Some pets do not seem to love to travel in cars, and stress and anxiety can set in. Here are some great ways to remedy car sickness for your dog or cat.
If your cat or dog gets car sick, you’re probably familiar with the symptoms: First there will be vocal cues — cats will meow or yowl, and dogs will whine — and then you’ll spot that your pet is drooling a lot. You may notice that your cat or dog is pacing somewhat frantically, or perhaps conversely, they will seem quite lethargic. The next expression of the problem can be vomit. What causes car sickness in dogs and cats? And how can you avoid it?
Very often with both cats and dogs, car sickness is caused by anxiety. Your pet is not sure what to make of the unfamiliar motion of the car, and they also may associate the vehicle with a trip to the vet, which generally won’t be a pleasant association. Many vets believe that carsickness is more common in dogs than cats — and dogs also seem more likely to outgrow the problem as they age. If the problem is persistent then vets may prescribe Cerenia motion sickness pills for cats or dogs to prevent vomiting.
Here are five great ways to make your pet’s next trip in a car more comfortable, plus a bonus tip just for dogs.
- 1. Start With Short Trips: If you suspect your pet may have trouble with car trips, keep your initial trips brief. Take ten-minute jaunts, and if you’ve got the dog with you, make the destination someplace they’ll love, like the park. On longer trips, make lots of stops, so that your pet realizes the car ride won’t go on forever.
- 2. Skip a Meal: Before a trip, skip a meal — or even two — so that your pet doesn’t eat in the 12 hours preceding the journey in the car. A full belly does not combine well with motion sickness.
- 3. Bring a Crate or Carrier: It can be reassuring for cats to be within their carrier, and for dogs to be within their crate. Consider putting in a shirt or towel in the carrier that smells like home. If you can’t bring along the crate for your dog, try bringing along a familiar dog bed or blanket that will be comforting to lay on.
- 4. Bring Treats: Whether it’s a dog bone or a cat treat, or even a new play toy, bring along something special as a treat for your cat or dog to make the trip more fun. This can help ease feelings of anxiety and apprehension.
- 5. Keep the Car Calm: Remembering that the trip may be stressful for your pet, keep the car a calm place. Speak to your cat or dog in soothing tones and avoid yelling and loud music.
- 6. Have Your Dog Face Forward: Car sickness can be eased by looking forward — but your dog won’t know that, and might naturally tend to stare out the window at their side. Special seat belts are available to help anchor your dog into a forward-facing position.
How to Effectively Manage Motion Sickness in Cats
Whatever the underlying cause may be, the primary symptom of motion sickness in cats is vomiting. Other symptoms might occur, but vomiting is one of the tell-tale signs of motion sickness. Nearly all symptoms of motion sickness immediately end as soon as the vehicle stops moving.
While other animals, especially dogs, can be conditioned to remain calm when traveling in a vehicle, cats are usually more difficult to train. This is particularly true for cats that don’t travel in vehicles too often (and when they do, it’s usually to the veterinarian). This is why one of the primary drivers behind motion sickness in cats is fear; your cat associates travel with stress and anxiety.
If you’re wondering how to prevent your cat from experiencing motion sickness, or what some of the popular treatment methods are, our guide posted below covers it all. We also cover why Cerenia for cats with motion sickness is one of the better treatment options available.
Specific Symptoms Your Cat Might Experience From Motion Sickness
While vomiting during travel is the primary signal that your cat might be experiencing motion sickness, other possible symptoms include:
- Abnormal and unrestrained calling, meowing, etc.
- Inability to sit still as well as constantly moving around.
- Noticeable increase in the use of its tongue (e.g. licking its lips/mouth).
- Irregular levels of drool and saliva coming from its mouth.
How to Protect Your Cat From Motion Sickness
Motion sickness in cats stems from the actual movement(s) of the vehicle, or from the cat’s anxiety/stress surrounding travel (or a combination of the two). While cats of all breeds can be affected by motion sickness, it usually occurs in cats that don’t frequently travel (or very young kitties with a general lack of experience in vehicles).
Some cats simply won’t be able to adjust to traveling in a vehicle, which makes it difficult to prevent motion sickness. However, many cats are able to become used to the effects of traveling, and eventually no longer experience the associated symptoms of (car sickness).
The very best way to prevent motion sickness is to get your cat used to traveling in the car (or traveling in general). Most owners make use of a pet carrier, which is essentially a small crate meant for traveling. However, it’s important to slowly work up to traveling with your cat in the carrier.
If you’re able to get your cat used to traveling in a carrier, while moving in a car, you can probably avoid future bouts of motion sickness. Use the tips below to help prepare your cat for traveling in vehicles:
- Start by simply putting your cat in the carrier for a few minutes, and then extending into longer sessions.
- Once your cat is comfortable with this, start walking with the carrier.
- After your cat has gotten used to the carrier, and being moved while inside it, place the carrier in the car.
- Once you feel that your cat is comfortable with the carrier while in the car, turn the engine on, and then judge your cat’s reaction.
- Eventually, move up to driving the vehicle with your cat inside the carrier.
The reasoning behind slowly transitioning your cat from each environment to the other is to make sure that it's properly acclimatized. Once your cat seems comfortable with one part of the process, move on to the next, until you’re able to travel in your car without your cat getting motion sickness.
This process might take some time (and might not work with all cats), but it’s certainly worth a try (especially if your cat suffers from extreme anxiety related to traveling in vehicles). With that being said, if your cat is just unable to adjust to traveling in vehicles, it might be best to look into medication-based treatment options (covered below).
