Managing Motion Sickness in Pets

Managing Motion Sickness in Pets

Does your pet experience motion sickness when traveling?  Motion sickness in pets is not something we hear a lot about, however, it does exist and there are some pets who really struggle with motion sickness.  Motion sickness in pets happens most often in car rides but it can also happen in airplanes as well.

Here at Hillrose Pet Resort, we are very well acquainted with the issue of motion sickness. Our guests come to us via cars and airplanes, as we regularly receive pets into our layover boarding program as they travel through Seattle. Over the course of time, we have learned a few things about dealing with motion sickness in pets and we’d like to share those with you.

Causes of Motion Sickness

Motion sickness is more common in puppies and young dogs than in older dogs, much like motion sickness is more common in young kids than adults. The reason for this has to do with the inner ear structures that are still developing in young children and in puppies. These inner ear structures play a part in balance and until they are fully developed, the lack of balance can be a cause of motion sickness.  Most dogs will outgrow motion sickness, but for some, it can be an on-going issue, especially if there are inner ear issues that follow your pet into adulthood.

Stress can also be a cause of motion sickness. It’s not uncommon for dogs to get stressed when going to the vet.  If a trip to the vet is the only time your pet is in the car, it’s only natural that they would associate car rides with something negative and stressful.

Symptoms of Motion Sickness

Unlike people, your pet will not turn pale or green as they are about to get sick, but there are some definite signs that your pet may exhibit when they are experiencing motion sickness.

  • Inactivity, listlessness or uneasiness
  • Yawning
  • Whining
  • Excessive drooling
  • Vomiting
  • Smacking or licking lips
  • Pacing/Circling
  • Shaking/shivering
  • Unsure footing
  • Diarrhea

Treating Motion Sickness

The best way to treat motions sickness is to prevent motion sickness.  If your pet tends to get sick on long trips, begin to condition him by taking him on short car rides.  This will get him accustomed to the motion of the car. It’s also helpful to take your pet places that are fun for him, such as the park or to a friend’s house. If your pet learns that not all car rides end in a visit to the vet, this will go a long way in reducing the stress that the car represents to your pet. Here are some additional tips that can be helpful in preventing motion sickness.

  • Withhold food for 12 hours before travel. An empty stomach can help reduce nausea. This can be especially helpful on long car rides or during airplane travel.
  • Use a carrier or safety harness. These can help reduce your pet’s anxiety, which can help in reducing nausea.
  • Keep the car cool and quiet. Play soothing music and crack a few windows.
  • Include smells from home such as a blanket or towel.
  • Set aside some special toys that are only for the car. These will serve as a welcomed distraction.

If you find that your pet is still anxious, then speak to your vet about medications that can be helpful when traveling. Here are some that we are familiar with and have proven to be effective.

  • Lavender and dog pheromone can be added to your pet’s bedding to calm their nerves.
  • Calming herbs such as Bach flower, Ginger and passion flower to name a few, have been used to ease anxiety and motion sickness.
  • Anti-nausea medications like Cerenia, a veterinary-specific prescription is very effective. Your vet can recommend others as well. These are designed to relieve nausea, not anxiety, but most will work for a 24 hour period.
  • For an extremely stressed pet or one who is traveling via airplane for the first time, he may benefit from Alprazolam given the night before travel and again about 2 hours prior to travel.

As with any medication, it’s always best to speak with your vet and follow their recommendations for your pet.

Fortunately, for most pet owners, the issue of motion sickness tends to be a short-lived one in the life of their pet, but in those cases where it is on-going, we hope you have found these tips to be helpful.

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