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What to Do When Your Dog Gets Carsick

May 05, 2021 2 min read
visla dog with head on dashboard of car

Just like people, dogs can get nauseous or dizzy on long rides in the car. Some dogs are more prone to carsickness than others, but it’s important to know how to identify the symptoms in your pet. Motion sickness can make even a short car ride miserable for your dog – and potentially messy for your car! Learn what to do if your dog is carsick and remedies to help them feel better.

Symptoms of dog carsickness

The classic sign of being carsick is feeling nauseous or vomiting, but dogs can also have different symptoms of carsickness than their owners might. The following symptoms can mean your dog is feeling motion sickness:

  • Excessive drooling
  • Pacing or whining
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Excessive yawning
  • Fear of car rides

What causes carsickness in dogs?

One of the reasons dogs can get carsick is the same as people – the part of the inner ear that relates to their equilibrium becomes unbalanced. This is a more common occurrence in puppies as their equilibrium is still developing. If your puppy gets carsick, they may grow out of it as they get older.

Other dogs can get carsick because of a prior bad experience in a car, such as a traumatic first ride. These dogs may be afraid of going in the car and exhibit signs of stress or anxiety while riding. The heightened levels of stress can cause them to vomit or have diarrhea.

Dogs with medical problems such as ear infections or vestibular disease, a condition that disturbs their balance, are more likely to experience motion sickness. If your dog gets motion sickness consistently, talk to your vet to rule out any potential health problems.

How to treat motion sickness

There are a number of different ways to treat and help prevent carsickness. If you are on a long car ride and your dog begins to show symptoms of motion sickness, stop somewhere and walk them around outside to help them feel better. 

For the long term, it’s best to ease your dog into long car rides by taking them on shorter rides and rewarding them with a treat afterward. Gradually increase the amount of time spent in the car as your dog improves. This will help prepare your pet for a longer ride or road trip.

For dogs that vomit or defecate in the car, your vet may recommend that you withhold food for 12 hours before travel. An empty stomach will help reduce and prevent nausea or the need for frequent bathroom breaks. Consult your vet to determine if this is right for your dog.

If your dog experiences consistent motion sickness, there are some medications that can help get rid of nausea. Cerenia, dimenhydrinate, and meclizine are suitable for dogs, but you must talk to your vet to determine which medication and dosage is right for your pet. In certain cases of extreme stress or anxiety, your vet may also prescribe Alprazolam (Xanax) or other antianxiety medication.

For more information on taking care of a sick dog, read our post on 7 ways to care for a vomiting dog.

Check out our blog for more tips, tricks, and stories.

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