Travel Sickness in Pets


August 16th, 2016

Taking our pets out and about is one of the best things about doggy ownership. Taking your furry friend to the beach, out to the park or even the groomers – our dogs are travelling more and more these days. But did you know they can struggle with motion sickness just like we can?

Signs of travel sickness in pets

Being aware of the signs and symptoms of travel sickness can help identify if your pet is suffering from motion sickness or travel anxiety.

  • Vomiting
  • Excessive Drooling/Salivation
  • Whining/Whimpering
  • Yawning
  • Licking lips
  • Inactivity, general uneasiness

What causes travel sickness?

Dog motion/travel sickness is seen most often in puppies and younger dogs than in more mature dogs, just as car sickness is more commonly children than in adults. The reason for this is because the ear structures used for balance aren’t fully developed in puppies and children. Many dogs have been known to outgrow travel sickness as they develop and mature, but unfortunately not all will.

Knowing and recognising the signs of travel sickness is important to help make pets as comfortable as possible during travel.

What can you do to help?

Desensitisation to travelling is key when helping to reduce the onset of travel sickness. Puppies during their first few months should be introduced to as many new scenarios as possible to help them become well-rounded adults in the future. One of these that will require focus is travelling. Travelling in the car for very short periods to begin with, preferably with someone beside your dog to provide a soothing and comforting presence, will be very beneficial in the long run to help reduce travel anxiety.

If you intend to take your puppy with you in the car for long periods, starting with a trip to the end of the road and back and then building from there, going a little further each time is the best way to build on the puppy’s experience.

Travelling only to the vets in the car can cause a build-up in anxiety – leading to an almost fear of the car and potentially contributing to travel sickness. Which is why it is best to vary your destinations to begin with and give them enjoyable experiences at the end of travel. Perhaps to the park for a game of ball? To a friends home for some playtime? Giving your dog enjoyable experiences at the end of a journey will build a more pleasant association with car travel.

Other ideas for easing travel sickness

  • Keeping the temperature cool in the car. Dogs, when worried or anxious can get hot under the collar. Keeping the car cool can help prevent the risk of overheating.
  • Opening the windows slightly to allow air into the car. This can help even out the air pressure in the car making the pet much more comfortable with regards to inner ear balance and can reduce nausea.
  • Driving smooth and steady. Dogs aren’t able to anticipate the movements of a car, so are unable to move and lean with the vehicle around turns and bends. Giving them a nice smooth journey can do a lot to make them more comfortable with regards to balance and will reduce nausea.
  • Allowing the dog to see out of the windows – preferably front facing. Just like humans, dogs can struggle with the visual aspects of travel. Allowing them a view of the windows and front window can again help with their balance and make them more comfortable with the motion of the car.
  • Keep them restrained. Keeping pets restrained is part of the highway code and can go a long way to making a dog feel secure when travelling, helping to reduce worry.
  • Special travel toys – does your dog have a favourite toy? Why not use this as a travel toy only. He will learn to associate travel with that toy, making the journey something to look forward to and enjoy.
  • Feed meals at least 30 minutes before travelling. This will reduce the risk of your pet feeling nauseated by the movement of the car, minimising risk of a funny tummy.
  • Stop often. Stopping and allowing the dog to stretch their legs, get some fresh air and a drink of water can break up the journey for them. This can help reduce anxiety as they will learn that they won’t ever be travelling for too long.

If your dog has a learned fear of the car due to motion sickness and unpleasant experiences, it is best to refrain from travel for a time and then go back to basics. Starting as you would with a puppy for the first time and slowly building up travel trips. Making these short experiences as enjoyable and pleasurable as possible.

Further support for Travel Worry and Sickness

It is always advisable to consult your veterinarian with regards to motion sickness to rule out any underlying illnesses. But there are now supplements widely available to help settle a funny tummy as well as many to help reduce anxiety during travel. Using a remedy to reduce the outward signs of stress in pets can go a long way to making them comfortable during travel and help your pet become a happy traveller.