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Dealing with Car Sickness in Dogs

Dealing with Car Sickness in Dogs

Key Highlights

  • Car or travel sickness is a common problem that can make car rides unpleasant for the dog and the owner.
  • It's important to address the root, which can be either anxiety, motion sickness, or a combination of the two.
  • It's important to understand that many dogs become anxious because they are actually nauseous in the car, so giving remedies like CBD will not address the root problem, which is nausea, not anxiety.
  • There are natural strategies, such as pheromones, lavender, ginger, Thundershirts, and calming caps.
  • Effective prescriptions such as Cerenia and calming prescriptions are available from your veterinarian for difficult cases.
  • Early detection and training can alleviate the problem in puppies and increase the chances of outgrowing it as they mature.



Travel can be a fun and exciting adventure for humans, but for some dogs, it can be a nauseating and unpleasant experience. Just like humans, dogs can suffer from travel sickness, which can cause symptoms like vomiting, drooling, and restlessness. In this blog post, we will help you understand how to take steps to alleviate this stressful situation.

Dog Travel by Car


Understanding Car Sickness in Dogs

Motion sickness in dogs is primarily caused by a mismatch between the sensory signals reaching the brain. The inner ear, which is responsible for the sense of balance, plays a crucial role in detecting motion. When the signals from the eyes (which indicate that the dog is not moving) do not match the signals from the inner ear (which indicate that the dog is moving), it can result in nausea and vomiting. In some cases, car sickness in dogs can also be a symptom of vestibular disease, which affects the inner ear and the sense of balance.


The Role of Dog Motion Sickness In Car

dog ears covered by human hands

Motion sickness occurs when the sensory signals from the inner ear, specifically the structures responsible for detecting motion, do not align with the visual signals from the eyes. This mismatch in signals can trigger nausea and vomiting. Motion sickness is more common in puppies, as their ear mechanisms are not fully developed. Motion sickness can also affect adult dogs, especially if they have developed a negative association with car travel or experience anxiety during car rides.

There is an important connection between the visual and vestibular systems of the ear that enables us to adjust to motion in the car by visualizing the motion out the window. For this reason, some pets and people are more comfortable when they can see out the window.


Identifying Anxiety-Induced Symptoms

In addition to physical causes like motion sickness, anxiety can also contribute to car sickness in dogs. Some dogs may develop a negative association with travel if they have had unpleasant or traumatic experiences in the past, such as going to the vet. This anxiety can manifest as symptoms like restlessness, trembling, panting, yawning, whining, and drooling. Providing a positive and calm environment during rides is important.

Dogs pick up on the stress in the car when people get frustrated with traffic and feed off of our anxiety as well.


Common Signs of Motion Sickness in Dogs

sad dog in car looking through the rear window

Regarding motion sickness in dogs, there are several common signs to watch out for. Some of these signs overlap with anxiety-induced symptoms. These include drooling, panting, yawning, pacing, whining, swallowing, lip-licking, and lip-smacking. Some dogs may also exhibit lethargy, a hunched back, tight facial muscles, wide eyes, and vomiting. It's important to note that not all dogs will exhibit all of these symptoms, and the severity of symptoms can vary from dog to dog.


Addressing the Root Causes

To effectively manage car sickness in dogs, it's important to address the root causes: motion sickness or anxiety-provoking symptoms. In rare cases, car sickness in dogs can be a symptom of underlying medical conditions, such as vestibular disease or an inner ear infection.


Differentiating Between Motion Sickness and Anxiety

It can sometimes be challenging to differentiate between motion sickness and anxiety in dogs, as the symptoms can overlap. However, understanding the underlying causes can help pet owners provide appropriate support and treatment. Motion sickness is primarily caused by a mismatch between the sensory signals from the eyes and the inner ear, resulting in nausea and vomiting.

Anxiety, on the other hand, can be triggered by car-associated stress or negative associations with travel. As many of the symptoms of anxiety overlap with motion sickness, treating nausea with a prescription from your veterinarian may solve the problem if the cause of the symptoms is due to motion. It's important to remember that enough trips where a dog experiences nausea will also cause anxiety around being in the car. These dogs will develop a negative association with the car and should also receive training and anti-anxiety measures.

Many times, a prescription of Cerenia for motion sickness may address the nausea, but an additional medication may be needed for anxiety. Anyone who has ever had motion sickness on a boat will tell you our dogs are suffering when this happens, and we need to intervene before it gets worse the next time.


a puppy inside a car

Importance of Early Detection

Early detection and intervention are crucial in managing car sickness in dogs, especially young dogs and puppies. While car sickness in dogs is more common in this age group due to their underdeveloped inner ear structures, early detection can help prevent the problem from persisting into adulthood.

By identifying and addressing car sickness symptoms in young dogs, pet owners can take appropriate measures, such as desensitization and positive reinforcement training, to help dogs overcome car sickness as they mature. Yes, your dog can be cured of this as mine was! Our first car trips were a disaster, with vomiting and drooling. Now, she is a champion traveler and does not need medication to take even long trips. But don't delay intervening before the problem worsens and gets out of hand.


