Canine Car Sickness An Update
When a puppy gets car sick, many tell you that the puppy will outgrow it. And, you hope. Then, reality sets in. With Tori’s second birthday coming up in July, we’ve renewed our pursuit of a solution to her relentless car sickness once and for all. Below is a list of all the meds and home remedies that have failed and preview of our behavior modification strategy to try and fix canine car sickness.
Canine Car Sickness Challenges
The problem with having a very car sick dog where we live is this:
The first 10 miles / 20 minutes and
the last 10 miles / 20 minutes of
EVERY drive means treking along our canyon road,
with many curves and some steep sections.
This is Tori’s worried face from a trip to puppy class in November 2015. Things have not improved.
Canine Car Sickness Options
Here is the full list of the home remedies and prescription meds we tried in our quest to fix Tori’s extreme car sickness:
- Candied ginger
- Ginger snaps, including the very special ones from Trader Joe’s
- Mint-ginger drops
- Compusure calming chews
- Dramamine (over the counter)
- Cerenia (prescription / very expensive)
- Xanax (prescription)
- Cerenia and Xanax together
- CBD oil
** Note: Tori’s pet insurance policy has a lifetime exclusion for car sickness because it’s considered a pre-existing condition. No kidding.
In addition, we tried:
- Changing where her crate is placed
- Changing which way her crate faces
- Not using a crate at all
- Harness on the seat
- No harness
- My 4Runner
- Tom’s truck
- One of us sitting with her in the front seat
- One of sitting with her in the back seat
- Windows up
- Windows down
- Taking tiny drives every day for several weeks
- Leaving for puppy class an HOUR early to give her tummy time to settle — Tori gets there and is miserable the whole time, so we stopped going.
We did get to a point where if we did NOT feed her at all before she needed to get in the car and gave her meds as much as 3 hours early, then she drooled a lot … and maybe barfed up some drool, but that’s it. It remained an unhappy experience for her. Every. Single. Time.
Our Best Successes in Canine Car Sickness So Far
In the fall of 2016, we tried CBD oil on an empty stomach and took Tori down for her veterinary appointment (post-op). She made it all the way to the veterinary clinic without throwing up. She seemed miserable, but no barfing.
She even made it to within 1 mile of our home on the way back … before she threw up.
I thought we’d finally hit the jackpot in the ongoing canine car sickness drama. Alas, no.
The one and only car “trip” that Tori can manage without throwing up is the 2-mile drive (in our neighborhood) to a hiking trail. It’s 2 mostly straight roads (one with a roller-coaster-like hill) to the trail head. So, that’s something.
Here she is riding solo to the trail head last weekend.
The one and ONLY time Tori rode in the car without throwing up was the day Tom shocked us all and brought her home.
Canine Car Sickness – Advice from Pal
After seeing the miraculous transformation that Leslie May from Johann The Dog and Raise a Green Dog made with her youngest dog Rach (who had VERY similar canine car sickness issues and who has to survive similar mountain roads where they live), we’ve recommitted ourselves to building Tori’s car confidence from the ground up.
Leslie and I spent about 90 minutes on the phone last week so that she could explain her strategy with Rach. It took her 3 full months of daily work.
The good news is that we didn’t need to backtrack as much as Leslie did. You see, Rach started getting upset when she turned on the shower. He had back-chained his worry all the way to her getting freshened up and dressed in the morning. Wow!
Canine Car Sickness – Our New Plan
The behavior modification plan starts with changing how Tori feels about the car — with food. Basically, I’m feeding all of her meals in the crate in my car. Each day, I add more reality to the scenario:
- Locking doors
- Putting on my seat belt
- Playing the radio & yes, even singing (like I do when I drive)
- Putting the windows up and down
- And, so forth
Once I had her happily running to the car to eat, then I opened the garage door, then I backed out, then I made a loop in our parking area. We’re repeating all this with Tom’s truck as well.
We will start doing short drives again soon — every day.
Canine Car Sickness Solutions – One Size Does NOT Fit All
With Rach, Leslie figured out that if he could be in the center of the back seat, in a harness, where he could FACE FORWARD and SEE out the windshield … AND she kept feeding him along the way, then he did fine, but even now, if he lies down, he pops right back up because he starts to feel sick.
I’m pretty worried Tori having food as we’re driving because BARF CITY, but we’ll see.
I would guess that the right combination is different for every dog, but the ONE CONSTANT is that you first have to change how the dog feels about the car first. That’s the place to start.
Look for more updates on canine car sickness as news warrants. I’ll even try to get some video.
Trained as a traditional journalist and based in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, USA, I'm a full-time freelance writer for magazines, websites, and private clients. My areas of specialty include everything in the lifestyles arena, including health and home, personal finance and other consumer interests, relationships and trends, people and business profiles . and, of course, all things pet related. I don't just love dogs. I need them in my life. Seriously.
