Dog Car Sickness: What You Need to Know to Help Your Pup
Driving over to the local dog park to give your pet a nice fun walk can really be spoiled by the trip in the car. The last thing you want is vomiting to happen in the car. However, for those who suffer from dog car sickness, this can be a real problem. Dogs can become sick and stressed out while in a moving car. This can make it difficult to take your dog to many places without putting them through something stressful.
What is Car Sickness/ Motion Sickness?
Dog car sickness or motion sickness is a condition where a dog becomes upset and sick when traveling in a car. They are not used to the sensations and don’t have the proper defenses to deal with these new sensations. It is more common in puppies than in adult dogs. Puppies lack some key features that help grown-up dogs deal with these things.
However, it can also occur in adult dogs. Not every dog grows out of car sickness. If your dog can’t seem to manage any car trips without some accidents taking place, they likely have a case of dog car sickness. There is something you can do to help your puppy though.
What Causes a Dog to Get Car Sick?
Dogs getting car sick is quite often an unavoidable problem. However, its cause can vary depending on the dog.
Inner Ear Not Developed Fully in Puppies
Most dogs will have a form of car sickness while they’re young. This is a side effect of the way dogs develop. A puppy’s inner ear isn’t properly developed compared with an adult dog. This causes a problem with their balance that can be provoked by traveling in a car. This is a natural cause of dog car sickness. While there are things you can do to help dogs with this type of motion sickness, they will likely outgrow it over time.
Dog car sickness isn’t a problem limited to puppies. Adults can suffer from it too. The main cause among adult dogs is stress. This is particularly true for dogs who spend very little time in the car. Their only experience in a car may be traveling to the vets or groomers. They will then associate the stressful process of being in a car with going somewhere they don’t like. This can give them some real anxiety and stress about riding in cars. You will have to teach them that being in a car is okay, and overwrite that fear of the place.
Signs of Motion Sickness
If you’re concerned that your dog has motion sickness, then there are a few signs to watch out for. A dog can’t tell you when they feel unwell like a person can. To get around this, you’ve got to watch out for the signs of dog motion sickness.
- Whining – A dog that is stressed or experiencing motion sickness is likely to start whining.
- Pacing – A dog might begin pacing within the car to try and deal with the stress.
- Excessive Drooling – While not a pleasant sight, this is a common side effect of motion sickness.
- Lethargy – If your typically active dog is sulking about getting in the car , it might be a sign that something is wrong.
- Vomiting orDiarrhea– While unpleasant, these are some clear signs of dog car sickness.
How You Can Help your Dog’s Car Sickness
If your dog is experiencing any of these problems, then they likely have dog motion sickness. If you want to deal with this problem, then there are a few different methods you can try.
Make them Comfy
Making your dog more comfortable in the car will go a long way towards helping their motion sickness. This should relieve their stress and help them to relax in the car. Try to bring in fabrics that carry your smell for the dog to sit on, they will find this comforting. Anxiety blankets can also be really helpful for keeping a dog calm.
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Try to keep your dog facing forward while you’re driving with them. This will help to cut down on nausea. In people and dogs, motion sickness is provoked more by traveling oppositely to how you’re facing. This is a natural response to moving in a way that feels counter-intuitive. Try to ensure your dog is facing forward by using a seatbelt.
Roll Down Windows a Few Inches
Rolling down your car windows can work wonders for a car sick puppy. Doing this will allow some of the air pressure in the car to move. This helps the car feel more ventilated which should help with your dog’s anxiety. The fresh air will also be good for a bad stomach, helping to prevent motion sickness from turning into vomiting.
A crate can be really helpful for traveling with a dog for a few reasons. The first is just for safety. A dog in a crate won’t be able to roam about the car, so you can be sure they’re not going to get hurt in transit. However, this also helps to keep them facing forward throughout the trip. Being somewhere comfortable and secure will help to reduce their stress while traveling, making it easier for puppies with dog car sickness.
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CBD Oil for Stress
CBD Oil is a great tool for dealing with any type of stress in dogs. This applies to dogs suffering from car sickness. CBD Oil works by releasing a compound that travels through a dog’s system to reduce stress and tension. This will help you treat dog car sickness by treating the route cause of it, stress.
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Limiting your dog’s food before a trip can be really helpful for treating the symptoms. This particular way of treating a dog with car sickness isn’t going to address why they’re carsick, but it should prevent them from having accidents in the car. Don’t feed your dog for 12 hours before their big journey. This should reduce nausea and prevent them from throwing up in the car. You still need to give them access to freshwater though.
