Magical-Dawg loves car rides and has never had a problem with motion sickness. He’d drive the car if I let him. But my first dog the car from his very first ride home as a puppy, when he got car sick from the motion, stress and excitement. He shivered and shook, drooled and cried, and ultimately vomited all over the back seat. From thereafter, I believe he remembered the bad experience and dreaded the car as a result.
It’s not surprising puppies may not like car rides. Any first experience means stress and excitement. I’ve seen dogs develop car sickness from the excitement of the new experience of a car ride. Rides that are associated with rude thermometers or worse at the veterinarians can leave your scared puppy dreading anything to do with vacation travel to the boarding kennel or car rides around town.
Why Puppies Get Car Sick
Puppies are not yet fully physically developed. Many won’t have fully developed their equilibrium, and, as a result, often have problems with motion sickness. Often, they outgrow this as they become more mature.
New experiences can cause stress that makes it more likely puppies get car sick. And let’s face it, a puppy faces something new nearly every day! When a new experience causes fear, pain or bad feelings like an upset tummy, the puppy can, in turn, associate that bad feeling with the experience—a car ride, for example. In these cases, it can turn into a vicious cycle where the memory of being sick makes him feel so bad, he gets sick and fears the experience time after time.
Tips for Calming Motion Sickness
You can ease the upset feelings and settle his tummy with a little preparation, though. Here are some helpful ways you can reduce the chance your puppy will get sick during his next car rides.
Relieve Stress. Puppies associate sick feelings from what they anticipate will happen at the end of the ride. To change his mind, turn the car into a puppy palace of toys and treats he only gets near – or while inside – the car. Teach him the car offers lots of benefits to him, and do this in a very gradual way, and perhaps stop during trips at drive-through services where he gets treats and good-dog praise and admiration. Learn more about car ride tips here.
Timing Meals. If the puppy has nothing in his tummy to vomit, he’ll be less likely to feel sick. So be sure to feed him several hours BEFORE you hit the road. Be sure to offer water, though, because that can help settle an ify tummy.
Viewing Pleasures:The motion of moving cars without a view of where he’s going tends to upset puppy tummies. Tiny pups may not be able to see out the window, though, but when he’s larger and able to window gaze, that can help your pup orient himself. Just ensure he’s safely restrained in a safe puppy carrier or other restraint in the back seat. That’s because air bags from the front that may result from a minor fender-bender can crush and kill small pets. Also, a puppy gate that keeps your Junior Dog out of your lap keeps you from becoming distracted, and also limits how much mess he can spread around the inside of your car.
Breathing Tips: Crack open the window for some fresh air for your puppy’s sniffing pleasure. All those fresh smells carried on the wind distract your baby dog from his ify tummy action, and a narrow opening lets him sniff without risking eye injury from flying objects. You’ll also want to stop and let the puppy stroll around for potty breaks during car rides, which also can help him associate positive fun things with the whole experience.
Tummy Treatments: The same drug people take to fight motion sickness works in dogs, too, and Dramamine is considered safe for most healthy adult dogs—be sure to check with your vet on the proper puppy dose, though. Also ask about a newer option called Cerenia made especially for carsick dogs--it's a prescription from your vet that comes as pills or an injection.
Natural Treats: You can also try offering your puppy a natural nausea remedy—ginger. You can find ginger capsules at health food stores. Puppies under 16 pounds can safely take 250-milligrams or less of ginger, while puppies over 16 pounds can usually handle up to 500 milligrams of ginger. Or offer the dog several ginger snap cookies—and eating cookies in the car can be a great positive association for the baby dog, too. Be aware that the cookies can stain light fur, though, if he munches and drools.