You may be asking yourself - why is a dog trainer writing about motion sickness?
For those living with dogs with motion sickness taking a ride in the car can turn into a nightmare depending on the severity the dog’s motion sickness. People will often avoid taking their puppy/dog in the car and this can be detrimental to the behavior of the dog. If motion sickness continues and is allowed to create a cycle a psychological issue can also develop – through conditioning the dog will have learned that the car makes him sick and becoming sick will become involuntary even when the car is not running.
The most common symptoms of dog motion sickness include the following:
What we don’t want to do is to give up on taking our dog’s in the car. They need to get out and about as frequently as possible for their mental health. Some veterinarians will prescribe a sedative to treat motion sickness but I feel that this should be a last resort because your dog becomes so sedated that being able to take Fido out and about loses its mental health benefits.
I recommend trying Dramamine (active ingredient Dimenhydrinate) as a first line of defense. Brand name can be a little pricey (roughly 0.25 cents per 50mg pill) but with store brand (we buy Wal-Mart brand Equate) you get 100 count 50mg pills for less than 0.05 cents per pill.
Give 2-4mg per pound 30 minutes before leaving home. Dramamine can be given every 8 hours.
For motion sickness in puppies and dogs administer Dramamine as described above and go for short rides in the car. If this has solved the motion sickness start taking longer and longer rides. Keep giving the medication for at least 6 months. Make the car a fun happy place – provide the dog with a favorite ball, chew toy, or a frozen Kong stuffed with pumpkin. After 6 months try a ride without the medication and see if the motion sickness returns. Puppies will frequently grow out of motion sickness with age.
What we don’t want is for the puppy or dog to develop a psychological connection between being in the car and feeling sick – this is when it becomes a psychological and behavioral issue not a medical issue. We need to break the cycle as soon as possible and prevent it from returning. This is why we recommend keeping up with the medication for 6 months even though the dog may seem better.
What If My Dog’s Motion Sickness Is So Severe That Medication Doesn’t Help Or A Fear Or Other Psychological/Behavioral Issue Has Developed?
If your dog has developed a fear of the car or other psychological issue please contact an experienced trainer. This guide is very basic and cannot possibly cover every situation.
Here are the basics of counter-conditioning your dog to riding in the car.
At all stages (safely) make the car a fun place – feed your dog in your car and/or play with your dog in the car. If you utilize a car safety harness (we always recommend a crash-rated safety harness) use this harness in every step. If you have a kennel in your car instead, weather permitting, you can let your dog sleep in the car. The goal is for a happy, calm, and comfortable dog at each step.
It is important to not let yourself avoid taking your dog places - avoiding the problem is not fixing it and not taking your dog out and about can create many different behavioral and social issues in your dog. I have lived with a puppy whose motion sickness would manifest itself as vomiting. It would have been easier to not take him anywhere but I had big plans for him. For your dog’s sake and your sanity, take the time to treat motion sickness as soon as possible and reap the benefits for the life of your dog. My guy is almost two years old and I do not need to give him medication and he no longer has any symptoms of motion sickness. We frequently take long trips to compete in dog competitions.
Written By Tameesha VanEtten - Owner Of Valorzen
January 5, 2016