How to Help the Car-Sick Dog

I’ve done the car-sick dog thing.  It sucks, because I know the dog wants to go somewhere, but I hate taking him because…ick.  Don’t fear, though!  Car sickness isn’t a permanent condition.  Most dogs can be cured with just a little help.

The Car-Sick Dog & How To Help

Why do dogs get carsick?

Dogs get car sick for two main reasons.  First, they need to get used to riding in cars.  Just like people, the more time they spend in a car, the sooner their system will adjust to the motion of the car and the movement of the horizon.

Secondly, they get carsick because they are anxious about the entire situation.  They either freak out because they don’t know what’s happening to them, or because the expect something terrible at the end of the trip.  Frankly, you’d be carsick too, if every time you took a ride you ended up at the Urgent Care.

How can I help my car-sick dog?

You know my favorite dog item–the crate.  It’s going help a ton with car sickness.  To your dog, the crate is his safe place.  The only place where nothing bad ever happens.  Use that to your advantage.  Your dog stays calmer in his crate than loose.  When he’s loose, he has a bunch of stuff to think about.  He’ll have to decide where to sit, try to get comfortable, is there food somewhere, and watching out the windows.

In his crate, he knows the space.  So he knows that there’s no food, he can’t sit anywhere else, and he can only see so much out the window.  He won’t feel as territorial over the entire car, just his crate, and he’ll have somewhere he knows he fits to sit.  Every time he rides in the car, he stays in his crate, until at least he’s comfortable with the car.

Plus, it’s easier to clean the crate than the upholstery.

If you can’t fit a crate for your dog in your car, at least use a dog seatbelt.  An anxious and sick dog creates a major hazard for the driver.  Stay safe.

Start small – take short trips.

Make a plan to take several short trips to happy places with your dog.  Take him through the drive-through at McD’s and get him an ice cream cone.  Ask for a Puppicino at Starbucks.  Make sure your trips last just a few minutes shorter than he can normally take a car ride without vomiting.

You can take longer trips, but get him out of the car for a few minutes between each leg.  If he normally vomits at about 10 minutes, drive for 8 minutes, stop and walk around the gas station.  Then drive for 5 more minutes, and stop and walk.  Offer him water at each stop, but don’t let him drink enough to cause discomfort.

Add time to your trips.

Once you notice that he’s less stressed at the normal vomiting-time, you can add a few minutes.  Even though you do need to take your dog to places he doesn’t like (the vet, anyone?), make sure that 9 out of 10 car rides end happily.  Most people run to the store quickly.  Take him with you to the gas station or party store.  If he’s in his crate, he can’t escape anyways, so roll down the windows for a minute.

Most dogs do grow out of carsickness.

Most dogs that get carsick do grow out of the carsickness.  Many puppies start growing out of the feeling by 6 to 8 months of age.  Older dogs usually are carsick because they never got used to the motion of the car or are stressed.  As the stress wears off, so does the carsickness.

Not helping?  Call the vet.

A car-sick dog that has been through these steps may need professional intervention.  Vets can prescribe drugs that will calm your dog’s stomach, especially if you must take a long trip with your dog.  Your veterinarian can also prescribe drugs for anxiety, if your dog is unable to cope with travel after sustained training.

Have you dealt with carsickness?

What has helped your pet overcome their carsick ways?

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