Car Sickness and Your Dog

Motion sickness isn’t just a problem for humans; your dog may be just as uncomfortable in a moving car.

We’ve nearly all felt it at least once before. The car starts to get going and all of a sudden you’re nauseous, hot, and dizzy. It can make car rides uncomfortable, sometimes even intolerable. Believe it or not, this same ailment can afflict your dog as well. For many of the same reasons, lots of dogs experience motion sickness. It’s not just on cars, either, as boats, trains, and other moving vehicles can cause similar effects. Here’s a guide on how to tell if your dog is experiencing motion sickness and what to do about it:
A Familiar Malady
Motion sickness in dogs occurs for the same reason as it does in humans: the movement of the vehicle over-stimulates the inner ear, which controls balance. Like humans, it affects younger dogs more than older ones, as their balance has not fully developed yet. Puppies that get motion sickness often outgrow it.

Another possible cause for motion sickness is stress. Oftentimes a dog knows that a car ride means a trip to the vet and the anxiety makes them sick.
The symptoms of motion sickness in dogs will sound familiar to anybody who has had the ailment themselves. They vary from dog to dog but are most usually characterized by:

  • Lethargy
  • Yawning
  • Rapid panting
  • Shaking
  • Pacing
  • Drooling
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea

If your dog experiences the milder of these symptoms, you could try using some simple steps to prevent the motion sickness the next time in your car. If your dog is experiencing more severe motion sickness, you may want to take him to your veterinarian and ask him about treatment.
These steps could be effective in reducing the risk of motion sickness in your dog.

Empty Stomach: Try not to give your dog food or water before taking a car ride. It’s less likely that your dog will get sick if there is nothing in his belly.

Take a Break: On longer car trips, try taking frequent rest stops to allow your dog to get out and get his legs under him.

Fresh Air: Try leaving the car window slightly open, but not enough for your dog to lean out of. The fresh air will help him cope with the motion. You can also try turning up the air conditioning to help keep him cool.

De-stress: Try not to just take your dog in the car when you go to the veterinarian. If you take him on trips to fun places like the park or a lake, he’ll learn to associate the car with those things. It will help to make the rides much easier on him without having to worry about the veterinarian.


If the previous measures don’t work, you may want to consider talking to your vet about these options.

Medication: Certain medicines such as Benadryl, Dramamine, and Bonine work to help dogs cope with motion sickness. Even though these are available over the counter, never give them to your dog without asking your veterinarian about it first. Always follow his dosing instructions and be cautious. Also remember that these medications can cause drowsiness, so let your dog rest after a car ride.

Conditioning: If you’re wary of using medicine, you can try to condition your dog to tolerate car rides. Start by playing with him in the car; even without it running; to get him used to being in the car. Then you can start to take him on very short trips; always rewarding him with treats after. If you gradually increase the length of trips, you may find that your dog no longer minds them.

Sedatives: This should be viewed as a last resort scenario, but there are prescription sedatives that can be used if your dog gets very severe motion sickness. Always closely follow your veterinarian’s instructions with these and be very cautious. Remember, if your dog’s in a plane cargo hold, side effects and medical emergencies will go unnoticed, so try not to fly with your dog if he has to use sedatives.