As we pile into our cars for Labor Day road trips this weekend, some of us are faced with a messy situation: motion sickness. Sure, it's awful when it happens to us, but many pet parents also have to come to grips with dogs or cats getting queasy — or reliving breakfast — when they are cruising on the interstate.
Motion sickness among pets is usually caused by travel-related anxiety, but young dogs may be more prone getting car sick because their equilibrium still needs time to develop. Or it could be linked to a bad travel experience in the past. Just like when our gag reflexes kick into gear at the sight of a food that made us sick, dogs and cats may associate car travel with a previous vomiting episode.
If your pet's stomach gets tied up in knots at the sight of the back seat, there are some remedies you can try to help him overcome the queasiness. Keep reading for our tips!
Let in some fresh air. Not unlike humans, a little fresh air from outside can help the nausea pass by balancing the air pressure in the car. And letting some cool air into a hot, stuffy car will also go miles in making him feel better.
Go slowly. If your pet's motion sickness is stress-related, he'll need to go back to school and learn all over again that car rides are fun! Begin by letting him smell and explore the car for just a few minutes at a time without leaving the driveway. When he seems comfortable that the vehicle isn't going to eat him, try securing him in his safety restraints (harness or carrier) with lots of praise and treats or catnip. As he becomes familiar with being buckled in, you can start the engine and even back down the driveway. Once you reach the point where he seems as though he can handle a longer car ride, take him to fun places like the dog park, a favorite segment of your walks, or — for cats — straight back to the comforts of home. Repeat these exercises while watching his reactions carefully, and if he shows any signs of distress, take a break and a step back. It's slow-going, but in time, he should come to associate good things with car travel.
Limit food intake. If your pet has a history of vomiting and defecating in the car, try to schedule your trips four to five hours after his last meal or limiting his food the day of the trip.
Provide an herbal cure. A little piece of candied ginger or a small, nonchocolate candy just before you get in the car can help to settle the stomach. Cooled peppermint tea has also been known as a tummy soother for dogs.
Most often, you'll know if your pet suffers from motion sickness because of obvious signals like vomiting or diarrhea. But other more subtle symptoms could also indicate that he's getting sick, such as whining or crying, immobility, urination, and excessive yawning, drooling, or licking of the lips. If these home-based remedies don't work for him, consult with your vet for the best course of treatment.