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Kona Sleeping on a Stuffy

Travel Anxiety and Motion Sickness in Puppies

I’m so glad that we brought Kona into our family, and things are going pretty well I think… except for one thing. Well, maybe more than one, but she gets pretty bad travel anxiety and has some motion sickness. This makes life just a little bit difficult, and honestly I’m having trouble coming up with a good solution. So blogland, HALP!

Kona's First Haircut

To give a bit of background, it’s quite probable that the first time Kona was in a car was her trip home with us at 10 weeks old. She was pretty anxious and threw up. And… that’s never really gone away. We’ve gotten her to the point where she can pretty reliably drive within 20 minutes and not toss her cookies… and we’re close to being able to make a 45 minute trip (but we haven’t quite been successful yet). And no matter what, there is excessive drooling. As soon as you turn on the car, there is drool and drool bubbles every where. I don’t love the drooling, but it’s not a huge issue for me… but puking is. What I hate is that drooling is a sign of more severe anxiety and stress.

Kona Sunflower Girl

It’s gotten so bad that Kona doesn’t like to walk out of the door into the garage. She will timidly approach the outside of the car (with bribes) if the car is cold (and hasn’t been run recently). She’s gotten better about the sound of the car door opening (again, as long as the car doesn’t smell like the engine has been on at any point recently). But don’t even think about her exploring the interior of the car. If you put her IN the car (while off and cold) she just stands there — doesn’t even really move and won’t take treats (unless they are extra special, like bones).

Kona Sleeping on a Stuffy

In the car, she seems to do better in the passenger seat rather than the back seat and the turns seem to bother her the most. Obviously this makes things like socialization, grooming and vet appointments quite difficult… and is pretty much crushing my dreams of her running errands with me or being a barn dog.

So I’m turning to you for some help. Have you dealt with travel anxiety and/or motion sickness in dogs? What did you do to make it better or stop it from happening?

Tracy

Fly On Over is an equestrian lifestyle blog devoted to connecting horse lovers around the world. By providing equestrians with practical tips and tricks related to horse ownership, discussing training techniques for horse and rider, as well as covering industry news.

21 thoughts to “Travel Anxiety and Motion Sickness in Puppies”

  1. A few of our dogs get anxiety in the car or when we cut their nails. We tackle it in two different ways: A dose of benadryl (human), as recommended by our vet, or by using one of the many herbal calming liquids like Animal Essentials Tranquility Blend Herbal Formula. These methods seem to work quite well but need to be given a little bit in advance to travel – about 30 minutes.

    I know drugging isn’t the best answer, but it could get you past the hump to where she begins to recognize a car trip as something that is OK.

    1. Also, dogs with motion sickness – do not feed them before travel. At all. That means no breakfast, even if it is hours before you even leave. Of course, this is really more for longer trips. If you’re going on short trips, make sure to schedule them a while after she’s eaten OR you can give her pepto bismal or potentially charcoal tablets to help settle the stomach. Again, all of this has been discussed with our vet and approved, so I’m not just throwing random advice out there.

    2. Sorry for the absurd amount of replies, but I’ve worked with dog breeders and shown dogs all my life (plus trained dogs for three years) so I’ve dealt with a lot of dog-related issues. TBH – it would be best to crate her in the car if possible, though I recognize she is a larger breed. It might provide her with the security she needs to be comfortable in a moving vehicle. Line the crate with newspaper and keep paper towels etc on hand for easy cleanup. We’ve had plenty of dogs with car-sickness issues. Some get over it, some don’t, unfortunately 🙁 I wish you the best!

      1. I really appreciate all the advice! Our vet gave us a pheromone spray… but I honestly wasn’t impressed and didn’t feel like it worked at all. But perhaps I didn’t spray it enough in advance? I gave it about 15 minutes to soak in before the ride, so maybe I need to try 30 minutes.

        She doesn’t get her lunch or dinner before travel (just breakfast, which is 1/3 her daily meal at around 5-6am, and we don’t travel for typically 12 hours after that, so not until 5-6pm). Our trips vary from about 15-45 minutes, and she usually can make it 20-30 minutes without throwing up, but the longer 45 minute trip is too much — although the exact timing of WHEN she pukes varies. I’ll definitely have to ask about the pepto bismal and/or charcoal tablets.

        We recently did get her a crate for the car, and I think that helps her a little a bit. The turns don’t seem to bother her as much, but it hasn’t stopped her from puking.

