Did you know that “motion sickness is a stressful condition that affects 1 out of every 5 dogs? While many dog owners are aware of the condition, most don’t discuss it with their veterinarians. Canine motion sickness can prevent your whole family from taking a trip together”, reports Vetstreet.com.

Motion sickness is seen during travel by land, sea, or air, and signs usually disappear when vehicular motion ceases.

Study of motion sickness in 1900’sLive Science explains that “most animals get seasick, just as people do. In fact, it's such a common problem that the FDA approved a drug, called Cerenia, for dogs and cats to keep their stomachs settled. “Before Cerenia was available, we recommended Dramamine — a human over-the-counter medication,” says Eric Maddon, a veterinarian in Brooklyn. “It never worked very well, but that’s all we had.” In fact, there’s a long history of using animals to model human seasickness. The earliest study of motion sickness was done in the early 1900’s on dogs — scientists spun the animals around on a platform until they vomited. Since then, scientists have discovered that cats, monkeys, birds, sheep and horses all experience motion sickness. There are also some animals that seem to be immune to motion sickness, like macaques. Today, the best primate model for motion sickness in humans is the squirrel monkey”.

Symptoms Motion sickness stimulates the autonomic nervous system and the following symptoms can include one or more of these signs:

  • Excessive salivation (drooling)
  • Excessive lip licking
  • Dry heaving (retching)
  • Yawning
  • Whining
  • Uneasiness and apprehension
  • Inactivity
  • Pacing
  • Rapid panting
  • Vomiting
  • Severely affected animals may also develop diarrhea.

Cause of motion sicknessMerck Vet Manual explains that “the principal causative mechanism involves stimulation of the vestibular apparatus in the inner ear, which has connections to the emetic center in the brain stem. The chemoreceptor trigger zone (CRTZ) and H1-histaminergic receptors are involved in this pathway in dogs but apparently are less important in cats. Recent evidence has revealed that the neurokinin 1 substance P receptors (NK1) in the emetic center play a major role in motion sickness in both dogs and cats and are more important than the receptors in the CRTZ. Fear of the vehicle may also become a contributory factor in dogs and cats that develop a conditioned response to the event; signs may be seen even in a stationary vehicle. In this situation, behavioral modification may be needed to eliminate this fear, or the use of drugs that provide a sedative effect may be needed”.

Common in puppies and young dogs“Motion sickness is much more common in puppies and young dogs than in older dogs, presumably because the ear structures used for balance aren’t fully developed in puppies. If the first few car rides of a dog’s life result in nausea, the dog may begin to equate travel with uncomfortable sensations, even after his or her balance system fully matures. Therefore, a dog who suffers motion sickness should be treated as soon as possible”, states VetStreet.com.

Solutions Here are some suggestions to either prevent or treat motion sickness for your favorite furry loved one.

  • Make the car ride as comfortable as possible for your dog.
  • Try facing your animal forward while you’re traveling, rather than looking out the side windows.
  • Lower your car windows just a few inches to equalize the outside and inside air pressures.
  • Use a specially designed dog seat belt. If you choose to have your dog ride on the front passenger seat, keep in mind that air bags do pose a potential hazard to dogs.
  • Turn on the AC to keep the vehicle cool.
  • Prior to your traveling, reduce your dog’s food and water consumption.
  • Use a crate for safety. Crates do have the added benefit of containing vomit, should your dog become ill.
  • Condition your pet with positive reinforcement by giving a treat every time they get into the car.
  • Switch up the vehicles you use to avoid a negative response to one vehicle.
  • Take fun trips at first to the dog park or a friend’s house with another animal. Make it a short ride to condition the trip with fun and enjoyment.
  • Build up a dog’s tolerance to car rides.
    • Have your dog be outside of the vehicle without getting in.
    • Have your dog inside the car without the engine on.
    • Take short trips like around the block.
    • Then, make the trips longer.
    • Use praise and/or treats when things go well to reinforce positive emotions with the trip.
  • Talk with your Vet about possible medications to control the situation.
  • After talking with you Vet, consider using an “antihistamine (such as diphenhydramine hydrochloride, dimenhydrinate, meclizine, and promethazine hydrochloride) prevent motion sickness, provide sedation, and inhibit drooling. The centrally acting phenothiazine derivatives (such as chlorpromazine, prochlorperazine, and acepromazine maleate) have antiemetic as well as sedative effects. Cats have no histamine receptors in the CRTZ; therefore, antihistamines are ineffective in treating motion sickness in this species”, as described by Merck Vet Manual.

Enjoy your next road trip with your four legged loved one with success!

Animal Care Center in Smyrna, GA, is owned and operated by Otto H. Williams, DVM. The veterinary practice specializes in complete healthcare for cats and dogs and offers services including preventative, surgical and nonsurgical care, internal medicine, grooming and boarding to Cobb County and surrounding cities such as Vinings, Marietta, Mableton and Sandy Springs. Call today at 770.438.2694 or request an appointment.