It’s that look … you know the one. It’s like he’s trying to say, “What? You’re leaving me?!” You can try explaining it to him again – for the millionth time – that he gets sick in the car and he’ll be miserable if you take him along. But your dog doesn’t understand what you’re saying. All he knows is that you’re going on vacation … and he’s not.
Having a dog who gets car sick certainly presents it’s challenges when you’re planning a trip, but it doesn’t mean that you can’t all enjoy this summer’s family vacation together! We’ve got the tips to make sure you never have to face that look again.
Treating Motion Sickness in Dogs
If you’re one of the dog owners who has a pup with motion sickness, you’re already familiar with it’s symptoms: excessive drooling, lip licking, panting, restlessness, shaking, vomiting, whining, and yawning. It’s enough to bring you to tears. And what makes it worse is that you know that your dog feels even more horrible than you do!
The good news is you can help relieve your dog’s discomfort in the car. Depending on the severity of your dog’s motion sickness, and the duration of any trips you’re considering with him, these tips may help him enjoy the ride:
- Travel on an empty stomach. Nausea is always worse on a full stomach, so on the day you’ll be traveling reduce or skip your pup’s morning meal.
- Avoid watching the scenery go by. Looking out the windows at passing scenery may be triggering your dog’s motion sickness. Try one of these ideas to limit his view:
- Buckle him into a seatbelt harness and put sun shades over the widows near where he sits.
- If he rides in a carrier or crate, cover the sides with a towel or blanket to prevent him from looking out the windows (after properly securing it).
- Build a “dog fort” in the back seat by stretching a fitted sheet over the front and rear headrests.
- Consider a cap made from fabric that’s partially see-through to cover his eyes, like the ThunderCap from ThunderShirt.
- Keep the car cool and well ventilated. Lowering the windows a couple of inches will keep fresh air moving and also help equalize the air pressure inside and outside the car, which may help reduce your dog’s nausea and discomfort.
- Talk to your veterinarian about helpful medications. A medication like Cerenia, which is FDA-approved to prevent vomiting due to motion sickness in dogs, could relieve your dog’s symptoms.
Overcoming Car-Related Anxiety
Even if you’re able alleviate your dog’s car sickness, once he’s learned to associate feeling rotten with the car it may take a little effort on your part to convince him otherwise.
To show him road trips can be fun, start by giving him a break from going anywhere for a couple of weeks. When he starts to show some interest in the car, move to the next step. If it’s been a couple of weeks and your pup is still avoiding the car, see if you can get him interested in a friend’s car … one that smells like other dogs would be perfect!
You want to build your dog’s positive associations with the car, so begin slowly by having him hop inside to get a special treat. When you’re getting an enthusiastic response to your request to get in the car, it’s time to move to the next step.
Make sure the first few trips your dog takes in the car are short and end at places he loves … like the dog park, play dates with his dog buddies, or the dog bakery! During the ride give him a special toy or small treat that he only gets in the car. Remember, keep the treats small – you don’t want to make his nausea worse. Once you can see he expects every trip in the car to fun, you’ll be able to start building up to longer rides.
Hitting the Road
Once you’ve taken the bite out of your dog’s motion sickness symptoms and satisfied him that road trips can be fun, it’s time to make your vacation plans! Make sure your trip is a success for the whole family with this planning advice:
- Pick a place close to home. Until you’re absolutely certain that you dog won’t experience any car sickness, choose a pet friendly destination that’s far enough away to feel like a vacation, but not so far that getting home would be difficult.
- Limit daily driving. It may be that a two-week road trip is never going to be in your dog’s future, and that’s fine! If you plan correctly, you can limit the daily driving during your stay once you arrive.
- Consider a walkable, pet friendly city that’s easy to get around on foot, and has plenty of dog friendly restaurants and activities.
- Settle in at a dog friendly resort, and you’ll never want to leave the property! Look for amenities like hiking trails, water sports, and disc golf courses, as well as dog friendly dining options.
- Beach bums know that there’s nothing better than grabbing a book, an umbrella, and a towel, and spending every day in the sand and surf. Choose the right beach, and your dog will be able to join you!
- Staycations don’t have to be a compromise. If you discover that your dog truly cannot ride in the car for any length of time without getting ill, find the closest pet friendly hotel to your home, tell everyone you’re going away, and spend a few days spoiling yourself and your best buddy with long walks, lazy naps, room service, and all-night movie marathons. It may not cover a lot of miles, but it will be a trip you’ll never forget.
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