Distract with Toys
Part of your dog being stressed when driving in the car is them associating the journey will unpleasant things. You can try to beat this sensation by making the ride fun for them. Giving them access to some fun toys in the car can help them have fun in there. If they associate being in the car with having fun, then they’re less likely to suffer from dog car sickness.
Dog Motion Sickness Medications
If your dog’s car sickness is severe, then medication might be able to help. Vets can prescribe several different treatments that should help your dog. However, these medicines aren’t for everyday use. If your dog’s car sickness is getting in the way of them living their life, then training them to cope better in cars will be more helpful in the long run than constantly medicating them.
If your puppy is suffering from dog car sickness, then there is quite a bit you can do to help them. Between the solutions listed here, you should be able to show your dog that being in the car can be a relaxing or fun experience. Getting rid of their stress when they’re in the car should ease their motion sickness, and help them enjoy their trips.
Tips for How to Calm Your Dog in the Car
Dog anxiety in cars is a common and debilitating condition among our beloved canine friends. In fact, according to a 2020 study conducted by the University of Helsinki in Finland, dogs are especially vulnerable to anxiety-related traits. And car anxiety, or car phobia, is one such problem that many dog owners face with their furry friends.
Not only does dog car anxiety contribute to psychological and emotional problems, but it can decrease their quality of life as well.
So how do you calm your dog in the car?
First, let’s identify the signs of dog car anxiety.
Does your dog have car anxiety?
Stress, fear, and anxiety can make car travel difficult for you and your pet. Symptoms can range from mild to severe, and can be very different for each individual dog.
These symptoms often include the following:
- Refusal to get into the car
- Moderate to severe whining, crying, or barking
- Excessive drooling, panting, lip licking, or yawning
- Possible urination or defecation in the car
- Shivering or panic
- Trying to escape from the car (through the window, or the second the door opens)
- Chewing or licking themselves
- Destructive behaviors
- Nausea and vomiting
Anxiety during car rides can make trips so challenging and heartbreaking that our beloved pets miss out on adventures we so badly want them to be a part of.
What causes car anxiety in dogs?
Researchers can’t say for sure, but many theorize that our dogs’ genetic makeup may be the reason they’re predisposed to different anxiety traits, such as car anxiety.
After all, dog anxiety is an umbrella phrase used to cover a wide range of symptoms or problems that fall under one common disorder. And car anxiety is just one branch under the anxiety umbrella.
In reality, there are a number of reasons why your dog might be battling car anxiety. Let’s take a look at a couple of the most common reasons…
Car sickness in dogs
Car sickness, or motion sickness, is one of the most common reasons dogs develop car anxiety.
This is especially true for puppies who have yet to grow into their ears. Underdeveloped ears can throw off their balance and orientation. Thankfully, most puppies grow out of this motion sickness phase.
However, dogs who suffer from Vestibular disease, or inner ear infections, may also struggle with unregulated balance and disorientation.
For these reasons, your sweet canine pal may actually be suffering from motion sickness while in the car. And even after they grow into their ears, or their ear infection is resolved, their association between car rides and feeling sick is the reason they get more and more anxious about hopping into the car.
Once your dog’s motion sickness is under control, it should become easier to help them overcome their relentless car anxiety.
Thankfully, the fixes for motion sickness can be surprisingly simple:
- Make sure your dog is on an empty stomach before car rides,
- Reduce nausea with the help of natural supplements, and
- Remember to consult with your vet if you think your dog might be suffering from inner ear issues.
Noise phobia in dogs
While noise phobia also falls under the anxiety umbrella, it’s often paired with car anxiety.
Noise phobia, or dog noise anxiety, is usually triggered by things like fireworks, thunderstorms, gunshots, and loud cars. But other, lesser sounds like car air conditioning, heavy bass sound systems, and other car-related noises can exacerbate a hypersensitive dog’s car anxiety.
While noise phobia in dogs can be especially hard to treat, it’s not impossible.
In fact, some pet owners have found success using dog anxiety vests, which work by wrapping around their torso and chest to provide a gentle comforting pressure.
In severe cases, some dogs may need to be given prescribed tranquilizers just to make it to their annual check-ups.
But, it doesn’t have to be that way…
Tips for Calming Dog Car Anxiety
The standard behavioral treatment most professional dog trainers recommend is to start helping your dog associate the car with good things, while staying under the “reaction threshold”.
The “reaction threshold” is the moment your dog starts showing signs of anxiety, whatever that may be for him or her.
In practice, this means helping your dog develop a positive reaction to your car before they get into it.
