Managing motion sickness

Motion sickness is commonly a problem of puppies that often resolves with age.

OVERVIEW

Motion sickness is illness usually brought on from a car ride. It is estimated that 20% of dogs suffer from car sickness.

Motion sickness occurs commonly in:

  • Puppies and young adults due to their immature inner ear
  • Dogs suffering from ear disease
  • Dogs that suffer from anxiety whether it be from leaving the house, traffic noise, or motion
  • Dogs with behavioural problems whereby they associate the car with illness

SIGNS

Common signs of motion sickness:

  • Drooling
  • Whimpering
  • Vomiting or diarrhoea in extremely anxious pets
  • Anxiousness
  • Wobbliness
  • Lethargy

MANAGEMENT

As a dog matures, their motion sickness may disappear. While they are young, it is important to maintain a positive car experience until they outgrow it.

Dogs that suddenly develop motion sickness due to ear disease will require veterinary treatment to address the disease.

If your pet continues to suffer from motion sickness due to behavioural disorders such as anxiety, you can try behavioural modification techniques such as slowly introducing your pet to the car and short rides and making it a positive experience.

In severe cases, your veterinarian will be able to discuss whether your pet is suitable for medication, pheromone therapy or natural remedies such as Bach flower, valerian, passionflower, ginger.

Veterinary treatment may include:

  • Antihistamine medication to provide sedation and inhibit drooling
  • Acepromazine medication, which is a sedative and reduces nausea
  • Maropitant medication (Cerenia), which is a once daily tablet medication or injection that can be used in dogs over 8 weeks of age to prevent vomiting due to travel sickness
  • Pheromone therapy such as ADAPTIL diffuser or collar

TIPS

Tips to help reduce motion sickness:

  • Always make the car ride as comfortable as possible
  • Take time to sit in a non-moving car to get your pet accustomed to it
  • Start car rides early, frequently and short for young puppies and try different cars
  • Keep your car rides to positive destinations such as the park or a play date
  • Travel on smooth, straight routes initially
  • Place a non-slip mat for your pet to sit on
  • Encourage your pet to look forward rather than through the side window by covering the side windows or placing them in a crate
  • Seat belts and crates can offer security to some dogs
  • Always lower the windows slightly to allow for air flow
  • Avoid meals prior to a car ride
  • Offer a small treat as a reward for being in the car at the start of the ride
  • Keep the car temperature cool
  • Give your pet a favourite toy when in the car