Thank you fo your effort to give the best solution to prevent car sickness. I think awareness is key and you are doing well this. These are the canine car sickness signs to watch out for when we travel with our dog. So we should make sure our furry companion is as comfortable as we are during travel.
Leave a reply:
Creative solution. Thanks for sharing
Leave a reply:
I am so glad I found your blog! I’m sure I will be spending a lot of time reading your posts. I lost my soul mate Atticus, a terrier mix, 7 months ago to cancer at the age of 4 years and a half. When he started to get sick I took him to a few different vets, and no one could figure out what was wrong with him. It was very frustrating and expensive. Then he seemed OK for about two weeks until one day he had trouble walking, and two days later was paralyzed in his back legs. I took him to the veterinary hospital in Fort Collins and they said they found what looked like cancer in his lungs, that must have spread from somewhere else. They couldn’t see cancer on his spine and said I would need to come back for that on Monday to do an MRI. It was Friday. By Monday Atticus was gone. I believe he had cancer on his spine.
Atticus was a craiglist ad “can’t keep this dog any longer” dog, and my first dog. He had so many behavioral issues but I loved him unconditionally and he changed my life. I’m in Northern Colorado. Atticus loved hiking in the mountains. On the trail was the only place he seemed OK, and at peace with the world, not agitated or reactive, so we hiked a lot. Because Atticus had a severe separation anxiety, I adopted a second dog to keep him company. Unfortunately my second dog Amissa had terrible car anxiety, which for a year I was hoping she would outgrow as I tried many things to get her to tolerate car rides. I had hoped to hike with both dogs, but when Amissa’s anxiety continued I decided to stop forcing her to go with us. I had a dilema now. I wanted to hike with Atticus but not leave Amissa at home alone. Over the next two years I adopted two more dogs, dogs that would be Amissa’s buddies, that would not be going hiking. Just when my 4 dogs got good at dealing with each other, where I was OK leaving the three girls, Amissa, Abby and Aislinn, at home and taking Atticus hiking, Atticus got sick and was soon gone.
Now I have three dogs that don’t deal well on car drives. Amissa has car anxiety, shakes and cries during car rides. Abby cries and wants to sit on my lap when I drive, so I have to tie her down in the back of my hatchback. Aislinn seems to enjoy car rides and only pukes on the twisty roads. This Spring I’ve decided that I miss hiking and don’t want to hike without dogs, and I have these three dogs, and how about I try to take them hiking and get them used to traveling in the car. I am getting read to start my own blog, to document our adventures and write what I have learned so far about keeping dogs healthy and happy.
dog anxiety in car rides: how to make your dogs comfortable in a car
Dogs either love or hate cars and that is how it’s always been, there are reasons for this and ways to help this, but before we look at how to fix it we must look at the causes.
Why your dog might get anxiety
Every dog is different and you never know how Fido might react but there are certain cues as to why your pal might have dog anxiety in car rides.
One cause is nausea, just like humans dogs can get carsick and not feel well. This may lead to vomiting and will be very noticeable very fast if this is the case. Not all cases of car sickness cause nausea however and you can check your dog for cues. If you suspect your dog has nausea look for yawning, lick smacking, and whining, all of these cues could mean your dog is feeling carsickness.
The next is they could associate the car with a bad place. If your dog has ever been involved in a wreck or you only drive them to the vet they may associate the car with bad times leading them to fear the car.
The last cause I will cover is that they may just not like the vibration or noise of the engine while in the car. This one is less common but still very real when looking at a dog anxiety in car rides almost like PTSD .
How to help
Just like why dogs get anxiety the solutions I offer may work for one dog and not the other. All dogs react based on past experiences and some might require other methods. However you should give these options a try to see how your dog reacts.
For Car Sickness there is not much you can do to solve the problem but there are ways to counteract the symptoms. The first thing you’ll want to do is contact your veterinarian see what they recommend, some offer advice and some offer medical remedies depending on their practice and the severity.
Another remedy may be CBD or cannabidiol, this hemp based compound has correlation to reducing anxiety in dogs and has loads of other benefits including reducing nausea. Check out our ultimate guide to CBD to find out more.
Natural Doggie Organic CBD Infused Coconut Oil Dog Super Supplement
If your dog is one that associates cars with bad places there are plenty of options. First try taking your dog on a car trip to a park once a week to get him associating car rides with fun times. Another option is to load your car with fun toys or comfy beds so they feel more at home in the car.
Another great way to reduce dog anxiety in car rides is to train them the old fashioned way. Give them a healthy treat when they get in the car and then another if they have a good car ride. This is another association method that will get your dog thinking you car is a treat dispenser.
If none of these work there are still options like anxiety blankets or veterinarian prescribed sedatives. Make sure to contact your veterinarian before changing your dog’s diet and to get the best advice for your furry friend. I hope this has helped you or someone you know with dog anxiety in car rides.
SitStay has been your working dog supply headquarters since 1995. From service dog vests, dog beds, and working dog equipment, to dog treats and dog training supplies. We’ve got you covered.