Do Dogs Get Car Sick?

Wednesday, September 1, 2021 10:10:03 AM America/Los_Angeles

The idea of hitting the road and experiencing the great outdoors with your furry BFF is the stuff dreams are made of. But for some dogs, the idea is quite literally sickening. Canines, like humans, can get car sick too. 

Photo by Tadeusz Lakota

What causes a dog to get car sick?

Car sicknesses -- for both dogs and humans -- can result from either physical or psychological responses. Some dogs are anxious about car rides, and this can lead to nausea or even vomiting in severe cases. This is especially true if your dog associates car rides with only unpleasant experiences like going to the vet. 

For most other dogs, car sickness is the result of underdeveloped structures in the inner ear, which are used to maintain a sense of balance. This underdevelopment is nothing to worry about and doesn’t affect dogs’ overall health, but it does make them more prone to motion sickness. 

How do you keep a dog from getting car sick?

  • Control what your dog sees: Dogs prone to car sickness should be kept from looking out the windows. Watching things whoosh by in a blur can make nausea worse. Instead, keep your dog in a well ventilated crate or use a doggie seatbelt so that they aren’t tempted to get up close and personal with the windows.  
  • Help your dog get used to being in the car: For dogs struggling with car sickness, conditioning them to get used to car rides requires baby steps. If a long trip is looming, get your dog used to being in the car by taking them with you on short trips to the store or to a friend’s house. 
  • Create positive associations with being in the car: Whether it’s simply going to the pet store or your fur baby’s favorite dog park, arriving at an enjoyable space can help your dog not only get used to car rides but look forward to them!
  • Limit food intake: Food should not be ingested for roughly 12 hours before a trip to minimize chances of nausea and vomiting. 
  • Be prepared: Even with precautions, sometimes car sickness is inevitable. Have poo bags on hand in case your dog gets car sick. While vomiting is one of the more common and anticipated effects of car sickness, having a dog bathroom or pee pad is also a good idea if anxiety is the root cause of getting sick during a car ride. Anxiety can cause tummy upsets or more frequent urination, so a portable wee wee pad like Bark Potty can come in handy. 

Combined with a little praise and affection, these suggestions can help make car rides an easier and more enjoyable experience for both you and your pup!