For many dogs, a trip in the car is an exciting adventure. Perhaps it means a trip to the park to play fetch. Maybe it means a journey to the beach for a swim. Or it could just be that drive around the neighbourhood checking our the new sights and sounds and smells. But for those pups who suffer from dog car sickness, despite what lies at the end of the road, getting there is no fun.

So, what causes motion sickness in dogs? What are the symptoms and how can you help keep your pet comfortable on those long (or short) trips?

What Causes Motion Sickness in Dogs?

Ironically, it’s not actually in the tummy that dog car sickness starts. Contrary to popular belief, it’s not actually the rolling motion playing havoc on the stomach that causes it. Instead, it starts in the nervous system. Your dog senses motion through her inner ears, sees it with her eyes, and feels it with her body. The problem starts when what your dog is seeing doesn’t jive with what she’s feeling.

Why do some dogs get motion sickness and others don’t? Experts aren’t really sure. There’s a suggestion that genetics and physiological variations might play a role, but there’s no definitive answer.

Sign and Symptoms

Obviously the most common sign of dog car sickness is vomiting, but you probably want to recognize the issue before that happens.

Right from the start, you might notice your pup is reluctant to get in the car. That’s usually a good indication that the trip isn’t one she’s looking forward to. Other signs include:

  • Trembling
  • Chewing
  • Licking or smacking of their lips frequently
  • Yawning often
  • Excessive drooling
  • Dry heaving
  • Vomiting

Also, car sickness may not be about an imbalance in what your dog is seeing and feeling. It may be anxiety-based. Sometimes a ride in the car brings on what looks like car sickness, but is actually anxiety. The two look very similar, but anxiety will usually result in crying or whining, restlessness, or panting.

So, what can you do?

Natural Remedies for Dog Car Sickness

1. Fresh Air

It doesn’t get much more natural than that, does it? Opening the window and letting fresh air in can help reduce the air pressure in the car, which might help rebalance the body.

Fresh air can help calm a nervous dog, so if anxiety is what’s causing the car sickness, this might help provide a distraction.

Now, this works really well for some dogs, but for others it might make things worse, so when you notice the symptoms crack and window and watch for changes. If things improve, leave that baby open. If they don’t, or seem to get worse, perhaps consider leaving it closed.

Just remember to only open it enough to give your dog a bit of a breeze, never enough to jump out!

2. CBD Oil

CBD oil is a natural substance that works to bring about balance in the body. It interacts with serotonin releasing receptors, and research shows that it can be effective in reducing nausea and vomiting.

And, not only can it help settle the stomach, if anxiety is the real issue, it can help with that too. CBD oil has anxiolytic properties, which means it helps reduce and calm anxiety. Beauty!

To give it to your pup, following the dosing guidelines on the product you choose and give it about 30 minutes beforehand. A basic tincture will work the fastest and be the most effective, so just drop the dosage right into your dog’s cheek – that way it dissolves into the mucous membrane and will get directly into the bloodstream.

3. Flower Essences

Flower essences are a form of herbal medicine which uses flowers. We like Bach Rescue Remedy. This one’s particularly good if anxiety is at the root of the car sickness. You can give right before getting in the car to ease your dog’s anxiety and help her stay cool, calm, and collected. 

It can be used every 15 minutes as needed during travel to reduce your dog’s fear and anxiety associated with travel.

4. Ginger

Ginger is well known as an anti-nausea remedy. It’s a natural anti-inflammatory and can soothe the upset in your dog’s stomach caused by car sickness.

Make a quick ginger tea using fresh ginger and give some to your pup a little while before you head out. Mince about 2 tablespoons of fresh ginger root and steep it in hot water. Let the tea cool fully, then give your pup about 1 tablespoon per 20 pounds of body weight the night before travel, and again an hour prior to departure.

5. Homeopathy

There are several homeopathic remedies that can help with dog car sickness. These are our faves:

  • Nux Vomica – one of the most common homeopathic remedies indicate for things like indigestion, irritability, or digestive upset. That includes nausea and vomiting.
  • Phosphorus – this is good if your pet is clingy and tries to crawl in your lap.
  • Borax – this is another good remedy for car sickness, and it often works better for those dogs who do better with a little fresh air.

Unlike conventional meds, with a homeopathic remedy, the dose is the same no matter the size of your animal. To give your dog these remedies, you want the remedy to melt on the gums, so you don’t want to add it to your animal’s food. Drop a liquid dose or a few pellets directly into your dog’s mouth. For more on dosing, check out this post.

dog car sickness

Other Tips for Dog Car Sickness

Remedies are great and often work wonders to help calm a sick tummy or soothe anxiety. But, they’re not the only way to help your dog deal with a ride in the car.

Use these tips along with the remedies to up the effectiveness-factor:

  1. Safety and security – sometimes when your dog has car sickness, especially when anxiety plays a role, the security of a crate in the car or a secure seat belt can do the trick. And, not only is this good for car sickness, it’s also important for general safety as well!

  2. Move up – Dog car sickness is often worse when dogs sit in the back of the car, looking out of the back window. Consider allowing your pet to sit in the backseat to be closer to you (and the front of the car). Or on the floor between the front and back seats works too.

  3. No food beforehand – if you know you’re headed out for a ride in the near future, try to plan ahead meal-wise and don’t give your pup food in the 2 hours before.

  4. Comfort is key – a cozy blanket or dog bed in the car will give your dog the added comfort, and don’t forget to bring along her favorite stuffy. Just a little extra comfort can help your dog become more relaxed.

  5. Build up – if your dog gets nervous or sick in the car, try to help them deal by building up to long car rides. Take frequent play and pee breaks to break up the drive.Don’t just go from 10 minutes jaunts to 2 hour road trips. Work up to these to help your dog get used to it.