Do Motion Sickness Pills For Dogs Work?
Whether it’s a short drive around the block or a long road trip in your car that you take with your bestie, the moment your dog starts to look uneasy and act anxious, UH OH!
Your dog might be car sick. If you don’t nip this in the bud, you might be in for a tough time cleaning the car out. Not only might your dog end up throwing up all over your plush leather seats, he or she might also get sicker as the drive goes on.
Car rides are part and parcel of dog ownership, and while some dogs love them with a vengeance, others simply cannot handle motion sickness.
In this blog post, we’ll take an extensive look at motion sickness, what you can do to help your dog, the medications that you can administer, and how you can help prevent your poor dog from chucking all over your car.
What Causes Car Sickness By Dogs?
Motion sickness in dogs happens quite often. You aren’t alone! If you think the cause of motion sickness is unusual movement, we’ve got news for you. Unless your dog has preexisting conditions or is more vulnerable to motion sickness, 95% of motion sickness is caused by psychological issues or stress that are experienced by your dog in a foreign environment.
But aside from psychological factors, motion sickness is caused by abnormal stimulation in the inner ears of your dog that has a connection to the brain. To put it simply, the signals that are given to the brain do not match what the eyes are seeing. This happens quite often in moving vehicles and is not only experienced by dogs but by other animals and humans as well.
The receptors that are involved in this process are:
- Chemoreceptor Trigger Zone or CRTZ
- Neurokinin 1 substance P (NK1) receptors
The histamine receptors are especially present in dogs but not necessarily other pets. That’s why several medications that combat motion sickness in dogs are antihistamines that may not apply to other animals.
Aside from conflicting signals in the brain, psychological factors may worsen this condition in dogs. Your dog may be stressed and anxious by the journey and this can trigger nausea and worse, diarrhea!
A good way to see whether or not the condition is psychological is by putting them in a non-moving vehicle. If the symptoms persist there’s a good chance that the reason for their motion sickness is psychological. However, if they seem perfectly content to lounge around in a parked car, the problem might be physical.
You need to find the root cause of your dog’s motion sickness for you to get the right treatment and conditioning for them. For physiological reasons, medical treatments or pills will be the right move. But for psychological factors, you need to combine the right medical treatments with behavior conditioning to avoid it from happening continuously.
Treatment For Motion Sickness For Dogs
Cerenia or maropitant
This medication is FDA approved and can be used as a motion sickness remedy when your dog is vomiting. But this drug is not for any dogs, your dog needs to be at least four months old if you want to administer it.
It is given once daily when you are preparing them for a long journey. This medication works very well, with a 93% effectiveness rate. Most dogs who consume this drug end up not puking during a car ride!
We’ve mentioned that histamine is one of the receptors contributing to motion sickness in dogs, that’s why this antihistamine works. Similar to Cerenia, this pill is given only once daily to your dog when you are traveling.
Benadryl and Dramamine
These drugs are also a form of antihistamines. The difference is that these products can be given every 8 hours to your dogs, depending on their condition. Be careful not to use Benadryl that’s meant for cold treatment in humans, read the label and make sure that the medication contains only diphenhydramine as its active ingredient.
If your dog is anxious when you bring them inside the car, anti-anxiety medication can work. Several anti-anxiety medications you can use are Xanax, Amitriptyline, Buspirone, Clomicalm, or Valium. These drugs are commonly given right before the car ride, so speak to your vet about the best way to administer them to your precious pooch.
How Motion Sickness Pills for Dogs Work?
The way that motion sickness pills for dogs work is by blocking the receptors responsible for motion sickness or by combating anxiety or nausea and calming them down.
Cerenia or maropitant works by blocking the NK1 receptors in the brainstem that are responsible for controlling vomiting. As we’ve mentioned previously, one of the receptors that contribute to motion sickness is the NK1 receptor which prompts your dog to feel unbalanced.
Antihistamines such as Meclizine, Benadryl, and Dramamine, work by inhibiting the histamine receptors responsible for motion sickness in pets, particularly in dogs.
Lastly, anti-anxiety medication works by acting as sedatives, they depress activity in certain parts of the nervous system that causes anxious behavior. Afterward, they’ll seem more relaxed and sedated, ready for the car-ride journey.
Preparation For Travelling With Dogs
Every dog breed is different - make sure to be prepared to your dog special preparations. In a different blog we have covered many dog breeds to travel on the road with them. Read more about the different dog breeds tips to transport them in the car:
- Whippet Dog Breed: Information, Travelling & Transport Tips
- Italian Greyhounds/ Iggy's Dog Breed: Information, Travelling & Transport Tips
- Chihuahua Dog Breed: Information Travelling & Transport Tips
- Dachshund Dog Breed: Information Travelling & Transport Tips
- Poodle Dog Breed: Information Travelling & Transport Tips
- English Cocker Spaniel Dog Breed: Information, Travelling & Transport Tips
- Shih Tzu Dog Breed: Information, Travelling & Transport Tips
- Pomeranian Dog Breed: Information, Travelling & Transport Tips
- Pembroke Welsh Corgi Dog Breed: Information, Travelling & Transport Tips
- Bulldog Dog Breed: Information, Travelling & Transport Tips
- Shetland Sheepdog Dog Breed: Information, Travelling & Transport Tips
- Shiba Inu Dog Breed: Information Travelling & Transport Tips
- Jack Russell Terrier Dog Breed: Information, Travelling & Transport Tips
- Basenji Dog Breed: Information Travelling & Transport Tips
Where To Get Motion Sickness Pills For Dogs?
