How can I stop my dog from getting travel sickness? | TeamDogs
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How can I stop my dog from getting travel sickness?

Itch vet Zoe Costigan had some advice for a concerned owner

Danielle Elton

Posted 4 months ago ago

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Restrictions have been eased, the sun made an appearance (briefly), and summer is approaching -  that means only one thing, we’re all thinking about holidays!

Well, staycations anyway.

Whether you're sleeping in a tent, booking a cottage, or taking your caravan, the good thing about holidaying in the UK is that we can take the dog.

But how well does your dog do on long journeys?

While you won’t hear the dreaded ‘are we there yet?’, some can experience travel sickness.

One owner got in touch asking for help on this topic. She’s dreading travelling with her dog in the car.

The concerned owner asked: "What would you suggest is best for my dog who is 11 months old and is often sick in the car? We are going to start going to our caravan at the weekends and I’m dreading the journey."

We put her concern to Zoe Costigan, in-house Itch vet.

She advised that motion sickness is a common problem affecting about one in four dogs.

But she did say that puppies seem to be more at risk, which suggests that adult dogs do 'grow out of it'.

She also advised that not all dogs vomit, there are some other signs to look out for which suggest your dog isn’t coping with the journey.

They include:

  • Restlessness
  • Panting
  • Producing excessive saliva
  • Licking their lips
  • Retching

Zoe had some tips for owners worried about travel sickness.

She said: “The best way to tackle a travel sickness problem in a young animal is to 'desensitise' or train them to see car journeys as a pleasurable thing, rather than a traumatic experience. 

“Anxiety and fear can, unfortunately, increase the chances of vomiting, so puppies should be exposed to cars from an early age to get them used to travel. It’s unreasonable to resign yourself to a lifetime of walking your pet everywhere!”

Start in a stationary car

Jay Wennington on Unsplash

Zoe’s first bit of advice was to get your dog used to the car.

She said: “You should start by allowing your pet to become accustomed to being in a stationary vehicle. 

“Sit in the car without the engine running, play with them, offer them treats and then get out again. The next stage is to sit with the engine running to get them used to the sounds and smell associated with travel.”

Short journeys

 

She then suggests building on that starting with small trips in the car.

“For the next few days take short 1-minute journeys, ideally somewhere pleasant such as the local park which mentally turns an anxious experience for your dog into an exciting one,” said Zoe.

“If any sickness symptoms start, then stop the car and walk home making a fuss of your pet along the way. Gradually your pet will associate getting in the car with a pleasant experience, rather than a dreaded one. 

“Each stage of the training should be performed for a minimum of a few days and do not progress until your pet seems confident and content in the situation. Build the journey times up very gradually, returning to the previous stage if sickness symptoms recur.”

Plan your journey

Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

While it may not always be possible, planning your journey to avoid certain roads can help.

Zoe said: “As with us humans, practical changes such as avoiding winding roads in favour of straighter roads will result in less vomiting.”

She also advised: “Avoiding feeding your pet before a journey is not guaranteed to prevent motion sickness, but the effects will be less dramatic if they are travel sick.”

Take regular breaks

marieke koenders on Unsplash

Nobody liked being cooped up in a car for too long so Zoe suggested making regular stops.

She said: “You should take regular breaks on long journeys, ensure your pet is safely and suitably restrained, and keep the windows slightly open.”

Speak to your vet

Zoe added: “If you are still having problems, you can visit your vet who can prescribe anti-sickness medication. 

“These tablets need to be given well in advance of the journey to allow time for absorption (1-2 hours). 

“These tablets should be viewed as a short-term solution for that ‘unavoidable’ long-distance last-minute journey, and should not be a substitution for the desensitisation methods above.”

Pet wellness experts, Itch, have launched the first ever pet insurance that rewards proactive pet care —giving pet parents discounts on their insurance for taking the best possible care of their pets with Itch’s range of parasite protection and pet wellbeing products.

Do you have any questions about your dog? Could you benefit from some advice from a vet or a behaviourist?

Email teamdogs@reachplc.com and we’ll see if we can help.

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