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Dog Motion Sickness: Symptoms and Tips

A Beagle with its head out the window feeling car sick

Does your dog turn into a green-tinged mess every time you hit the road? While they might not show the same symptoms as us humans, plenty of dogs suffer from motion sickness. Luckily, there are ways to tell if your pooch is feeling unwell and what you can do to help them have a smoother journey. So, buckle up and keep reading to discover the common signs of car sickness in dogs and some handy tips to make car trips a breeze for both of you!

What Causes Motion Sickness in Dogs

Motion sickness in dogs, similar to humans, occurs when there is a discrepancy between the sensory inputs related to motion and balance. The brain receives conflicting signals from the inner ear (which senses motion and balance), the eyes, and other sensory receptors. This confusion can lead to symptoms of motion sickness. Several factors contribute to motion sickness in dogs:

  1. Inner Ear Imbalance: The inner ear plays a crucial role in maintaining balance and equilibrium. When a dog is in a moving vehicle, the motion sensed by the inner ear may conflict with what the dog sees or feels, leading to motion sickness.

  2. Visual Stimuli: Dogs that cannot see out of a moving vehicle or are unable to focus on a stable object may experience motion sickness due to the disparity between visual signals and the sensation of motion.

  3. Anxiety and Stress: Dogs that experience anxiety or stress during car rides are more susceptible to motion sickness. Stress can exacerbate the symptoms of motion sickness and make the experience more unpleasant for the dog.

  4. Unfamiliarity: Dogs that are not accustomed to traveling in vehicles may be more prone to motion sickness. Lack of familiarity with car rides can increase anxiety and contribute to the development of motion sickness.

  5. Previous Negative Experiences: Dogs that have had previous negative experiences during car rides, such as vomiting or feeling unwell, may develop an aversion to traveling in vehicles, leading to motion sickness.

  6. Genetics and Individual Sensitivity: Some dogs may have a genetic predisposition to motion sickness, while others may be more sensitive to motion due to individual differences in their vestibular system or nervous system functioning.

Common Symptoms of Motion Sickness for Dogs

For some dogs, it will be quite obvious that they’re experiencing motion sickness on a car ride. For others, the symptoms are more subtle. Here are the symptoms to look for:

      • Restlessness: Often in the form of difficulty getting comfortable, pacing, and whining.
      • Excessive panting and drooling: Many dogs begin panting heavily to get more oxygen to the brain while feeling anxious.
      • Lip licking and even chomping: Due to nausea, some dogs with motion sickness will experience a dry mouth or begin to start to lick or chomp as a reaction to feeling like they need to throw up.
      • Lethargy and ‘hunkering down:’ The anxiety associated with motion sickness makes some dogs’ fear reaction kick in, making them try to find the lowest point in the car, such as a floorboard. 
      • Vomiting or pooping: Motion sickness causes dogs to have upset stomachs. This can result in extreme nausea, resulting in them throwing up or even losing control of their bowels.

What to do If Your Dog Experiences Motion Sickness

First, you may want to opt to let your dog stay home in the comfort of their own space instead of taking them along for a ride. However, if this isn’t an option, there are some ways you can help your dog feel better on the road trip.

  1. Desensitize your dog. While this doesn’t work for every dog, many dogs experience less anxiety after gaining more experience in the car. When building up your dog’s familiarity and comfort in the car, start with really short trips, even just sitting in the running car without driving. Then build up to longer drives slowly.
  2. Give them the front seat. Some dogs may feel more comfortable and experience less motion sickness when sitting in the front seat due to increased visibility and reduced motion compared to the backseat. Being able to see out the front windshield may help alleviate feelings of nausea and disorientation. 
  3. Skip your dog’s breakfast before setting out on the road. If your dog throws up from motion sickness, don’t feed them before getting in the car (we recommend not feeding your dog within 4-6 hours of a long car trip). An empty tummy will reduce the symptoms of nausea. 
  4. Consider a prescription or non-prescription medication. Talk to your vet about solutions that may help your dog feel better. There are non-prescription options that can help your dog feel better, such as pheromone sprays and collars, over-the-counter medications, and natural remedies such as ginger. For some dogs, a prescription is the most effective and easiest option.

Safe Travels and We Hope Your Dog Feels Better Soon

A dog enjoying their car trip

By recognizing the signs of motion sickness and taking steps to prevent or manage it, you can ensure your furry friend enjoys your next road trip as much as you do. Remember, a happy pup makes for a happy travel companion! So, pack your bags, hit the road, and have a blast exploring new sights and smells together. Happy travels!