Help! My Dog Gets Carsick

How to stop it for good 🙌

dog car sickness

Riding in the car with your dog is inevitable, whether it’s for a vet visit, a trip to the dog park or just a fun drive.

But if your dog throws up every time he gets in the car, that could mean he struggles with car sickness.

The Dodo spoke with Dr. Clarissa B. Lyon, a veterinarian at Larklain Mobile Veterinary Services in Pennsylvania, and Dr. Linda Simon, a veterinary surgeon and a consultant for FiveBarks, who explained how to help with your dog’s car sickness so you don’t end up breaking the bank on cleaning supplies.

Can dogs get carsick?

Dogs can get carsick, and odds are you can relate (and if you can’t, you’re lucky).

“Car sickness is incredibly common among our pet canines and can start from puppyhood,” Dr. Simon told The Dodo. “While some will grow out of it, for many, car sickness remains for life.”

“Primarily … [dogs get carsick for] the same reason that people do,” Dr. Lyon told The Dodo. “It’s motion sickness.”

The reason your car's movement makes your pup sick is because he can’t anticipate the movement. “It’s the difference between actual and expected motion,” Dr. Lyon explained.

This means that since your dog isn’t walking himself or moving on his own, the motion is unexpected when it’s detected by his vestibular system (aka the system responsible for your balance and movement), which ends up making him nauseous.

It’s the same reason why you get queasy while reading in the car. If your eyes aren’t on the road, you can’t anticipate when or how the car is going to turn, which confuses your body.

But the motion isn’t the only reason your dog might be getting carsick. “Another component is anxiety, what I would call the anxiety and stress of car travel,” Dr. Lyon said.

Symptoms of dog car sickness

Aside from the obvious one — vomiting — there are a bunch of other signs that your dog might be suffering from car sickness.

These include:

  • Restlessness
  • Lip licking or smacking
  • Shaking or /trembling
  • Tucked tail
  • Panting
  • Cowering or hiding
  • Hypersalivation (aka drooling a lot)

How to help dogs with car sickness

If your dog struggles with car sickness, there are a few things you can do to help.

Give him some fresh air

Cracking a window can really do wonders for your dog’s car sickness.

“It is sensible to keep the car cool and well ventilated, which may mean having the window ajar and keeping the air conditioning cranked up,” Dr. Simon said.

Clean your car

Your dog’s sense of smell is way more sensitive than yours. So if he’s driving around with something stinky in the car, it could make him yack.

Keeping your car clean will help you steer clear of any extra smells that may intensify your pup’s car sickness.

“​​Avoid having anything strong-smelling in the vehicle, such as take-out food, which may make your dog’s nausea worse,” Dr. Simon said.

Be careful what you feed him

If your dog gets carsick, you might want to hold off on feeding him until after the ride’s over.

“It is sensible to starve a dog for a few hours before a short trip,” Dr. Simon said.

But if you and your pup have a long drive ahead of you and you skip over mealtime, you’ll definitely still want to feed your pup — just try not to feed him something heavy.

“If they are going on a long trip and need food, keep meals bland and light,” Dr. Simon said. “A small
portion of boiled chicken and white rice is a good option for most.”

Dog car sickness medicine

Even if you think you can handle your dog’s car sickness on your own, call your vet anyway, because their help could make a huge difference.

“Call the vet right from the get-go, because a veterinarian can dispense a wonderful medication designed for car sickness,” Dr. Lyon said.

“This medicine works by preventing nausea and vomiting,” Dr. Simon said. “Maropitant is a common option and works effectively by blocking the action of a specific neurotransmitter within the central nervous system. It lasts for 24 hours and works well for most.”

Get Maropitant from Chewy for $19.36

How to prevent car sickness in dogs

The first step to preventing your dog’s car sickness is to make sure he’s comfortable being in the car.

“You want to acclimate the dog to car rides, to take away the fear component,” Dr. Lyon explained.

To do this, you’ll want to ease your pup into it with super short rides that are only positive for him.

“[Start by] introducing a dog to a car very gradually and slowly [by] first getting into the car then getting him out,” Dr. Lyon said. “Once he’s comfortable you can take him for a very short ride out of the driveway and back again.”

If you want — and his stomach is up for it — try giving your dog some treats after each trip in the car, so he associates car rides with good things.

Try these biscuit treats from Chewy for $3.14

If your dog’s car sickness is strictly motion-based and not fear-based, you might be able to prevent his sickness simply by avoiding windy roads and making sure he’s safe, secure and comfortable.

To keep your pup nice and secure in the car, consider hooking him up by his harness or setting him up with a car seat.

Try this dog safety belt from Chewy for $11.99

Or this car seat from Chewy for $41.95

So if you’re concerned your BFF might be carsick forever, don’t be! Just follow these tips and you and your dog will be free to drive anywhere you want.

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