Now that summer is here, you might be preparing to pack up the car and the family and hit the road for a fun summer vacation. Perhaps you’ll be bringing a canine member of the family along for the ride. Taking your dog on a summer trip can be great fun for her and for you. But if your dog suffers from car sickness or motion sickness, it can make the trip considerably less pleasant for all parties involved.
Does Your Dog Suffer from Car Sickness?
It’s generally not hard to tell if your dog becomes ill from motion sickness in the car. She’s likely to vocalize her discomfort by barking, yelping, yawping, whining, or making other noises that are so enjoyable in an enclosed vehicle. She may also lick her lips frequently, yawn repeatedly, salivate more than usual, appear lethargic or remain motionless, urinate, defecate, or vomit.
Your Puppy May Outgrow Her Motion Sickness
Many dogs who suffer from motion sickness when they’re young outgrow it. Puppies don’t have fully developed inner ears or equilibrium, detracting from their ability to tolerate travel (in cars or other modes of transportation). When you’re going on summer vacation, consider leaving a young puppy with a friend or family member, or at a reputable boarding location, if she has a hard time with car sickness.
Training Your Dog to Ride in the Car
Often, you can train a dog for car travel and to overcome motion sickness. Start acclimating your dog to the car as far in advance of your vacation as possible. Begin by letting her sit in the car a few times per day for a day or two. Then, do the same, but turn the car on and sit there for a while as the engine runs. After a few days of this, take a 10-minute trip or two with your dog each day. Gradually increase the length of the trips.
Use the car to take your dog places she enjoys, such as a dog park or a store where she gets a treat. This prevents negative associations with car travel and resulting stress, as might occur if the only time your dog gets in the car is to go to the veterinarian’s office.
Other Ways to Minimize or Eliminate Car Sickness
Keep your dog in the rear seats, as airbags pose as much threat to her as to a small child. Make the car ride comfortable for your dog. Run the air conditioner or heat when appropriate. Crack the windows when the weather permits for fresh air circulation. Never allow your dog to hang her head out a window, though; the whipping wind can dry out her eyes and expose her to danger. Try to keep your dog facing forward. If she watches out the side of the car, she’s more likely to become nauseated from the motion.
Dogs prefer traveling in a crate. If you don’t have one, it’s a wise investment before setting out on your summer travels. Crates provide a sense of security for dogs. Use one with a solid bottom in case your dog vomits en route. If your dog stresses over car travel, try administering a calming supplement before departure or apply a calming spray in her car crate.
Don’t feed your dog a meal before leaving. However, a piece of ginger or a small, sweet treat about half an hour beforehand may help prevent car sickness. If you have to feed your dog during travel, stop for a while and let her exercise before resuming the ride. Also, ask your veterinarian about antiemetic medications that help reduce or prevent car sickness in dogs. Use them as recommended on your trips.
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