How to Help your Dog Handle Motion Sickness
Updated: Apr 26, 2019
By Emily Schultze
The car ride—some dogs love it, others find it about as fun as walking barefoot on pavement in the height of a sunny day. But, if you are going to be able to take your dog anywhere not in walking distance, they are going to have to take a trip in the car. So how can you make sure that your dog has a good experience?
The first thing to do is identify what is causing the problem.
There are several things that could lead a dog to experience motion sickness. While some have a negative emotional association with car rides, other dogs have a physical element as the root of the issue. Young puppies especially can get feelings of motion sickness due to underdevelopment in the vestibular apparatus (the part of their body that is associated with balance and spatial orientation). In these cases dogs can eventually outgrow their motion sickness when they reach maturity. However, it is important to remember that size plays a role in development, and smaller dogs often reach maturity faster than bigger dogs.
However, if a primarily physical cause is ruled out, motion sickness could be the result of a negative association with car rides. If a puppy younger than 10 weeks old has a less than positive experience in a car, it can affect them for the next couple years. So, it is important to make sure that they are relaxed and develop a positive association with car rides. Watching your dog to see what actions or places cause their anxiety will help you start a plan to help improve their confidence. With this plan under your belt, you can work with your dog on reducing their anxious feelings related to those situations that trigger them. Going on trips to fun places or to the vet’s office just to give your dog a treat can help them learn that going in the car can lead to good things.
There are also things that you can do during the car ride to help your dog feel their best.
It is recommended that dogs should be positioned so that they are facing in the direction of travel. When they are facing forward, your dog's brain will be able to better understand where they are in relation to their environment. Having the window cracked helps as well, since it evens out the air pressure in the car. Taking your dog for a walk and making sure they have been fed before they get into the car also allows them to be more relaxed, leading to an overall better experience for you and your pet. Whatever happens, remember that your dog looks to you for queues for how to react to certain situations. So if they do get sick, remaining calm can help ease some of their anxiety.
Although dealing with motion sickness is no fun for you or your dog, there are steps that you can take to help them.