SPCA New Zealand
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How can I help my dog with car sickness?

My dog Monty always gets sick in the car. What can I do to help him?

There are two main reasons why a dog gets carsick: motion sickness or anxiety related to some aspect of the car travel. Many dogs’ carsickness is actually due to a combination of both of these factors. Imagine that your experience of going in cars always ends with you feeling sick and vomiting, it is pretty likely that you would start feeling anxious about going in the car which can in turn make you feel sick! It is a vicious cycle.

It is important to try and desensitise Monty to the car so that he is no longer anxious or afraid of the car and going in it. This will involve slowly getting him used to being in the car while making sure that nothing bad or scary happens. First of all just sit in the car with Monty talking gently and giving him cuddles and praise. Do this for a few days (or even longer depending on how anxious he is) until Monty seems comfortable just being in the car. Then try just starting the car and letting it run for a few minutes while you sit with him in the car and make the time in the car a happy and positive experience. Then just turn off the car and get out with him. Do this for a few days until Monty starts to show enthusiasm for going to the car. Take things really slowly, the next step is to just drive up and down the driveway once then stop and exit the car. After a few days of doing this you can move onto a trip just up and down your street. Then start taking Monty on short car trips of just a few minutes, ideally somewhere nice that he enjoys going.

Once Monty is alright with that you can slowly increase the time spent in the car. If he gets sick at any stage you will need to go back a couple of steps to a step where he does not get sick and then start your progress again, even more slowly. It is best not to feed Monty for at least a few hours before taking him in the car.

If he vomits when the car is moving despite seeming calm and relaxed then he may need some medication to help with the motion sickness – your vet can help you with this. As he gets better going in the car he may no longer need the medication if the nausea and vomiting is anxiety related. Some dogs who just get motion sick despite feeling comfortable and relaxed with car travel will continue to need medication to stop the motion sickness. That is alright! The most important thing is to effectively control Monty’s motion sickness with the right medication so that the experience of going in the car is not always a horrible one and to make sure that Monty is not anxious and afraid of the car.

Every dog is different and if he continues to get motion sickness despite being relaxed about car travel then you just need to be prepared and make sure he has medication before going in the car.

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