top of page

Curing Car Sickness or Anxiety

Image by Andrew Pons

If your dog becomes car sick or anxious in the car there are several steps you can take to help them through the ride.

The first step is to try to prevent the problem. Be sure to fast the dog for one to two hours prior to the trip. This includes both food and water. Also many dogs find comfort in wearing a car harness during the ride. This keeps them stationary and may make them feel safe. You may also find it helpful to prevent the dog from looking out the car windows. This can easily be prevented with car window shades. Finally it is important to make sure that the car is a cool temperature.

If these steps don’t help prevent car sickness you can also try giving your dog B complex or ginger prior to the ride. Your veterinarian can also prescribe a dose for Cerenia, Benadryl or Dramamine but both of the latter medications will make your dog drowsy. Finally if your dog still gets sick on his ride you can give him some peppermint or a Sensibelly ® dog treat which will often settle his stomach.

Although these things are often helpful they do not solve the route of the problem. You should also try to the following training techniques to desensitize your dog through to the car. This will solve the problem unless it is caused by medical condition such as an inner ear problem, which your veterinarian would need to diagnose and treat.

The number one rule when desensitizing your dog to the car is to never soothe him when he shows signs of anxiety or car sickness. This will only reinforce the nervous behavior, not stop it. Symptoms of carsickness or anxiety can be pacing, excessive panting, or salivation. The second rule to follow is to always praise your dog when he is showing no symptoms of carsickness. If you are working on desensitizing your dog and he does becomes sick stop the session and try again the following day.

Now follow these steps to desensitize your dog to the car.

  1. First you have to determine how long it takes your dog to develop symptoms of carsickness. Place him in the car and monitor him closely. Time how long it takes for him to start excessively panting and salivating. It may be just a moment after he enters the car or 10 minutes so watch closely.

  2. Next time place your dog in the cool car. Seat belt him in and block his view to the side windows. Make sure the car is not running at this time.

  3. Wait thirty seconds then turn on the car but stay idle. (If you determined your dog’s threshold to be more than five minutes than you should strive to have him sit in the car for five minutes. If it was less than 5 minutes before he began to show symptoms than stay in the car on minute less than this threshold.)

  4. Run the car for 10 seconds then shut it off.

  5. Wait 50 seconds then run it for 10 more seconds.

  6. Repeat this until the five minutes is up (or until the minute before his threshold point is reached).

  7. Repeat this exercise twice a day. If your dog’s threshold was less than five minutes try to increase the length of the exercise one-minute per day. If he ever shows any panting or salivation stop the exercise immediately and decrease the length of time the following day.

  8. Repeat this until your dog can complete the five-minute exercise twice a day for three days in a row without showing any symptoms.

  9. The following day put the dog in the cool car. Use a dog safe seatbelt to make sure he will be facing forward and make sure the window shades are down. Drive about an 1/8 of a mile.

  10. Get out and walk your dog for ten minutes and then get back in the car and drive home.

  11. When you get home play with your dog and/or give him lots of treats.

  12. Repeat this twice a day for two days. Then gradually start increasing the length of the car ride before stopping for the walk.

Image by Avi Richards
bottom of page