Many people think of motion sickness as being a purely human problem, so it will probably surprise you to learn that dogs and cats can be just as prone to the condition as we are. In fact, some studies estimate that as many as 1 in 6 dogs will suffer from motion sickness when travelling in the car.
Although the idea of your cat or dog vomiting in the car is unpleasant, there are actually a number of ways in which you can reduce the symptoms of motion sickness for your pet, and make their
journey calmer and vomit-free.
What causes pets to suffer from motion sickness?
Motion sickness occurs when there is no correlation between movement and what we can see. For example, when our bodies are still, but the world is rushing past us such as when we are travelling by car. This confuses our brain, causing spatial disorientation and making us experience a number of symptoms including dizziness, nausea and vomiting.
Motion sickness for these reasons is most often seen in younger dogs or puppies. This is because the ear structures required to give your pooch optimal balance are not fully developed until your dog reaches maturity.
However, in some cases, it is not actually the motion itself that causes your pet to feel sick or vomit while on a journey. Motion sickness can also be caused by anxiety or stress, a common emotion, particular if your pet only associates journeys with visits to somewhere they are uncomfortable such as boarding kennels or our veterinarian.
Symptoms of motion sickness in pets
In addition to the obvious symptom of vomiting, there are several other signs that may indicate that your pet is suffering from motion sickness. These include:
- Drooling excessively
- Licking his lips
- Nervous behavior
- Panting excessively
However, each pet is unique, and these symptoms may vary. If your pet is suffering from motion sickness, you will soon be able to identify the changes in his behavior that signify a bout of motion sickness.
How to help a pet with motion sickness
The best way to help a pet who suffers from motion sickness is to make any journeys as comfortable as possible for him, and to try to avoid any unnecessary trips.
Face the direction of travel
Direction of travel can play a large role in the level of nausea experienced during motion sickness, and travelling backwards or facing out of the side windows are big no-no’s as the visual input to your pet’s brain will be the most confusing. Instead, secure your pet in a carrier or seatbelt facing directly forwards, out of the windshield. Although you cannot stop your pet from turning his head to the side, encouraging him to look forwards can significantly reduce the likelihood of vomiting.
Open the windows
A little fresh air can make anyone feel better, but make sure you lower the windows to equal heights on both sides of your vehicle. This helps to balance the pressure inside the car which will further alleviate nausea.
Limit meals before the journey
Travelling on a full stomach is never fun, particularly if you suffer from motion sickness and there is a strong chance that the journey will make you feel nauseous or actually vomit. Instead, give your pet a small, sugary treat (not chocolate) before the trip as this is believed to reduce the feelings of nausea.
Take frequent breaks
If you need to take a longer trip than normal, it is important to factor in comfort breaks for your pet as well as yourself. Try and stop somewhere where you can get your pet out of the vehicle for a few minutes and they can have some water. If you have a dog, this is an ideal time to encourage a bathroom stop too.
If you have concerns about your pet and motion sickness, contact and arrange an appointment with our veterinarian to discuss the techniques you have tried to reduce your pet’s motion sickness. If these have proven unsuccessful, our vet may recommend that you try prescription medications such as calming supplements, or in severe cases, sedatives, to alleviate the problem.