Q: Every time we take our new puppy for a car ride she throws up her food. Do you have any suggestions?
A: Yes, dogs get motion sickness, too. Which means that even short car rides can prove stressful for dogs. Fortunately, there are ways to ease or eliminate a dog’s motion sickness, including conditioning dogs to car rides and using drugs to prevent the nausea.
Motion sickness happens in all dogs but is considered much more common in puppies and young dogs, presumably because the ear structures used for balance aren’t fully developed in puppies. Though we’re not exactly sure why pups are so predisposed, we do know that their tendency to throw up in transit presents a potential problem. That’s because pups’ sensitive brains have a way of jumping to conclusions. So if the first few car rides of a dog’s life results in nausea, dogs may begin to equate travel with uncomfortable sensations, even after his or her balance system fully matures.
Stress can also add to motion sickness. So if dogs ride in cars only to go to veterinary visits, the negative sensations associated with travel will almost certainly be pronounced. If dogs continue to appear ill even after several car rides, owners should consult their veterinarians about treatment for motion sickness.
Here are some tips:
▪ Face her forward.
▪ Lower car windows a little to equalize the inside and outside air pressures.
▪ Keep vehicles cool.
▪ Limit her food and water consumption before travel.
▪ Give her a treat every time she gets into the car.
▪ Give her a toy that she likes while she’s in the car.
▪ Give her a break between car rides (1-2 weeks).
▪ Take short car rides to fun places (not just to the vet’s).
▪ Don’t insist on taking her for long rides to “get her used to it.” This can make things worse.
▪ And whatever you do, don’t yell or punish her in any way. This will only increase the possibility that she’ll acquire negative associations with car rides.
If a dog doesn’t outgrow motion sickness or respond to conditioning techniques, a veterinarian should be consulted about using a medication to help. Maropitant sodium (marketed as Cerenia) is approved for this use in dogs.
Dr. Patty Khuly has a veterinary practice at Sunset Animal Clinic in South Miami. Her website is drpattykhuly.com. Send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.