'Not every dog loves a face-in-the-wind car ride'

For some dogs, car rides produce a great deal of anxiety. A combination of fear and not understanding what is happening will cause drooling, shaking, or even vomiting in some dogs and cats. In humans, we refer to this as car sickness or motion sickness; however, true motion sickness is a result of an inner ear problem. Some dogs truly do have motion sickness, and for these animals products such as Dramamine can be used under the supervision of a veterinarian. For most dogs, however, the sickness is strictly an over-reaction to the fear and apprehension of the car noise, motion, etc. If your dog would rather be anywhere besides in the car, here is how you can help her overcome the fear of car rides.

  • Get your dog used to the car environment. Get in the car together and have a treat. Talk. Be happy. Make it a fun time. Do not have the car running, just share a treat and make it a positive experience. Repeat this a number of times on different occasions. You may want to feed your dog in the car. If your dog is afraid of even getting into the car, try feeding or giving a treat close to the car.

  • Get your dog used to the car while it is running. Repeat step one, only this time start the car. Give a treat before and after. If she looks or acts nervous, reassure her that everything is OK. Take your time and make sure she is relaxed before ending the session.

  • Get your dog used to the motion of the moving car. Once she is used to the car running without any fearful reaction, back the car to the end of the driveway, then forward again to the garage. Give her a treat and praise her. Repetition is the key. The more you do this the more confident your dog becomes that cars are no problem. In fact, to her it becomes a great place for attention, praise, and even treats.

  • Now it is time to take a short trip around the block. Treats and praise before and after, and calm, reassuring talk throughout the ride are a pre-requisite. Gradually increase the distance travelled until your dog is calm no matter how long she's in the car.

Some animals still need something to calm them. There are non-prescription products such as Serene-um, Pet Calm, and Rescue Remedy. In severe cases, even stronger prescription anti-anxiety medications can be dispensed by your veterinarian.

Get puppies used to the car while they are still young and are more receptive to new adventures. Dogs make excellent travelling companions so it is well worth the training now for the years of enjoyment it will bring both of you once you get over this obstacle together.

Marty Smith, DVM
Drs. Foster & Smith, Inc.
Web Site



The first thing to realize when dealing with car sickness is that in 95% of cases it is stress related and not motion related. Your pet may relate a car trip with being taken away from its first home, or trips to the Vet or even worse, the kennel. So, its not surprising that subsequent rides in a car should evoke very strong mental and subsequent physical trauma.

Re-program your pet’s attitude towards travel in a car. Find a park about 5-10 minutes from home, ideally have someone else in the car too, to soothe the dog and distract him from the ride. Keep him happy all the way to the park. When at the park do all the enjoyable things that the dog loves, fetch the ball, and chase the Frisbee. The stay at the park doesn't need to be that long.... just as enjoyable as possible. Then drive the dog home soothing him all the way again and when home make just as much fuss of the dog as you did at the park. Finish the session with his meal or a treat if time and conditions permit.

Now your pet will now associate car travel with fun times.

Travel on empty. It's a good idea not to feed your pet six to eight hours before embarking on a road trip. Having an empty stomach will make him less likely to throw up, and if he does get sick, there's no food in the vomit, so at least it's easier to clean up. Giving your pet water, however, won't upset his stomach and may make him more comfortable.

Or put in a quarter-tank. While some pets travel best on an empty stomach, others will feel more comfortable after eating a small meal. Some pets just need a little food in their stomach to help keep them from getting sick.

Take frequent rest breaks. While some pets can travel for hours without having problems, others start getting queasy after a few miles. Get to know your pet's pattern and stop at least every hour or two to take a quick walk to help your pet get his land-legs back. It's also a good idea to pour him a little water, since he may not feel like drinking when he's in the car.

Be up-front with him. There's not as much movement in the front of the car as in the back, so it might help your pet if you let him ride in the front seat, but make sure they are in a doggy seatbelt or a small kennel that buckles into the seat.

