You may not know this, but pets can be just as prone to motion sickness as humans are. And if you fail to address this stressful situation, it could cause your pet so much anxiety that it becomes difficult to get him in the car over time (since he will come to associate every ride with illness). Of course, you also don’t want to have to deal with the mess that results every time you take your pal for a visit with the vet or an afternoon at the dog park. So here are just a few suggestions that could make for much smoother sailing for everyone when you bring your pet along for the ride.
First of all, you should know that motion sickness is more common in puppies simply because their ear canals haven’t fully developed. So if you have a puppy, he could grow out of this condition, although perhaps not before he has learned to associate the car with vomiting. And although car sickness is less common in older dogs, it’s not unheard of. Plus, you may not realize that your pet suffers from this ailment right away. On short trips he may not actually yak in the backseat, but rather exhibit symptoms that are precursors (such as whining, drooling, and agitation). You won’t know that it’s motion sickness until you go on a longer trip. So you should watch for indicators and consider treatments that could make your dog more comfortable with riding in the car.
One option is to medicate him using antinauseants, antihistamines, or sedatives. While these will calm your dog and reduce his proclivity for vomiting during car trips, most people will find it to be more trouble than it’s worth for shorter rides. Not only do you have to give your dog medication, which is a feat in itself, but then you have to deal with the side effects. And many people prefer not to give their pets medication if they can possibly help it. So while this could be a good option for road trips, it’s probably not the best choice for a short jaunt across town.
But there are many other options. For example, you could do some of the things that help people who suffer from motion sickness. With the help of a special seatbelt or a crate you could face him towards the front window. This is less likely to mess with his equilibrium than looking out the side or back windows. You can also open windows to keep the car cool, circulate air, and balance the interior and exterior pressure. All of these tricks could help to reduce nausea. And of course, consider withholding food prior to your trip and then giving him a small portion of a sweet treat (not chocolate!) immediately before getting in the car to calm his stomach and help him to associate car rides with something pleasant.
You could also work on reconditioning a dog that has negative associations with cars (since even proximity may psyche him into making himself sick). You might start by hanging out near the car, and then just sit in it for a while without going anywhere. Once he seems comfortable with this, try starting the car and see how that goes. Then take short trips (just around the block). By adding toys and a few well-timed treats you could change his mind about cars. Although you may have to go to extremes (using car rentals, for example, if he associates your car with illness) you might eventually relieve your dog of motion sickness through nothing more than behavioral therapy. If not, you can always fall back on medication.