Taking a dog on a trip can be a wonderful experience. Unfortunately, it can be hard to get some pooches to the destination. Some dogs are fearful of car rides, while others are overly excited. Both extremes can lead to carsickness, which isn’t fun for anyone.

In February of 2007, the FDA approved a drug that treats carsickness in dogs. If this is something that you think your dog needs (only after all else fails), then speak with your veterinarian. Your vet is the only person who can prescribe the medication.

Before you can figure out how to treat the causes of carsickness, you must first determine the cause. Many pooches get sick out of fear, while others get sick out of excitement; and, even still, some can get sick from the actual ride. Lucky for you, it is usually fairly easy to identify why your dog cannot handle the car ride.

Dogs that get sick from the actual ride usually get sick from the same reasons humans do. Car sickness occurs when signals to your brain contradict each other. For instance, you look out the window and notice how fast you are moving, yet your body isn’t actually in motion. In this case, the signals from your muscles and joints are different from the signals from your eyes and inner ears. Dogs’ bodies are affected by the mixed signals the same way. If a dog that is experiencing sickness for health reasons, there are a couple of measures that can be taken. First, confine your dog to a carrier that is secured to a seatbelt. If your dog is riding freely in the car, then he can see out multiple windows which convey multiple perceptions of speed and movement, while he slides around the car. Placing the carrier in the front seat is the best way to ensure that the dog cannot see out the side windows. However, the front seat can pose an airbag danger, so you should take this into consideration. If you would like to keep your dog in the back seat, make sure he is facing forward. Applying sun shields for babies on your back windows will also obstruct his view of the outside.

A dog that gets sick out of fear is a little harder to handle. He may be afraid because every time he jumps in the car he is taken to the frightening vet’s office; or, maybe he got sick one time and he can’t forget about it. An anxious dog will need to be slowly reintroduced to the car over a period of time. On your daily walks, let him check out the area around the car, sniffing wherever he wants. Take a few minutes and place him in the car without any intention of going anywhere, but don’t confine him to his carrier. Again, let him sniff around and get to know the vehicle. Once he isn’t fearful of going near the vehicle, place him in his carrier and let him sit inside (with the air conditioning running!). The next time you place him in the car, take a trip around the neighborhood. The following time, take a trip a couple of blocks away and let him out of the car to play. Take small steps like these until you eventually build up to a trip. Always reward your dog for his good behavior, but reward him along the way instead of once you return home. Rewarding him as soon as you get home will cause him to associate the end of the trip as the most exciting, instead of the trip itself.

Dogs also get sick out of plain excitement! Your dog is so excited about the trip that he runs laps around the car and makes himself sick. For this kind of carsick pooch, let him calm down before you head off to your destination. Crank the car and let him get all the running and bouncing out of his system before you leave your driveway. As he settles, place him in his carrier and secure the carrier. Then, you can be on your way!

A carsick pooch is no fun. You don’t want him to be sick, and you don’t want to clean up the mess. Dogs get carsick for various reasons, and most reasons are treatable. There is a medication that can be described by your veterinarian to treat carsickness, but it should only be considered if all other methods fail. After all, you want a happy and healthy pooch when you arrive at your destination!

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