Expand his horizons. Pets, like people, are less likely to get carsick when they can watch the passing scenery. 

Crank down the windows. Fresh air is good for anyone who's feeling a little carsick, including your dog or cat, but don't open the window enough so he can escape or get his head way out.

Try a motion potion. Dimenhydrinate (Dramamine) -- the same drug people take to ward off car sickness -- also works for pets. Medium to large dogs should be given 25 to 50 milligrams of Dramamine at least an hour before travelling, cats and small dogs should get about 12.5 milligrams. Be sure to check with your vet before giving your pet any medicinal product. 

Pet Travel
Web Site

  Car Sickness in Dogs and Puppies
  Medication should never be administered
without first consulting your veterinarian. 

  • One of the best herbs for nausea of any kind is ginger - be it a couple of ginger snap cookies ginger ale/beer, crystallized ginger, or a 500 mg capsule of the powder. Just give it about 30 minutes before any car trip. Good for people, too. Even for seasickness. Try powdered ginger root capsules. Ginger root (for example Blackmore's Travel Calm Ginger) does help calm the stomach. Ginger can be given in tea, too, if the animal prefers it. Ginger root raw is a little strong, and most animals don't like it. Scale down the human dosage for animals, and give a little before the car ride as well as during the trip if needed.

  • Let him nibble on ginger biscuits. Put a few drops of ginger essential oil on his rug.

  • In Pat Colby's book - Natural Pet Care, under the heading Travel Sickness is says "In all species, (including humans) this is due to a vitamin B6 deficiency". Goes on to say "give half a teaspoon of ascorbate, one B complex and one B6, or half of each for a small dog (the two must always be given together). If it is to be a long journey, giving all the recommended vitamins on the feed the day before as well, and during the journey, would also be a good idea as it would guard against the extra stress".

  • Fenugreek, another herb, can be used just like ginger.

  • Some doctors say that carsickness is from a lack of Vitamin B6, so try giving your dog extra B vitamins on the morning of the journey. Raw liver (fed the night before or that morning) has lots of B vitamins, and a human supplement can also be given in pill form. Please give a B complex vitamin rather than just one B vitamin, as they need to be balanced out for maximum effect.

  • Rescue Remedy can be given just a few drops on a small treat. This is a Bach Flower Remedy. It tends to calm down an animal but doesn't make them dopey like drugs do. Give about 4 drops in the mouth or ears about 10-12 hours before starting the trip, repeating every four hours or as needed. You can also spritz the car with a dilution made with spring water. RR is absorbed anywhere through the skin, so even rubbing some RR in can help calm. RR can also be given in drinking water - dilution does not affect its efficacy.

  • Peppermint is wonderful for motion sickness. A drop or two of tincture of peppermint might help or try brewing some peppermint tea and giving the animal some cooled tea. This also calms the stomach.

  • Try giving a little raw honey before the car trip. It tends to calm the tummy. Repeat as necessary. (If your animal has a heart problem, however, do not give honey, as it tends to make animals retain fluid, which is not good in the case of heart patients)

  • Filling a water bowl or a small cooler with ice will keep your pet with a steady water supply while the ice melts.

  • Ginger Trips by Soloray (1 or two wafers)

  • Cocculus Indicus (for nausea - great for humans too) (use 3-4 pellets)

  • Cocculus 30c - Car sickness

  • Scleranthus - Can be useful in car sickness.

  • Dramamine: Pets taken on trips may have an uncomfortable trip. But there are ways to make a pet's trip more pleasant. Dramamine works for pets that suffer from motion sickness, just like in humans. It should be given at least an hour before travelling. Pets with glaucoma or bladder problems shouldn't be given this medication!

  • Aconitum Napellus is a homeopathic treatment that will help your pet deal with their fear of travelling.

  • Periactin (Cyproheptadine) 1 tablet, 1 hour before taking off

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