5 Remedies For Car Sickness in Dogs and Cats Getting Rid of Motion Sickness Problems During Car Rides

BY | December 12 | COMMENTS PUBLISHED BY
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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, youโ€™re probably familiar with the symptoms: First there will be vocal cues โ€” cats will meow or yowl, and dogs will whine โ€” and then youโ€™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 wonโ€™t be a pleasant association. Many vets believe that carsickness is more common in dogs than cats โ€” 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 petโ€™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 youโ€™ve got the dog with you, make the destination someplace theyโ€™ll love, like the park. On longer trips, make lots of stops, so that your pet realizes the car ride wonโ€™t go on forever.

  • 2. Skip a Meal: Before a trip, skip a meal โ€” or even two โ€” so that your pet doesnโ€™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 canโ€™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 itโ€™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 โ€” but your dog wonโ€™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 donโ€™t travel in vehicles too often (and when they do, itโ€™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 youโ€™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.
  • Diarrhea

How to Protect Your Cat From Motion Sickness

Motion sickness in cats stems from the actual movement(s) of the vehicle, or from the catโ€™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 donโ€™t frequently travel (or very young kitties with a general lack of experience in vehicles).

Some cats simply wonโ€™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, itโ€™s important to slowly work up to traveling with your cat in the carrier.

 If youโ€™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 catโ€™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 youโ€™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 itโ€™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 thatโ€™s used only for treating physical symptoms (e.g. vomiting, nausea).

Cerenia (i.e. maropitant)

As weโ€™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 itโ€™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, itโ€™s important to carefully follow their dosing instructions (otherwise your cat could experience adverse reactions).  

Conclusions

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 catโ€™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 catโ€™s treatment will ensure that it remains symptom-free.

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.

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