Prescription Medications for Motion Sickness
There are generally two categories of prescription medications that veterinarians prescribe cats who suffer from motion sickness: anti-anxiety and anti-nausea. While both types work to limit the severity of symptoms, one is based on neurological/psychological causes (i.e. anti-anxiety) whereas the other is for the more physical symptoms (e.g. vomiting).
Treatments for Nausea
There are several different brands of anti-nausea medications that might be prescribed to your pet, with one of the more common ones being meclizine. This medication is an antihistamine that’s used only for treating physical symptoms (e.g. vomiting, nausea).
Cerenia (i.e. maropitant)
As we’ve already mentioned (in the introduction to this blog), one of the best anti-nausea treatments on the market is Cerenia. This medication is approved by the FDA for use in both dogs and cats, and works amazingly well in limiting symptoms related to motion sickness. Not only is the medication very effective, but it’s also very safe as well.
Treatments for Anxiety
Numerous anti-anxiety treatments are prescribed each year (for cats with motion sickness). These include gabapentin-based brands, Xanax, and similar medications. While these types of treatments can calm even the most anxious feline, it’s important to carefully follow their dosing instructions (otherwise your cat could experience adverse reactions).
If your cat suffers from motion sickness when traveling (either due to anxiety or physical reasons), there are many different ways to manage and treat their symptoms. Anti-anxiety prescription medications, holistic-based approaches, or anti-nausea medications are all valid (and can be very effective at treating your cat’s symptoms).
Whether you choose to go with traditional medications or opt for exposure therapy methods (for anxiety-based motion sickness), referring back to this guide as a resource during the course of your cat’s treatment will ensure that it remains symptom-free.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do you cure a dog of car sickness?
If your dog gets car sick, it can be a distressing experience for both you and your furry friend. Gradually get your dog used to car travel. Start with short trips and gradually increase the duration of your car trips. This helps your dog get accustomed to the movement and sensations associated with car travel. Keep your dog's stomach empty before car travel. Don't feed your dog for at least two hours before traveling. This will reduce the likelihood of vomiting. Keeping your dog secure during car travel helps to prevent nausea and vomiting. Keep the car well-ventilated and make sure there is plenty of fresh air circulating in the car. Make sure your dog has a comfortable place to rest during car travel. Also, talk to your vet about medication. Your veterinarian may recommend medication to help alleviate your dog's car sickness. This is typically a last resort, as medication may have side effects and should only be given under veterinary supervision.
What are the signs of car sickness in dogs?
The signs of car sickness in dogs may vary, but common signs include excessive drooling, panting, whining or whimpering, restlessness or pacing, yawning excessively, licking lips, vomiting or retching, loss of appetite, fear or anxiety, and uneasiness or trembling. If your dog shows any of these signs during car travel, it is likely that they are experiencing some degree of car sickness.
What can I give a cat for car sickness?
It is important to talk to your veterinarian before giving any medication to your cat. Your veterinarian can recommend the most appropriate treatment based on your cat's specific needs and health history. Your vet may prescribe medication to help alleviate your cat's nausea and vomiting during car travel. These medications can be given orally or by injection. Some medications are specifically designed to help prevent motion sickness in cats. These medications can be given before travel. Some herbal remedies, such as ginger or chamomile, may help alleviate your cat's nausea and vomiting during car travel. However, it is important to discuss these options with your veterinarian before use. Pheromone sprays or collars can help to reduce your cat's stress and anxiety during car travel, which can, in turn, reduce the likelihood of car sickness.
How long does dog car sickness last?
The duration of dog car sickness can vary depending on the severity of the symptoms and the underlying cause. Some dogs may experience only mild symptoms that resolve within a few hours, while others may experience more severe symptoms that last for several days. In some cases, the symptoms may persist even after the car journey is over, which is known as "motion sickness hangover." This can cause your dog to feel lethargic, dizzy, and disoriented. For some dogs, motion sickness during car rides may be caused by an underdeveloped vestibular system. The vestibular system is responsible for maintaining a dog's balance and sense of spatial orientation, and it is not fully developed in puppies until they are around 12 weeks old. As a result, puppies may be more prone to motion sickness during car rides than older dogs. Fortunately, many puppies do outgrow motion sickness caused by car rides as they get older and their vestibular system matures.
Does Benadryl help dogs with car sickness?
Benadryl (diphenhydramine) is an antihistamine that is commonly used to treat allergies, motion sickness, and anxiety in dogs. While Benadryl is not specifically approved by the FDA for the treatment of car sickness in dogs, it is sometimes used off-label for this purpose. Benadryl works by blocking histamine, a chemical that is released by the body in response to allergens and other triggers. Histamine can cause a variety of symptoms, including itching, swelling, and nausea. By blocking histamine, Benadryl can help alleviate nausea and vomiting associated with car sickness in some dogs. However, it is important to note that Benadryl may not be effective for all dogs with car sickness, and it can cause side effects in some dogs, such as drowsiness, dry mouth, and urinary retention. Additionally, the appropriate dose of Benadryl can vary depending on the dog's weight and other factors, so it is important to consult with a veterinarian before giving Benadryl to your dog for car sickness or any other condition.
More on Traveling With Pets
Take Your Dog For a Drive
5 Steps to a Safe Ride With Your Dog
How to Train Your Dog to "Load" Into Your Car
This information is for informational purposes only and is not meant as a substitute for the professional advice of, or diagnosis or treatment by, your veterinarian with respect to your pet. It has, however, been verified by a licensed veterinarian for accuracy.