Effective Solutions for Car or Motion Sickness

Several effective solutions are available for managing motion sickness. These include both natural remedies and prescription medications. Natural remedies like ginger have been used for centuries to aid digestion and alleviate nausea. Prescription medications like Cerenia are specifically formulated to treat motion sickness.


Natural Supplements, Remedies, and Their Benefits

In addition to prescription medications, natural remedies can also be used to alleviate motion sickness in dogs. Ginger, for example, has been used for centuries to aid in digestion and help prevent nausea and vomiting. While there haven't been specific studies on the use of ginger for motion sickness in dogs, many pet owners and veterinarians have reported its efficacy in relieving symptoms. It's important to consult with a veterinarian to determine the appropriate dosage and frequency of ginger for each individual dog. Natural remedies like ginger can provide a safe and effective alternative to prescription medications for managing motion sickness in dogs.


a woman and dog in glasses smiling in a car


Alleviating Anxiety

In addition to addressing motion sickness, it's important to alleviate anxiety during travel to ensure a positive experience. Pheromone therapy, such as the use of calming pheromone sprays, can help create a calming environment and reduce anxiety. Aromatherapy with essential oils like lavender and chamomile can also have a calming effect on dogs. A few drops of a cotton ball in the car can diffuse throughout the car. Lavender is generally safe, but it's important to know cats and some dogs are very sensitive to them. Creating a calm and soothing atmosphere during rides can help reduce anxiety and make travel more enjoyable for dogs.


Pheromone Therapy

Pheromone therapy is a safe and effective way to help reduce stress and anxiety. Pheromones are chemical signals released by animals that can have a calming effect on others of the same species. One popular pheromone product for dogs is Solliquin.

Adaptil (for dogs) and Feliway (for cats) are pheromones. They can help dogs relax and comfort themselves, making car rides more enjoyable.


The Role of Aromatherapy

To use aromatherapy for car sickness, you can place a few drops of lavender oil on a cotton ball and place it in the car. The scent of these essential oils can help your dog relax and calm during the car ride.


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Preparing Your Dog for Car Travel

Man and dog at the back of the car

All puppies and adult dogs that are fearful should be gradually desensitized to the car (or boat) by initially allowing them to spend "fun" time in the stationary vehicle. Effective desensitization takes many weeks to months and occurs so gradually that the dog barely notices a change. This systematic desensitization is effective for puppies or dogs who vomit due to anxiety or fear, but it is unlikely to help with a vestibular issue.

Work on desensitizing your pet in gradual steps:

  1. Introduce the Car: Reward with treats and praise and play near the car.
  2. Short Sessions: Start with short sessions in the car with the engine off. Gradually increase the time spent.
  3. Engine On: Once your pet is comfortable, turn on the engine and allow them to get used to the sound. Continue to reward and praise.
  4. Short Drives: Begin with short trips, gradually increasing the distance as your pet becomes more comfortable.


Feeding and Hydration Tips

Pretty girl giving water golden retriever dog from bottle in car trunk.

Feeding schedules and hydration should be addressed when traveling. It's important not to feed your dog 3-4 hours before travel to ensure an empty stomach. This can help reduce the chances of vomiting.

Regarding hydration, it is important to keep your dog hydrated before and during the car ride. Offer them small frequent amounts of water before the car ride, but be mindful of their bladder needs during the trip. Make sure to provide water breaks during long car rides and offer them a drink when you make stops.


Creating a Comfortable Environment

Creating a comfortable environment can help alleviate stress during travel. If your dog is small enough, consider using a car seatbelt designed for dogs or a travel seat or crate during the ride. This will help minimize their movement and provide them with a sense of security.

Ensure the car seat or crate is properly secured and comfortable for your dog. Line it with soft bedding or a familiar blanket to make it cozy and inviting. This will help to create a safe and comfortable space for your dog during the car ride. These travel buddies are prepared for an 8-hour trip. The Border Collie once suffered from terrible car sickness but is now accustomed to travel and relishes car trips as she knows she is going somewhere fun. The cat has a litter box and a place to lie in if he wants, but he prefers to hunker down in the litterbox for some reason. Keeping a pet crated and secured in the car is important as they can become projectiles in the case of an accident.

Ellen the Dog and Phoenix the Cat are in the cage at the back of the car


Training Your Dog to Enjoy Car Rides

Training your dog to enjoy rides can be helpful. Positive reinforcement techniques and gradual desensitization can help your dog build positive associations with travel.

Start by offering treats and praise when your dog enters the car or shows calm behavior during the ride. Gradually increase the duration of the rides, rewarding your dog for their calmness and relaxation.

It is important to take it slow and be patient with your dog. Gradually exposing them to travel and providing positive reinforcement will help them overcome their car sickness and enjoy the experience.


Importance of Positive Reinforcement

Young Happy Woman and Pet in a Car

Positive reinforcement is a powerful tool for dogs that have difficulty traveling. By rewarding your dog for calm behavior during rides, you can help them associate travel with positive experiences.

