Motion sickness is not something that is only seen in people. It is also a common phenomenon observed in dogs. For some dogs, car rides produce a great deal of anxiety. A combination of fear, not understanding, and an inner ear problem may cause drooling, shaking, or even vomiting. A recent study showed one in six dogs suffer from motion sickness.

What Causes Motion Sickness in Dogs?


Motion sickness is caused by the stimulation of the vestibular apparatus that is located within the inner ear. This vestibular apparatus helps the dog process head position and movement.  A dog suffers from motion sickness when excessive signals from the vestibular apparatus are sent to the vomit center in the brain called the chemoreceptor trigger zone (CRTZ).  This triggers the vomiting sensation, which is one of the main symptoms of this problem.

Young dogs are especially sensitive to motion sickness. Some dogs will outgrow this problem, however others may need conditioning or medication to overcome the nausea from motion sickness.

Condition Your Dog To Travel


To condition your pet to traveling get your dog used to the car environment. Get in the car together and have a treat. Do not have the car running. Make it a positive experience by talking and be happy.  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.

Now it’s time to start the engine. Repeat the steps above without moving the car. Once your pet is used to the car running without any fearful reaction, back the car to the end of the driveway, then forward again. Give them a treat and praise. Repetition is the key. Gradually increase the distance you travel. The more you do this the more confident your dog becomes that cars are not a problem. In fact, to your pet, the car becomes a great place for attention, praise, and even treats.

If you are unable to condition your pet to travel, don’t give up hope. There is medication. Over the counter medications, such as Benadryl, Bonine and Dramamine can be used for motion sickness in dogs, but remember they can have a sedating affect that can last several hours.  Also, there are some dogs that cannot take these medications due to an illness. Check with your veterinarian for proper dosing and to see if you pet can take these medications.

Phenothiazines, such as acepromazine, have been prescribed for decades by veterinarians to prevent motion sickness in dogs. It is safe for most dogs but usually has a strong sedative effect that can last all day. In fact, I prescribe it more for sedation than I do motion sickness.

In February 2007, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the prescription drug, Cerenia.  I have found this drug to be very effective in preventing motion sickness in dogs without the sedation often seen in other medications.  Another benefit of Cerenia is its long duration of action.  Nearly 24 hours.  In fact, it can even be given the night before an early trip.  This drug should be used with caution in dogs that have existing liver disease. Your veterinarian may want to run a simple blood test on your dog to check for liver problems prior to prescribing it.


Also, do not give Cerenia or any other antiemetic (anti-vomiting drug) if think your pet has eaten anything poisonous or toxic.


Learn More About Motion Sickness in Your Pet At Our Long Beach Animal Hospital


Dogs make excellent traveling companions so it is well worth the effort to help your pet enjoy the ride as much as you do. To learn how you can help your dog or if you need a routine pet exam, contact us today at 562-439-4228.

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