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How to Help the Car Sick Dog

Does your dog get car sick or anxious in the car? Motion sickness occurs when certain parts of the inner ear that control balance become overstimulated. It can happen with any dog but is more common with puppies since these same parts of the inner ear are not fully developed yet. Some signs of motion sickness include whining, pacing, drooling, panting, digging, vomiting and diarrhea. These physical feelings can lead to anxiety in dogs and they will start to have symptoms of motion sickness at even the sight of a vehicle. Keep in mind that car rides often lead to stressful places like boarding, grooming and veterinary visits which can result in anxiety as well. Here are some tips and tricks to help your dog become your little copilot.

Some immediate things you can do to help your pup would be to

• Withhold food 12 hours before travel- an empty stomach helps decrease nausea.
• Use a carrier or dog safety harness– many dogs view their crate as a safe place and may feel more comfortable in it. A harness buckled into the seatbelt will keep a nervous dog in place and prevent them from becoming a driving distraction.
• Include a blanket that has the scent of home on it.
• Keep the car cool and quiet- play soft music to help drown out the noises of the road and other vehicles.
• Consider using a natural pheromone spray in the car such as Adaptil.

To help your dog in the long term you will need to desensitize them to the car rides. Each of these steps may take several hours, days or weeks to accomplish. If you notice signs of stress or anxiety, stop and restart on a different day.

• Start off slow, just give small treats or play with a favorite toy near the car.
• Next, put treats inside the car and encourage them to get in on their own.
• Once in the car, stay for several minutes in the garage or driveway.
• Start the car and back down the driveway then pull back in.
• Go for a short ride around the block.
• Try to work up to a longer drive.
Be sure to use a lot of delicious treats and praise during each step of the process.

Some dogs will need more help and you may need to discuss various medications with your veterinarian. If your pet vomits on more than 1-2 occasions in the car, talk to your veterinarian right away about anti-nausea medications for their motion sickness. There are also anti-anxiety medications that can be used during the desensitization process to help your pet become a great travel companion.