Many pets dislike traveling in a vehicle, but it might not be for the reason you think. Many people think that their pet purely dislikes the confinement of being in a crate or car during a journey, and while this may be true for some animals, it will probably surprise you to learn that the reason your pet could hate traveling is that they suffer from motion sickness.
Motion sickness is actually very common, with estimates suggesting that one in six dogs suffers from the condition. Cats and other domestic pets may also be affected by this condition which can make journeys uncomfortable and unpleasant for both you and your animal.
Symptoms of Motion Sickness
Symptoms of motion sickness may manifest differently in each animal, but typically include:
– Excessive drooling
– Persistent licking of his lips
– Excessive panting
– Seeming lethargic
– Yawning over and over
– Behaving skittishly or nervously
What causes motion sickness?
Motion sickness is caused when the brain receives mixed messages about movement. Our eyes can see the world rushing past, yet also registers that our body is remaining completely still. This confuses our brain and causes dizziness, nausea and even vomiting.
While many pets many suffer from conventional motion sickness, particularly puppies and kittens whose ear development (which affects balance) doesn’t complete until they reach adulthood, others may suffer from the symptoms of motion sickness, but rather than being caused by spatial disorientation, their symptoms are a result of negative emotions that they associate with travelling.
Some animals, particularly those who have not had the greatest socialization or who have suffered a bad experience, can become very stressed or anxious about traveling. They may associate journeys with going somewhere unpleasant, such as our veterinary office, or be stressed by the noise and unfamiliarity of the car if they don’t travel often.
Helping a pet with motion sickness
While you may try and limit the number of journeys you need to make with your pet, helping him to overcome his motion sickness, particularly if it appears to be related to anxiety, could be the key to making future journeys much less stressful for him.
Familiarize him with the vehicle
If your pet has only been in the vehicle a couple of times, or if this is your first journey together, give him a few moments to explore the inside of the car by himself. You could also start the engine without moving, which will allow him to get used to the sound and thrum of the vehicle running.
Sit him facing forwards
Even the most hardened traveler can suffer from motion sickness if they are facing the wrong way. Although your pet may still look sideways out of the window, try and encourage him to look through the windshield as this will minimize the amount of confusion his brain experiences. Sitting facing forwards can dramatically reduce the dizziness and nausea that typically accompanies motion sickness.
Don’t travel on a full stomach
Eating a big meal before traveling will sit heavy in your pet’s stomach and give them more to vomit up if they do need to be sick. Instead, stick to small, sugary treat just before you set off, and during any breaks that you may need to take if you are going on a long journey.
Open the windows or put on the air conditioning
A cool breeze can do wonders for reducing nausea and will keep the vehicle at a comfortable temperature, which can also help your pet feel less sick. Sometimes the air pressure inside a closed vehicle can build up, which can make motion sickness worse, so open a window the same amount on either side of the car to alleviate and balance the air pressures while you travel.
If you are still concerned that your pet is suffering from motion sickness, and nothing seems to be helping, it may be time to contact us and speak to our veterinarian. He/she may be able to prescribe anti-anxiety and/or anti-sickness medications that make journeys much more tolerable for your pet.