Motion sickness in dogs occurs when they are on a car, boat or plane journey. It is more common in puppies, but can still continue into adulthood. Motion sickness is caused primarily by movement, but having stress and anxiety can exacerbate the symptoms. It happens because the dog’s brain tells him that he is sitting still, but all of his other senses tell him that he is moving. This discrepancy makes the dog feel unwell. Some regular training with your dog in the car can help him to deal with motion sickness and become a happier passenger.
What are the symptoms?
Just like children, dogs are particularly susceptible to motion sickness. While it's easy to prevent the symptoms of nausea and lightheadedness in children with motion-sickness medication or natural remedies, it's a bit more difficult for dogs, who can't exactly take a pill or tell you what's bothering them. Plus, a dog's symptoms may persist for a varying length of time, from just a few minutes to many hours. You should be aware of your dog's behavior in the car, especially if he is acting distressed and are whining, shaking, or drooling excessively. It is also common for a dog with motion sickness to become lethargic.
You may also find that your dog is poorly behaved when it comes to traveling, simply in anticipation of motion sickness. The dog may be reluctant to get in the car, and start pulling on the leash, howling and generally acting up.
Preparing your dog for a journey
If you are planning on embarking on a long journey, then to ease your dog’s anxiety, take several short trips first. This should help your four legged friend to understand that going in the car is nothing to be afraid of. Firstly, put your dog in the car and simply start the engine. Sit in the car with him for a few minutes, talking to him all the time for reassurance. Afterwards, make sure that you reinforce good behavior with plenty of encouraging words and a treat.
The next time you get in the car with the dog, try going round the block. Make each journey a little bit longer, and your dog will soon understand the routine of taking a car trip. If your dog is particularly nervous, it may take a few weeks to become truly conditioned to traveling happily. Be patient and always remember to reward all positive behavior.
While on your journey
Before you travel on a long journey, you should withhold food for 12 hours – this will ensure that your dog has an empty stomach and is less likely to be sick. When you have big dogs, they will generally be most comfortable and secure traveling in a crate. Of course, comfort is relative, and nobody likes being stuck in a car for hours on end. Make sure that you make a pit stop every hour or so, for them to get out and stretch their legs. It is a good idea to give your dog a special “journey toy.” They will then associate getting that toy with going on a trip. Make sure that you keep the temperature of the car cool and you can even play some calming classical music to help your dog feel relaxed.
Learning to travel in the car is a necessity when you have a big dog. Taking short trips regularly will help them to get used to the experience, so they are far happier on a long haul journey.