Unfortunately travel sickness or motion sickness impacts many of our pet’s lives. It is a common issue with puppies and young dogs, but tends not to cause older animals as much of a problem. Often with dogs there can be a psychological aspect to the travel sickness as well.
There are a number of different symptoms which may include:
Fear/reluctance to get into the vehicle
Most of the time young animals will grow out of travel sickness quite quickly, but approximately 10% do not and require help.
Whilst not life threatening trying to travel with a pet who suffers from travel sickness can make even the simplest of trips nightmare.
If your pet is seems to suffer from travel sickness try following these steps as they may help alleviate symptoms:
• Do not feed your pet a large meal within 4hrs before travelling
• Face your pet forwards ideally; some dog seatbelt on the back seat can help with this. You must ensure your dog is restrained in case of an accident
• Pets travelling in a crate or cage need to be able to see out as this can help with motion sickness particularly
• Try to avoid travelling your dog in the boot of the car
• A stream of fresh air can also help from a slightly opened window
• Drive as smoothly as able to reduce jerky movements and harsh cornering
• Stop to allow your dog regular breaks, every hour or so. Let them get out to toilet and stretch their legs.
• Use anti – anxiety remedies such as Nutracalm or Adpatil to soothe your pet
Unfortunately many dogs can develop a phobia of travelling as they always associate a vehicle with the feeling of sickness & fear. Sometimes they will start to anticipate getting into the car or even show signs of motion sickness before travelling. If this starts to occur more specialist help is needed such as a desensitisation program.
A desensitisation program is designed to gradually teach your pet not to be frightened, and also to build up a tolerance to the effects of travelling. Before you start a program ensure you have plenty of time and planning to be successful.
An example of a desensitisation program
Start simple, firstly put your pet in the car whilst it is parked on the drive/road. Do not close the doors, allow them to sit and settle for a few minutes. The aim is to prevent the association of the car with movement. Reward your dog with lots of fuss and treats at the end of the exercise.
Start with the same routine as in week 1, but add closure of the doors and start the engine. Ensure the engine is allowed to run quietly without revving it. Let your dog feel the vibrations of the car but do not move the vehicle at this point. This allows your dog to learn the sound and vibrations without the association of movement. Reward your dog with lots of fuss and treats at the end of the exercise.
If you have been successful over the past 2 weeks then move onto week 3. At this point very short journeys of approximately 1-2 minutes can be introduced. This is to allow your dog to feel movement but hopefully not enough to trigger nausea and sickness. Journeys can be increased slowly & remember to reward your dog with fuss and treats once back home and it has been a successful exercise.
You will need to work on this problem potentially for a while so try to locate a park or lovely walk within a 5-10 minute drive from your home. Take your dog to this place daily as this will help to reinforce positivity to travelling.
If your pet is coping well you can try to increase journeys a little but still remember to keep it positive. Also be patient as this process cannot be rushed.
Medications & remedies
As previously mentioned natural remedies can be used alongside a desensitisation program or even with puppies and young dogs to try to prevent travel sickness in the first place. Dorwest herbs recommend their Digestive Supplement for actual motion sickness or skullcap & valerian for anxiety related with travelling. Other anti – anxiety remedies can be used such as Nutracalm or Adaptil.
If your pet have severe travel sickness then contact Spring Lodge vets for an appointment with the Vet to discuss medications which can also help.