Motion and Travel Sickness
Motion and car sickness can be a tricky issue to manage, with no shortage of messy car journeys and unwell pups. Motion sickness in dogs can occur as a result of conflicting sensory signals being sent to the brain (the emetic centre to be precise). Similar to humans, this is when signals form the eyes are in conflict with signals from the inner ear (which dictates and regulates their balance) and cause nausea and vomiting. Puppies can be more susceptible to motion sickness in transit as their ears (specifically the inner ear) are not fully developed, and this can improve and lessen in time as they age. As well as this physiological reaction, there can be various mental and psychological triggers which begin their sickness, such as fear, anxiety, or past traumatic association.
Aside from physically vomiting, there are a number of signals that your dog is feeling uncomfortable or unwell in the car.
Excessive lip licking
There are a number of natural remedies thought to help alleviate symptoms of motion sickness, which must all be researched fully and run past your vet to ensure they are safe and suitable for your circumstances. There are natural, aromatherapy and pharmaceutical options available to help alleviate your dog's sickness symptoms.
Making sure your dog is safe in the car is a perfect (& legally required) place to start. A seat belt or purpose designed travel crate ensure that your dog is secure and can eliminate bouts of anxiety as a result of feeling unstable or unsettled when in motion. If your dog is free to roam about the car this is unsafe for everyone inside as well as illegal, but if they feel that they are not in danger or discomfort, their confidence in the car has much more room to grow, as well as lessen sudden, erratic or unpredictable change of direction and movement likely to trigger nausea.
Giving your dog the space and option to see out the window is another way to help ease nausea, as their eyes are able to match up and "agree" with what the balance system in their ears is feeling. The sights from the window can also be a welcome distraction to any anxiety, and opening the window a crack can equalise pressure and lessen imbalancing impacts on their ears.
Try to avoid feeding your dog before travel, and allow for regular breaks in long journeys.
Dogs and particularly puppies who have only ever really been in the car to visit the vets can think that every car journey will end up there, which for many dogs can be an unpleasant and worrying association. Conditioning and training are also key elements to helping overcome the negative cycle of car journeys. Desensitising nervous dogs to the car. Just sitting in the car and going nowhere, or even feeding your dog in the boot can begin to break the association of the car with something always negative (ie. feeling unwell), and begin to plant seeds of positivity instead (ie. heading to the car gets me a treat, my dinner or just a cuddle with human). Once your dog is happy to just be in and around the car, hopping in for no longer than a 5 minute journey that ends up back at home is introducing the idea of neutrality to the car, as they took a trip with nothing overwhelmingly positive or negative happening. As you progress, you can begin to extend the length of each journey by a couple of minutes each time, and it's particularly useful if there is a great walk or a favourite friend of theirs just a short drive away. Soon the car becomes the key to their favourite field, a play date, or just a roulette of fun and positive things.