When you've got a dog, you want to take him with you in the car. Maybe you want to find new places for a walk, or perhaps you're going away for the weekend and he's coming too. For most dogs, travelling together is fun. But for around a quarter of dogs (and their owners) it can be a nightmare because of canine travel sickness.
Just as people get travel sick, so do dogs. And just like people, travel sickness doesn't always involve vomiting; dogs can feel stressed and nauseous, which may show as restlessness or excessive salivation.
The main difference is that you can explain travel sickness to a person, but not to your dog. He doesn't know what's happening, and worst of all, he learns to associate the car with feeling terrible, which makes things worse.
In extreme cases, a vet can recommend medicine to make travel sickness less likely, but that restricts your ability to make spontaneous journeys. If you don't want to give your dog drugs before every trip out, take these simple steps to make travel a better experience for your pet.
How To Stop Your Dog Being Travel Sick?
Why Do Dogs Get Sick When Travelling?
Your dog has motion sensors in his inner ear, called the vestibular apparatus. Travel sickness is caused when the vestibular apparatus and the eyes are giving different messages to the brain.
Your dog might be sitting still in the car, but his brain is also getting a message that he's moving, particularly if your journey involves lots of acceleration, deceleration and cornering. These mixed messages are what cause nausea in both dogs and humans.
How To Stop Travel Sick?
Let The Dog Look Outside
Just as with humans, being able to look out of the window can help. This reduces the sensation of travel sickness because the eyes and inner ears are both giving the same message.
If you have a medium-sized or large dog, let him sit on the seat so he can see out. If your dog usually travels in a crate in the boot of the car, consider positioning the crate so that he can see the world outside the car. If you have a small dog, or a crate that won't give your dog a view, have a window slightly open.
The movement of air and the changing smells can help your dog understand that he is actually moving.
Drive carefully. Look well ahead so that you can avoid sharp deceleration wherever possible. Don't accelerate hard to get into a gap in the traffic or try and beat the lights, and slow down a little more while cornering. If you're driving a manual car, make gear changes as smooth as possible. Driving like this will not only help your dog to feel better, but you'll save money on fuel too!
Keep The Temperature Comfortable
Try to keep the temperature in the car comfortable. You might like to have your car toasty on a cold day, but warm air currents will contribute to your dog's nausea. Don't turn the air conditioning up to maximum either. Very cold air will cause physical stress for your pet and make travel sickness more likely.
Feed The Dog Before The Trip
Don't try to avoid travel sickness by starving your dog before a car journey. Missing his morning meal because you've got a car trip will make him feel more stressed. Remember, just because he's not been sick doesn't mean that he's not feeling terrible. In fact, a small meal a short while before a journey can help.
After that, it's best not to have anything else to eat until the trip is done. Don't give him food in the car. He does need to have plenty of water to drink, so take a bottle of water and a drinking bowl with you. Think how often your dog naturally goes to have a drink from his bowl during the day. On all but the shortest journeys, stop for a drink and a quick walk around.
Read more: Best Dry Dog Food - You Need To Sniff Before Your Dog Tastes
Associate The Car With Fun Experiences
Puppies are more prone to travel sickness (just like human children) so get them used to the car gradually. Let them climb in, explore and learn the new smell while the car is stationary. When they get out, give them a treat and some praise.
Next time, turn the engine on so that they get used to the noise (and the extra smell) but don't drive anywhere. Again, give treats and praise afterwards. Then you can begin to do some short journeys, of no more than a few minutes.
Once your puppy begins to associate the car with fun experiences, you'll be ready to go places together. Emotional stress is another cause of travel sickness, so a happy dog is more likely to have a good journey.
If your dog has been travel sick in the past, just getting into the car can raise his stress levels. Try to be positive and upbeat yourself - if you're stressed it's not going to help your dog - and go back to very short journeys with rewards afterwards. Don't tell your dog off for being sick. He can't help it and you're making it worse for next time.
Give The Dog Drugs
If you need to make a long journey with a dog who has been travel sick in the past, then consider asking your vet for medication, but make sure that whatever medicine he takes is designed to reduce the nausea, not just to make him sleepy. You want your dog to be feeling good, not knocked out.
As a responsible pet owner, you want your dog to be happy, in and out of the car. Remember the causes of travel sickness are mixed messages to the brain, physical and emotional stress. Treat your dog with kindness and care and the result will be happy journeys together!
You can read more about your dog's health here.