Managing Motion Sickness in Pets
Let’s say you’ve planned a vet appointment or a nice day at the park with your pet. You settle them in the car seat (or in their crate). The engine starts, the traffic goes by, and in the backseat your dog (or cat) seems to be panting louder than ever – they seem disoriented and nervous.
This usually means they’re experiencing motion sickness or travel sickness. Although it makes short trips as well as long journey’s quite nerve racking for you and your buddy, it’s pretty normal for pets and even humans.
Motion sickness is more of a concern for dog owners (especially bigger dogs that are hard to manage) than cat owners but it’s nothing to worry about. It’s also more common in younger ones and senior pets. While young kittens and puppies may grow out of it, you might need to help the senior ones. Pets with traumatic past (abuse, abandonment) or general anxiety could also be more fearful while travelling than others.
Why does my pet experience motion sickness?
This happens because the body’s sensory organs get mixed visual, auditory and motion signals while travelling. Whether the travelling is by plane, car or train, the brain gets kind of confused.
Sitting in a vehicle is a strange and scary experience for pet’s because they are not used to it. It’s also because they might associate the car with going to the vet, which most of them despise to say the least.
If they’ve gone to the vet before while being sick or injured, they’ll also associate travelling with always feeling nauseous and having a painful experience. But most of the time, they’re just stressed.
What are the symptoms?
Some easily identifiable signs that could occur while being on the road are:
- Excessive panting or drooling
- Excessive vocalizations
- Loss of balance
What can I do to prevent or help with it?
Things you can do before the ride:
- Not feeding to avoid nausea
- Using specially designed dog seat belts
- Using a crate (put it in a place where the pet has limited view or use shades)
To set a less stressful atmosphere in the car, you could:
- Keep the temperature cool
- Put the pet in a place that’s not too bright or dark
- Turn down the radio volume to avoid noise
- Don’t open windows too low – cats and smaller dogs could jump
Conditioning techniques are also useful. These include:
- Having special toys only available in the car
- Using treats (remember to not feed too much)
- Talk to them with your familiar voice during rides
- Use their favorite persons shirt or a blanket from home – the scent will remind them of home and they’ll feel safe
Get them used to the car by:
- Taking short trips to appealing places (like
- a dog park)
- Build tolerance by making them sit in the car before going
- Alternate between cars if you can (that way they won’t associate only one car with bad experiences)
What are the remedies or medications for motion sickness?
Before trying medications, there are remedies like:
- Aromatherapy: Simply add a few drops of essential oil (like lavender oil) in the pet’s bedding to help them remain calm.
- Natural herbs: Using passionflower, ginger can ease anxiety.
If any of those don’t work, you can always consult your veterinarian for medication and their appropriate doses. These consist of over-the-counter drugs or prescribed ones. For example,
- Anti-nausea drugs to prevent vomiting
- Antihistamines which lessen sickness symptoms and may also have sedating effects
- Anti-anxiety medicine for extremely anxious pets
If you’re facing any problems with your pet’s motion sickness, our vets at Petsworld are ready to help. Contact us or leave a comment below!