For starters, use treats and reaffirming praise when walking toward your car. This will help condition your dog that your car is safe to approach. Use this same method when opening and closing the car door.
You may have to repeat this method a few times until you see that your dog is at ease when they’re near your car and when they see the door open.
From there, it’s all about encouraging your dog to explore the inside and outside of your car on their own. You can hide treats in different spots to entice them to explore. Just be sure to let them take their time to sniff around, and be sure to speak in a happy tone as they do so.
Once you see your dog is a little more comfortable in the car, try shutting the door for just a second and then quickly open it with a treat in hand while praising them. If your dog is ready to exit the car, let them do so. This will encourage them that the car is a safe place.
You can then take a few short rides around the block, or maybe even drive to the park to associate car rides with fun places.
If your dog’s most frequent car rides are to the vet’s office, then it’s no surprise that they hate getting in the car. So be sure that your short rides are associated with fun destinations, like the dog park, a swim in the creek, or your local pet boutique. And remember to reward and praise every aspect of their car ride.
Remember: practice makes perfect!
The more often your dog can get in the car without being triggered, the better. With each successful trip, the more you can reward their calm behavior. This will allow you to quickly progress them towards the “reconditioning” of their emotional response to car rides.
Improve Your Dog’s Sense of Security in the Car
Believe it or not, the sense of instability that many of our canine companions feel during car rides can cause them to feel unsafe.
In fact, many well-meaning owners think that allowing a dog “free range” in the car is helpful to their pet.
Some owners even feel that by allowing their dog to crawl onto their lap helps keep them comforted during their journey in the car. But these practices are actually counterproductive for three reasons…
First, it is unsafe. A driver who is preoccupied with their furry passenger has less focus to put on the road.
Secondly, “comforting” a dog who is displaying anxious and panicky behaviors can unwittingly reward those behaviors. And if there’s one thing we know about dog training 101, it’s that any behavior rewarded is bound to increase. Which means, this common mistake can actually make your dog’s car phobia worse.
Third, many dogs are actually disturbed by being unable to find their footing as the car moves. This can add to their sense of insecurity and feelings that the car is not safe. This is because cars are only designed to keep humans safe, not our canine friends.
However, many pet owners have found that specially designed dog car harnesses work wonders.
In fact, dog car harnesses and/or dog seat belts help keep your dog secured in one spot while the car is in motion. This not only prevents possible distractions to the owner, but in the event of a car accident, your dog is most likely to be less harmed than if they were roaming free.
It also helps condition your dog to enjoy a car ride that is more predictably stable and secure.
Using CBD Oil to Relieve Anxiety
Finally, another way to help your dog with car phobia is to consider a natural product, LolaHemp CBD Hemp Oil.
This extract is derived from the hemp plant and contains phytonutrients, like calming terpenes, amino acids, and most importantly the highly therapeutic Cannabidiol (CBD).
What’s most interesting about CBD is that scientists, renowned doctors, and veterinarians are now acknowledging just how effective CBD can be when addressing anxiety.
First, it can work with the neurochemistry of the brain and nervous system to reduce feelings of anxiety.
Second, recent research suggests it may be helpful to “unlearn” fears that are associated with past trauma.
(Both of these studies may be why some professional dog trainers have found that administering CBD an hour before training sessions and car rides can help calm a dog’s fears.)
Third, due to its effects on our dogs’ Endocannabinoid System (ECS), research suggests that CBD may help regulate nausea and motion sickness. Given that nausea can be a major root cause for conditioning car phobia in dogs, this is a major positive side benefit of this natural product when it comes to helping dogs overcome their fear of car rides.
In the end, the vast majority of dogs with car anxiety can be treated with a combination of behavioral training and healthy/safety aids, such as calming supplements and specially designed car harnesses.
Regardless of the reason your dog may fear car rides, remember that there are ways to help them overcome it.
All you need is the right tools and patience.
Thank you to the author Joey DiFrancesco for his contribution. As the founder of pet formulated CBD Hemp Oil LolaHemp and online pet owner novelty shop Lolawawa’s. Both brands are involved in the animal rescue community and contribute a portion of their profits to rescue, foster and adoption organizations.
Did we answer all your questions on “Car phobia”?
One thought on “Tips for How to Calm Your Dog in the Car”
Wonderful article. I worked with a professional CPDT-KA certified dog trainer, and for the last 10 years she has been helping people to eliminate bad behaviors in dogs and train well behaved, obedient, loving pets…by showing them how to bring out the ‘hidden intelligence’ inside their dog. It has worked wonders for our dog