Helping Travel Sick Dogs
Is a car journey with your dog an adventure for all the WRONG reasons?
Travelling with a travel sick dog is a trial and no mistake. But it doesn’t have to be that way.Even the worst doggy traveller isn’t without hope. So instead of avoiding that short drive to the woods or long trip to see relatives, you can be confident that your canine can cope in a car.
Strategies for Success
Helping a dog with travel sickness has more than one solution. Which you apply depends on the dog’s age, the cause of their motion sickness, and how severe it is.
Let’s start with the youngsters and preventing travel sickness in puppies, and work our way up to those that suffer most and the effective, non-sedative, prescription medications that will help.
Puppies: How Travel Sickness Starts
Puppies are likely to get travel sick because of how their brains work.
A young puppy has a lot of learning to do. This involves their brain registering to what’s going on and learning the right reaction. However, their developing brain has a disconnect between the balance mechanism in the ears and what the eyes see. This leads to nausea…and motion sickness.
The problems really click in when the puppy links feeling sick with being the car. A bit like us feeling anxious in the dentist’s waiting room, the pup learns to anticipate the impending unpleasantness.
Unfortunately, anxiety sets off a cascade of hormones which are enough to make the dog feel sick, before even setting paw in the car. A self-fulfilling prophecy.
Reduce the risk of a puppy feeling sick with these simple steps:
- Spend time in the stationary car: Play with pup inside the car with the engine turned off.
- Nice things happen in the car: Feed or offer treats to the dog in the car, without actually going anywhere
- Short and sweet: Take micro-journeys with the pup. Some trips may be a short as reversing out of the drive and driving back in, or going round the block.
- Timing of meals: Avoid travel when the pup has a full stomach. Instead, offer a few dry biscuits.
- Take Pleasure Trips: Visit nice places in the car…not just the vets. This prevents the pup linking the car to unpleasant destinations only and the anxiety this causes.
Dogs: Travel Basics
Even the best traveller, be they human or canine, can be made to feel sick. All it takes is the windows tight shut with the heater on ‘High’ and an erratic driver.
With this in mind, reverse engineer what can make us feel sick, so your dog doesn’t have to.
- Ventilation: A little air flow can do wonders
- Temperature: Keep to the cool side, for maximum canine comfort
- Smooth ride: Don’t be heavy footed on the brake. Too much jerky driving makes for poorly passengers
- Dry biscuits: Don’t travel the dog on a full stomach. Instead, offer a few dry biscuits half an hour ahead of the journey
- Stop frequently: Take frequent comfort breaks so the dog can stretch their legs
- Water regularly: At regular intervals give a few sips of water
Oh, and for safety’s sake, make sure the dog is adequately restrained, either by a crash-tested harness, crate, or travel pod.
Travel Top Tip
Does your dog start drooling even before they get in the car?
This is a sign that the dog is overly anxious about car travel. These canine passengers benefit from a range of tactics, including a long term plan to break the link between travel and feeling sick (as suggested above for puppies.)
Retraining takes time, so in the meanwhile try these other strategies to promote waggy journeys.
Remedies for Travel Sickness in Dogs
You have a holiday planned that includes the dog. But you’re dreading the journey. What can you do to ease dog travel sickness?
Here are a range of suggestions, ranging from natural remedies to over-the-counter medications.
Keeping the dog calm is half the battle. There are a number of ways you can do this, that don’t involve prescription medications.
- Bach flower remedies: Some pet parents swear by a few drops of this remedy onto the dog’s tongue ahead of travel.
- Pet Remedy: This is one example of many ‘aromatherapy’ for dogs products. Pet Remedy is Valerian based and contains a range of natural essential oils that have a calming effect on dogs. We mention Pet Remedy in particular, as many vet clinics use it for it’s proven calming benefits on in-patients
- Dog Appeasing Pheromone (DAP): This comes in a collar or spray. It is a synthetic version of the pheromones given off by a nursing mother-dog that makes her puppies feel relaxed and content.
- Valerian: Valerian is a herbal remedy known for its calming properties. Giving a dose of valerian for dogs, an hour before travel can help. (Always check with your vet before giving an oral supplement to your fur-friend, especially if they are on medication.)
Keep the dog comfortable by reducing feelings of sickness.
- Ginger: Ginger is renowned for its anti-nausea properties. A handful of ginger biscuits an hour before travel can line the stomach and reduce feelings of sickness.
- Over the Counter Medications: Some antihistamines can have a beneficial sedentary or anti-sickness acton. Again, always check first with your vet, especially if the dog takes medication
- Dramamine for dogs: The antihistamine diphenhydramine also has a slightly calming action a well as reducing sickness
- Meclizine: Does not cause sedation,but can reduce nausea
- Dimenhydrinate: Does not cause sedation, but can reduce sickness
In the old days, pretty much all the vet had to offer by way of travel sickness relief was ACP tablets. These are a bit of a blunt instrument because whilst they reduce nausea they also sedate.
This, is you want to take a hour hour trip to the beach, the dog arrives too sleepy to play. Another drawback of ACP is that in a few cases it has the reverse effect, and make the dog hyperactive. Definitely not desirable on a long journey.
But yeah! There is good news.
A product called Cerenia (maropitant) is great at combating sickness, lasts for 24 hours, and doesn’t cause sedation. This medication is available in tablet form and one dose is all it takes. It works by switching off the nausea center in the brain, so the dog can’t feel sick.
Last But Not Least
Be prepared for the worst. If you stress about the dog being ill en route, this will stress the dog. So instead use a boot liner and pack a bag of cleaning products…just in case!