        Do you have any ideas as to when dogs typically “grow out of it” if they’re going to? She’s at 4.5 months old, and I’m starting to get pretty worried that she won’t get better 🙁

        1. TBh I find benadryl to be more effective than the spray/liquid forms, but I don’t like using it too often. It’s relatively harmless, honestly, but I don’t like even drugging myself haha so of course I hate drugging my animals.

          In my experience, it can take years, but most pups seemed to grow out of it once they were full adults – around a year of age. We had a whole litter once that was full of pups with motion sickness and all of them worked out of it around that time. Unfortunately, until then we had to deal with making sure we had stuff on hand to clean-up after them. Lining crates with a bit of shredded newspaper (on top of flat newspaper) also helped absorb the vomit to keep it from getting everywhere during travel.

          4.5 months is still quite young. She’s probably still developing and fine-tuning motor skills. Plus, from what I’ve seen, getting spayed often helps to calm dogs down, so she may change after you have that done 🙂

  2. Max also gets very stressed out, sick, and drooly/pukey in the car. Hawk had some awesome suggestions! I make sure not too feed him within several hours of travel, and keep an old horse cooler draped on the backseat where he sits. This way, if he pukes, I can just toss the whole blanket in the washer when I get home. It’s definitely gotten better as he gets older (we got him at 8mo, he’s 5 years old now), but the car is still not his favorite. Driving slowly around turns and up and down hills does seem to make the ride a little easier for him, but he just does so much better on the highway – straight and smooth!

  3. Thundershirt! We got Sampson one for his storm anxiety and it helped a lot when we knew it was going to storm and put it on in advance. I’ve heard that it does great for travel. I also know a lot of people who are using essential oils for their calming aspects.

  4. I got a pill from my vet for motion sickness for my dog when we fly. I also give her ginger before car rides, but I will second the others who’ve said they sometimes need to just grow out of it.

  5. I’ve heard Chiropractic helps a lot with some dog’s motion sickness. I know my mom had a dog that got really car sick and was much better after getting adjusted. It may not work on all dogs but it’s worth a shot! Dogs get out of alignment just as much as people and horses 🙂

  6. My family’s Jack Russell Terrier got pretty car sick, and it wasn’t something that magically went away as she was older. We tried the Benedryl, giving her Dramamine, etc. We eventually had a mild tranquilizer prescribed from the vet – we would just give her a half dose, enough to relax her and let her sleep most of the ride. We worked our way down from that so that eventually, car rides became no big deal and we no longer had to tranquilize her. She’d be initially anxious, but would settle down and sleep without an issue, no more vomiting the vast majority of the time. She would still occasionally get sick if we were on particularly winding roads, but that was it. Patience – it does get better with consistency and time!

    1. Patience is definitely not my virtue, but I’m really glad to hear that you were able to work through it with your pup. Makes me feel like we have a fighting chance!

  7. Talk to your vet, you can’t work on the anxiety until the nausea is under control, nausea is a very aversive stimulus. There is a dog medication especially for this, in Australia it is Cerenia, the active ingredient is Maropitant, it is FDA approved for use in dogs for motion sickness it the US too. You would use it every time she has to travel until the anxiety is under control then try off it. The pheromone spray will not help until she knows the car won’t make her vomit. Tranquillisers are inappropriate and will increase her car anxiety over time. Good luck!

  8. My heeler was an adult when I got her and car sickness was a thing for the first few months. Things that seemed to help;
    – No feeding her beforehand, or while out. Syd would drool a bit, but having no food in her guts made it hard to barf anything but froth.
    – My car wouldn’t fit a crate so I got a harness and traffic lead and used that to tie her down in the back seat middle spot. That way she could sit or lay and pic the view that made her comfortable. It also lessened the odds of her being tossed about on stops/turns.
    – Taking her everywhere. The first few trips were for decidedly not fun purposes (vet visits mostly) but I started taking here everywhere. Didn’t matter if it was to a spot where she could go in or if she had to sit for 5 minutes in the car I tried to teach her that car rides were a matter of routine. We went to the vets to just hop on the scale or pick up meds, pet store, park, stores (that’s where she’d have to sit and wait), gas station, etc.

    With Syd it took a month or so for her to settle into our household and start becoming a good car dog. But it worked. Hopefully you find it equally easy.

  9. All really good advice here already. All I have to add is to desensitize the car itself with tons of approach and retreat type work, with or without clicker training. Like walk up to the car, touch nose to car door, click, treat and leave. Then progress slowly to getting in, click, treat and leave. Super short sessions with much emphasis on rewarding any little try and then leaving it for another day. Good luck!

  10. Our dog growing up had motion sickness. We always gave him benadryl before trips. At one point we got some calming stuff from the vet. Unless my parents are expecting windy roads, he is totally fine now.

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