One of the questions we’re asked most often by new dog owners is ‘what can I do if my dog gets car sick?’. Whether you are taking your dog away or just taking a trip to the vets, there are many times in your pet’s life where a trip in the car is unavoidable.
And so with the help of veterinary nurse, Siobhan Griffin and Ryan O’Meara, editor of K9 Magazine and a former professional dog trainer, we are looking at some of the most common signs of dog car sickness, how to potentially combat it and what to do to try and make your dog as comfortable as possible while travelling in the car.
Dog car sickness: Spotting the most common signs
Some of the most common signs of car sickness that dogs will exhibit include:
- Hypersalivating (drooling)
- Excessively licking their lips
- Whining or crying
- Vomiting or diarrhoea (always contact your vet if symptoms become this severe to rule out any underlying issues)
These are also tell-tale signs that your dog is anxious or distressed by their current environment.
If your dog finds the car uncomfortable or scary this is likely to cause or exacerbate car sickness – you can help by reducing their stress levels and creating a calmer environment.
How can I prevent car sickness today?
If you have to take a car journey with your dog, it’s best to make sure the journey is as stress-free as possible.
Siobhan recommends making sure the car is ready before travel.
“Remember to keep the car cool so it doesn’t become stuffy and overheat and to switch off any loud noises such as the radio. If your dog is scared of the car engine starting, turn your car on before you bring them inside so they don’t get a fright from the noise.
“Most importantly, make sure to drive smoothly and sensibly – slow and steady wins the race! On longer journeys always take frequent stops for a chance for your dog to stretch their legs and have a drink/toilet break.
“Keeping safety in mind, make sure your dog has a comfortable space such as a crate in the boot with a familiar blanket, or if your dog seems less anxious and more content sitting in the back seat where they can see you, investigate seatbelt harnesses which keep your dog secure and safe while travelling.”
In some cases, car sickness could simply be as a result of routine.
So if you’re planning a car journey, make sure you adjust your dog’s mealtime before travelling to be on the safe side.
Siobhan says, “Your dog is more likely to vomit (and make more of a mess!) with a tummy full of food! Instead, offer a small amount of water and only a light snack if you need to feed them before travelling.”
What can I do to help car sickness long term?
Making sure your dog is comfortable and feels safe in and around your car will go some way to easing their mind and keeping them calm. This is often best approached with one thing in mind - it might not be a quick process but it’s worth putting the time and effort into.
Ryan recommends making the car a familiar space by lying a favourite blanket or bed in the boot area so there are comforting smells around your dog and then build up their tolerance to the car in short bursts.
“In safe areas, such as behind closed gates, get your dog comfortable jumping in and out of the car if appropriate. Once they’re in the boot area, sit in the back seat and give them a few treats. Spend short amounts of time doing this so the car is no longer a strange place, instead, it’s a familiar place with treats and fuss dished out.
Ryan has practised this technique with his own dog, including Danny, pictured above, for years
“Over the years, I’ve started the process of making my dogs comfortable travelling in the car this one way and I go back to it every few years just for a refresher, simply so car travel doesn’t ever become boring and expected.”
Siobhan also says, “Don’t just go to the vets or kennels in the car because this could cause a negative association - make sure you mix in some new special walks, like a trip to the woods or the beach for a fun day out!”
What can I give my dog to help prevent car sickness?
Many pet owners have told us that one of the best ways they’ve found to help their dog stay calm enough to travel is through natural solutions, either short term with pheromone sprays or long-term with natural supplements.
Siobhan uses her veterinary experience to share four natural ingredients which help to combat this and encourage calm behaviours.
• Lemon Balm
“This works on GABA levels to make your dog feel more relaxed, soothing stress and encouraging calm behaviour.”
“This offers natural calming properties that support the production of calming compounds such as serotonin. It also supports the production of dopamine which is associated with reward-motivated behaviour.”
• B vitamins (B1, B3, B6, B9, B12)
“B vitamins support healthy nerves and brain function, reducing excitability and improving concentration.”
• Fish protein hydrolysate
“This supports your dog’s brain, helping calming signals find the right spot. It also supports GABA and dopamine levels.
“It could also be worth investing in a high-quality pre/probiotic supplement to support their overall tummy health."[Originally published August 2018]