Travelling with your best four-legged friend should be fun! Especially if you’re going on holiday together unfortunately, some dogs show signs of discomfort, anxiety and nausea when they travel in the car.
Travel sickness in puppies
Travel sickness can be quite common in puppies and most of them will grow out of it, however there are things you can do to help them travel better.
Preventing travel sickness in puppies
Up until 16 weeks old (in some puppies it can be only up to 8 weeks old), puppies are going through a critical stage of their development when they are open to learning about new situations and environments, this is known as the window of socialisation. After this age anything new that they haven’t come across before will be met with apprehension. Therefore, it is a good idea to get your puppy used to travelling in the car during this period.
Try to make going in the car fun, reward them with tasty treats (not too many whilst they are actually travelling) and start with short journeys to start with. Make them feel comfortable and safe by creating a safe den using a puppy crate in the car. This should help prevent them rolling about too. You can also try journeys when they are tired and more likely to settle down and sleep. If this doesn’t work, or your puppy is already showing signs of travel sickness there are other tips below for you to try.
Travel sickness in adult dogs
In adult dogs that are travel sick, the issue may not stem from the actual motion of the car but from fear or anxiety associated with the car, for example do they only ever go in the car to get to the vets? Or did they have a bad experience in the car when they were young?
In adult dogs there are two reasons for travel sickness, true motion sickness or anxiety, when going in the car is stressful and upsetting for your dog.
Signs of nausea from travelling and anxiety
Signs that your dog is travel sick include; panting, excessive drooling, yawning and licking their lips, whining, vomiting and appearing lethargic. Some stressed dogs may also lick or bite themselves or chew parts of the inside of your car. Very anxious dogs will try to avoid getting in the car in the first place, can bark and howl when in the car and could pass faeces in their panic.
Things you can do to prevent or reduce travel sickness in adult dogs:
- Try not to feed your dog less than 2 hours before travelling.
- Open the car windows to encourage fresh air flow.
- Make them comfortable, try to prevent them rolling about and feeling sick in the boot by providing a high sided bed, or ideally a crate.
- Keep the car cool (open windows are better but if it is really hot then air conditioning may be necessary).
- If available, experiment with different vehicles, some dogs, like people can feel worse/better in different cars.
- Experiment with travelling in different parts of the car. Most dogs are in the boot, moving them to the back seat (with a seatbelt harness) might make them feel better as it is closer to the centre of the vehicle.
- Try short journeys first. Get them used to 5 minute journeys and build up slowly. Go on straight roads!
- Speak to your vet to help with motion sickness or try a pet supplement containing natural ingredients such as ginger.
If the signs point to anxiety instead of motion sickness:
- Ensure you have tried all the points above, as nausea will only increase any anxiety they have about travelling.
- Try getting your dog used to the car when it is stationary (engine off) and the doors are open. Reward them for getting in and sitting calmly. When they are used to this (this could take a few days/weeks) you can start the engine. You can eventually build up to short trips, which should always lead somewhere fun! You can also offer some tasty treats at the end (if they have not been sick).
- Try an anxiety wrap and consider using a dog crate. If your dog is crate trained in the house, a crate can make them feel safe and secure in the car.
- Use a pheromone collar or spray to help them feel relaxed and speak to your vet about anti-anxiety medications.
If you are planning a long trip with your dog it’s best to start trying to get them used to travelling on shorter trips several weeks or months in advance. This will give you plenty of time to build up a positive association with the car, help reduce nausea and give medications time to work.