How to overcome pets’ car sickness

Simple steps can help prevent car sickness in dogs. ANL-150201-100338001
Simple steps can help prevent car sickness in dogs. ANL-150201-100338001
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IT’S A VET’S LIFE: By Vetsavers

Too many treats over the festive period can easily upset your puppy or adult dog’s tummy, but they can also suffer from car sickness during the trips to visit friends and family.

Many clients have asked us how to stop their pets being nervous in the car or, worse still, sick.

Car sickness is more common in younger dogs. The reason may be due to the fact that the parts of the inner ear involved in balance aren’t fully developed. Puppies will often “outgrow” motion/car sickness by the time they are about one year old.

Many adult dogs become anxious or even nauseous during travel due to a lack of car association and the overwhelming unusual stimuli associated with moving inside a vehicle. Dogs that travel only once or twice a year (typically when visiting the vet) aren’t used to car rides and often associate the car ride with the stressful experience that follows.

This causes heightened anxiety and stress, which can result in vomiting and diarrhea.

Puppies that experience traumatic or frightening first rides may also associate future travel with that stressful event.

Helping your dog overcome the stress and anxiety of travel will mean that your pet can accompany you on trips more frequently without sickness or diarrhea and so resulting in a nice experience for both parties.

Signs your dog may be experiencing car sickness include:

• Whining and pacing (if loose in the car which we do not recommend)

• Excessive drooling

• Lethargy or inactivity

• Vomiting

• Diarrhea

If you think your dog is going to vomit, stop the car (in a safe place) and take your pet for a little walk, which may help to relieve the symptons.

The best way to ease your dog’s travel anxiety is by taking several short trips before embarking on a long one.

Start by simply placing your dog in your car either in a harness or a good travel cage and sit there without moving for a few minutes.

The next day, repeat this process. This time start the engine, but don’t move the car.

Then the next day repeat the process again move a little distance in the car no more than a mile then return. Be sure to praise your dog and offer a reward for good behaviour.

Gradually work your way up to riding comfortably for 20 to 30 minutes.

Conditioning your dog to ride comfortably in the car may require several days or even weeks. You can’t force your dog to “get over” or “deal with” its anxiety.

Travelling in a car can be frightening for a dog and requires time to adjust. Make sure you maintain a calm and cool attitude, and don’t scold your dog if it begins to howl or whine. Visible anxiety is a sign to stop the current training and start again another day.

Continuing to expose your dog to a stressful situation will only cause it to further associate the car with displeasure and fear and cause setbacks in your training.

A couple of Vetsavers additional tips to make your dog’s travel to reduce car sickness:

• Withhold food 12 hours before travel – an empty stomach will help reduce nausea.

• Use a carrier or dog safety harness as they are often viewed as a “safe place”.

• Keep the car cool in warm weather.

• Include an item from home – Add a t­-shirt or blanket that your pet is happy with at home.

• Offer special trip toys to help your dog associate travel with fun.

• Ask us about anti­nausea medications. We will always be happy to discuss options.