Offer treats, praise, and attention when your dog exhibits calm behavior. This will reinforce their positive behavior and help them feel comfortable and relaxed during rides.

In addition to positive reinforcement during rides, it is important to provide other positive experiences for your dog. Take them to places they enjoy, such as the dog park or for a walk in their favorite neighborhood. This will help build their confidence and reduce their anxiety during car rides.


When to Consider Medication If Your Dog Gets Sick In a Car

In some cases, medication may be necessary. If your dog's symptoms are severe or do not improve with other methods, it is important to consult with your veterinarian.

Close-up of Cute Yorkshire Terrier Sitting on Table by Female Owner

Your veterinarian can prescribe prescription medications to help reduce motion sickness and anxiety. These medications are safe and effective when used under the guidance of a veterinarian.

It is important to follow your veterinarian's instructions and dosage recommendations when administering medication to your dog. They can determine the best course of treatment based on your dog's specific needs and medical history.


OTC and Prescription Carsickness Options To Discuss With Your Vet

Several prescription medications and OTC remedies can help:

Consulting with a veterinarian can help determine the most appropriate solution for each individual dog, taking into consideration their specific symptoms, medical history, and overall health. Never administer medications without the go-ahead from your veterinarian. Review the drug and brand as many contain other ingredients such as xylitol and decongestants that can cause serious reactions and even death. These suggestions should be discussed, and individualized instructions are given by your veterinarian for your pet's unique situation and are meant for guidance only.


Brand Name





Treatment and prevention of vomiting associated with motion sickness in dogs

Prescription necessary from your veterinarian



Antihistamine used in the treatment of the symptoms of motion sickness in dogs.


Approximately 1 mg per pound; confirm with your veterinarian. Never use a product with Xylitol.


Dramamine, Bonine

Antihistamine used in the treatment of motion sickness in dogs

Feline: 12.5 mg lasts 8 hrs.

Canine: 25 mg (confirm with veterinarian_





Prescribed by veterinarian




Prescribed by veterinarian. Can cause profound sedation without relieving anxiety


Adaptil, Feliway, numerous

Diffused pheromone

Manufacturer instructions.


Essential oil




Mild calming effect, not enough for motion sickness

Varies are not very useful for motion sickness.

It is important to consult with your veterinarian to determine the best prescription medication for your dog's specific needs.


Consulting with Your Vet for the Best Approach

When it comes to dealing with car sickness in dogs, it is important to consult with your veterinarian for the best approach. They will be able to assess your dog's specific needs and medical history to determine the most effective treatment options.

Your veterinarian will consider factors such as your dog's age, overall health, and any underlying medical conditions that may be contributing to their car sickness. They may recommend a combination of natural remedies, behavior modification techniques, and prescription medications to help alleviate your dog's car sickness.

It is important to follow your veterinarian's treatment guidance and instructions. They are the best resource for providing recommendations for your dog's unique situation.



Dealing with car sickness in dogs requires patience and understanding. Identifying the signs early and addressing the root causes can help your furry friend feel more comfortable during car rides. From effective solutions like medications to natural remedies and creating a soothing environment, there are ways to alleviate motion sickness and anxiety. Training your dog positively and considering medication when necessary are essential to ensure a stress-free travel experience. Consulting with your vet for personalized advice is crucial for your dog's well-being. For more tips on caring for your dog's car sickness, share this information on social media to help other pet owners.

two happy dogs look out in the open window of a car


Frequently Asked Questions

Does CBD work for carsickeness?

CBD shows are calming in general, but in my experience, it does very little to help dogs with significant motion sickness and anxiety during car rides. However, consult your vet regarding your pet's individual situation as there are better options.


Does OTC Meclizine or Bonine help?

Check with your veterinarian if your pet is a candidate. This medication can interact with others, so you need to confirm with your veterinarian whether this OTC medication is an option for your pet.


Should you work with a trainer?

Your veterinarian may recommend a trainer and medical management to address the anxiety associated with car sickness in dogs. Working with a trainer is especially important in helping young dogs cope with travel so that early intervention can stop or alleviate the problem. Trainers can provide guidance and positive reinforcement techniques to help dogs develop positive associations with rides. They can also address any underlying behavior issues and generalized anxiety.


My dog gets sick in car. Is there something OTC for car sickness in dogs?

There are over-the-counter (OTC) medications available, such as meclizine and Benadryl. However, it is important to consult with a veterinarian before using any OTC medications, as some ingredients, like xylitol, can be toxic to dogs.

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Hi! I'm Dr, Dody, DVM.

Passionate about animal welfare, I dedicated my life to helping animals from a young age. After years of traditional medicine, I discovered a lack of dietary options for optimal health. Combining my experience in both traditional and holistic care, I created Holistic Vet Blend® to empower consumers in choosing healthy ingredients and provide essential nutrients. As a seasoned veterinarian and thought leader, I advocate for a personalized approach to improve pets' lives. We support you in curating your pet's bowl, monitoring their progress, and offering the latest recommendations as their needs change.

Together, let's redefine pet care with love and attention.