Travel sickness or motion sickness is a problem encountered very commonly in puppies and young dogs, and less so in older animals. It is very similar to the same problem encountered in humans, although in dogs there can quite often be a psychological part to the problem as well.
It can be manifested as a number of different symptoms which may include
Many young animals will grow out of the problem quite quickly, but a small percentage (approximately 10%) may need a little extra help!
If your pet hasn’t/doesn’t grow out of the problem, or the problem persists into adulthood, then journeys can become miserable and difficult for both your pet and yourselves! Whilst not life threatening it can put a real dampener on any journey and can make even simple trips in the car into a logistical nightmare.
If you suspect your pet is a sufferer from travel sickness then taking these steps initially may help alleviate the symptoms:
Sometimes, the tips above are not enough. Many dogs actually start to develop a phobia of travelling as they always associate the car with negative feelings or feeling poorly. Oddly this can then bring on the symptoms in its own right and then we have a vicious cycle developing.
These animals can often start to show other signs such as:
These animals actually need some extra help and so the following can be done:
The idea behind a desensitisation program, is to gradually teach your pet that there is not need to be frightened, and also to build up a tolerance to the effects of travelling. You need PLENTY of time and planning to do a proper program. Each time you complete a “trip” you need to reward your dog with both lots of fuss and some treats as this reinforces positive emotions for the dog.
Put the pet in the car in the drive/street and don’t even close the boot/doors and allow him/her to sit there for a few minutes at a time. The aim is to try and prevent the association of “car=moving”.
Repeat as above, but this time close the door and allow the engine to run/idle but without moving the vehicle at all. This allows the dog to learn about the vibrations/sounds of the car, again without the association of “car=moving”
Start with a very short journey of no more than 1-2 minutes. Literally you just want to go up the street and back again. This is to start to introduce “movement” but of such a small time that it is unlikely to trigger genuine motion sickness. You can increase the journey amount slightly each time - but we suggest no more than 5mins at a time. Also still reward/fuss the dog when you get back home successfully.
Week 4 onwards
There are several options than can help your pet deal with the actual physiologically problem associated with motions sickness.
With a combination of some slight changes to your routine, desensitisation and possible some drug intervention, there is a very good chance that you will be able to travel with your pet. You need to identify early if your pet is a travel sickness sufferer and do something about it as soon as possible. Sadly, we do see a very small percentage of dogs who can struggle even with this treatment.
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