Leaving on vacation: My dog is sick in the car!

The summer vacations are approaching and the whole family is going with you on this adventure, including your dog. However, it often happens that your faithful companion is sick in the car and he is not the only one, since motion sickness would concern nearly one dog out of six. Fortunately, there are solutions to make the road to vacation a pleasant time for everyone.

What are the symptoms of motion sickness?

The symptoms of motion sickness can vary, but the most common are nausea, diarrhea, vomiting and excessive salivation.

In addition, there may be symptoms directly related to stress: barking, whining, agitation or apathy, yawning, trembling. Extreme anxiety may even cause some dogs to urinate or defecate in the car.

These two types of symptoms can coexist, but some animals will only vomit, or simply be stressed.

What are the origins?

It can have two different origins:

  • A part of the inner ear may be involved, which explains the marked sensitivity of young dogs in whom the inner ear is not yet fully formed.
  • If your dog shows signs of stress, he may have had a bad experience. This is especially true if he has had an unpleasant time in the car, for example, if he only takes the car to the vet. The confinement, the noise, the impossibility to relieve himself are all elements that can disturb him more.

Whatever the origin of his discomfort, the problem must be treated quickly to avoid the creation of a vicious circle that can generate a real transport phobia.

What are the solutions for more pleasant journeys?

1/ Comfortable and reassuring conditions

You can, for example, put toys at his disposal, as well as a familiar blanket. Allow your child to look out the window, do not smoke in the car and ventilate regularly by slightly opening the windows. Finally, don’t forget to stop frequently so that he can relax, drink and relieve himself if necessary.

Note that the vibrations of the car are not felt with the same intensity by your dog depending on where he is. Thus, it seems that animals are less sick when they travel close to the ground. A small dog, for example, can be placed at the passenger’s feet in a carrier if he is used to it.

Finally, always think about your safety: if your dog is very agitated, it is better to install a grid or a net that separates him from the driver. There are also large transport crates or harnesses that can be used to attach your dog to the back seat.

2/ A question of habit

It has been proven that dogs used to traveling from a young age are less likely to develop signs of anxiety during transportation.

In order to limit anxiety in the car, behavioral therapy can be implemented to gradually get your dog used to it.
Initially, sit in the car with your dog, without starting it, and remain stationary for about 15 minutes. Repeat this experience several times during 1 week.
Then, take short trips with your dog (to get bread, to walk around the block…), and then gradually increase the length of the trip.
Try to associate these trips with a positive experience: use the car to go play or go for a walk.

3/ Anti-stress or medicated products to help him

If your dog is rather stressed, different treatments also exist:

  • Products based on soothing pheromones, such as Adaptil, which have relaxing properties.
  • Homeopathic products
  • Anti-stress food supplements, such as Zylkene

In the case of motion sickness, your veterinarian may prescribe medication in tablet form, to be administered a few hours to half an hour before the trip. They can be pure anti-vomiting drugs or anti-histamines, which combine a sedative effect with an anti-vomiting effect.
On the other hand, to avoid the inconvenience of vomiting, it is safer not to overfeed your dog in the hours before the trip. On the other hand, he should always have water available.