, which is why I’ve decided to start looking for an animal hospital that may address this concern. I think he has motion sickness since you’ve mentioned here that one of the symptoms is the refusal to get inside the vehicle and vomiting. Well, thank you for this; I’ll make sure to avoid including him I’m my road trips for a while.
Poor Penny! Yes, definitely take him to see a vet as soon as possible. His daily vomiting can lead to dehydration, and other complications.
Also, tell your vet that you suspect he may have motion sickness. He or she can prescribe Cerenia, which may allow you to continue to take him on road trips without him vomiting!
I don’t let her eat any food or drink any water 2 hours Prime to driving but she can’t even handle a 20-minute ride and she’s drooling from the nose the mouth throws up all over the back seat so what can I do for her because she wants to go but yet I can’t deal with all this throw up she’s 5 months old she’s a Rottweiler
Try a thunder shirt, it worked for my dog. Dramamine was good for another dog I had. There is also cerenia that you can get from your vet. But ask your vet before giving any medication.
Does anyone have success with medications other than Cerenia? Despite fasting, Cerenia and Gravol our little one is still foaming at the mouth and very ill. She is 6 months old and 47 pounds.
My puppy who is 16 months old, just recently started getting anxiety in the car. She used to be great and then one day she didn’t want to go near the car running (it’s running to cool off), and I have to pick her up and get her in. I realized that when we went over potholes it really effected her. Do you think if I got a booster seat so she can look out will help??
I’m so sorry about your puppy,
The symptoms of dog anxiety and motion sickness often overlap. A booster seat may or may not help your puppy’s anxiety and/or motion sickness. Some dogs get motion sick from the passing scenery looking out the window. I suggest that you talk to your veterinarian so they can help determine the true cause of your puppy’s behavior.
If your vet rules out motion sickness, check out my blog post for tips on how to keep your anxious dog calm while in the car. ThunderShirt is a must have for my car rides with my dogs Chilly & Tulip.