Dog In Car
Credit: Geoffrey Miles Mercado/EyeEm/Getty Images

Hitting the open road with your dog can be an incredibly fun experience. It’s not only exciting for your pup to see — and smell — new places, but it’s fun for you to witness your dog’s happiness as you roll the windows down and travel somewhere new. But if you’re considering a road trip with your furry companion, you should be prepared for the possibility that your dog could get motion sickness. Even during the shortest of car rides, some dogs are very susceptible to canine car sickness, meaning the only trip you’ll be going on is one to the vet.

So, why is it that some dogs easily become sick while traveling in the car, while others are seemingly fine? “The exact mechanism of motion sickness is not well understood, but it is most likely linked to the centers of the brain that control balance and process motion,” said Daniel Edge, DVM, MBA, Director of Veterinary Specialty Operations at Zoetis. “It can also be related to fear and anxiety about car rides. Just as people are individuals, dogs are as well, so not all dogs will suffer from the same condition and to the same degree.”

Just like humans, it’s imperative for dogs to be prepared for road trip, especially to help prevent motion sickness. Edge notes that feeding your dog only a small meal before traveling may help reduce the symptoms of motion sickness, as well as making frequent pit stops for your pup if your road trip is going to last more than a few hours.

“Just like people, dogs need occasional breaks to stretch their legs, run off some energy and relieve themselves,” Edge said. “Ideally, you should give your pup a 15-20 minute break for every 2-3 hours that you are on the road.”

Additionally, the American Kennel Club suggests seating your dog closer to the front of the car, so they can watch the scenery ahead and not just see a blur through the side windows.

When it comes to knowing if your dog is car sick, Edge says that there are multiple signs to look for in your companion. “Motion sickness is not always vomiting,” he said. If a combination of signs are presented, like dry heaving, drooling, shaking, whining, or excessive lip licking (among several others), then your dog could be suffering from motion sickness.

According to Edge, the best remedy is a medication called Cerenia that will aid in “the prevention of vomiting due to motion sickness in dogs.”

And speaking of Fido’s safety, there are a few golden rules to ensuring a safe trip with your four-legged friend. “Your dog as an individual will partly dictate how best to travel with them,” Edge said. “All dogs should be safely restrained in a harness that has had safety evaluations performed to ensure the highest ability to protect your dog during an unforeseen accident.”

He also said that speaking to your veterinarian “should be incorporated into your travel plans to make sure your dog has the most comfortable experience possible,” especially if you know that your dog suffers from anxiety or motion sickness.

“The best place to start is always with your veterinarian — they can evaluate your travel plans and the history of your dog to ensure they are best protected against disease no matter where you travel,” Edge says. “Just as you may like to make packing lists for yourself, don’t forget to make one for your best friend!”