Where you can get the motion sickness medications depends on the type of pills you are looking for. Some of these drugs will need a veterinarian’s prescription while others can be obtained from the drugstore.
For antihistamine types, since they’re commonly used drugs, you can obtain them from the drugstore without any prescription from your vet. Because of this, you need to take extra care when choosing the appropriate medication, be mindful and check the labeling for antihistamines that are specifically used for dogs only, not for human consumption.
On the other hand, Cerenia and anti-anxiety medication pills can only be obtained if you have a vet’s prescription. Because both need special care when it comes to the dose you’re using for your dogs. Some anti-anxiety drugs may have negative effects when your dog has a preexisting condition such as diabetes.
As always, before administering any medication to your dog, always check with your veterinarian on the safety of these drugs and ask for the appropriate dosage based on your dog’s age and size.
4x Side Effects of Motion Sickness Pills by Dogs
Before you reach for a motion sickness medication, you should note that there can be side effects to each of them. This might happen due to undiagnosed health conditions, miscalculations of dosage, or others. These are the side effects of each motion sickness pill we have mentioned:
Although this drug is highly recommended for motion sickness and is FDA-approved, you need to be mindful of its side effects. They may look sedated, lose their appetite, have diarrhea, seem uncoordinated, trembling, and drooling.
They could also vomit because of side effects, this means that Cerenia is not working for your dog. If you see any of this happening, please contact your veterinarian immediately.
Because this medication is essentially a type of antihistamine, the potential side effects will be drowsiness or sleepiness. They could also experience dry gums and eyes, and a faster heart rate. In very rare conditions, your dog could experience the opposite of sedation, which leads to excitement.
Benadryl and Dramamine
Side effects of Benadryl and Dramamine are drowsiness, dry mouth, urinary retention, drooling, increased heart rate, and rapid breathing. In special cases, they might also experience diarrhea, vomiting, or even seizures. Side effects can easily be monitored as it often happens an hour after consumption. Contact your veterinarian immediately if you notice side effects in your dogs.
Similar to antihistamines, the side effects include lethargy, irregular heartbeat, bowel, and urinary changes, vomiting, uncoordinated movements, lowered blood pressure, and weakness. In some cases, the drugs may work against your favor and your dog will have an increased level of anxiety or stress.
Which are the Safest Options?
Knowing which of the treatments is the safest option for your dog is important to make sure they don’t experience any side effects, and that the treatment will work effectively. The safest options are over-the-counter antihistamine medications since they’re not hard medications with minimum side effects.
But to know for sure, there are several things you need to account for when choosing your medication.
First of all, determine the cause of their motion sickness. If it’s mainly due to anxiousness and stress then your best choice is anti-anxiety medications or antihistamines. It is known that aside from a prescribed anti-anxiety medication, an antihistamine will have a calming effect on your dog. You can still give them Cerenia though because they combat vomiting due to nausea in general.
If the cause of your dog’s motion sickness is mainly due to the movements and coordination, then you should prescribe Cerenia since it’s the best medication you can give to decrease the motion sickness symptoms.
Another factor you need to consider is your dog’s age. Cerenia is not suitable for puppies under four months of age, antihistamine could be your safest bet if your dog is still a puppy. Make sure you read the label properly and give them the right amount of dosage.
You should also be aware of your dog’s pre-existing medical conditions. Heart, liver, or lung disease medications can react with anxiety medicine and lead to severe side effects. Diabetes could also alter the effects of antihistamine medications.
It is crucial to consult your veterinarian who knows your dog’s health history on which medication is the best and safest choice for your dog.
Natural Ways to Combat Motion Sickness
Aside from over-the-counter or prescribed medications, several natural remedies can work against motion sickness in dogs.
Ginger has gingerol that calms down the digestive system, which could combat the symptoms of nausea. You might want to consult your veterinarian before giving ginger to your dog as it could cause adverse effects on dogs taking medications for bleeding disorders or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. It is usually given as tinctures or drops you give directly to your dogs.
This is another form of herb that can calm your dog’s stomach, and ultimately ease nausea. It’s usually given as an infusion in water. Never give your dogs undiluted peppermint oil, because it can cause kidney and liver issues.
This is a naturally calming pheromone that can be used by spraying on your dog around 15 to 20 minutes before your departure. By spraying this inside your vehicle or your dog’s travel kennel, they will have a calmer journey.
This one works just like how calming pheromones do, it is used in a form of aromatherapy by spraying your dog’s surroundings. You can also use a good cotton ball trick for this, where you dip cotton balls inside lavender oils and scatter them inside your car or near your dog’s kennel. Make sure your dog cannot reach the cotton balls because they might ingest them and poison themselves.
A new product that is starting to take over the market is a CBD supplement. CDB has been known to reduce anxiety and induce calmness in nervous dogs. What’s great about them is they come in many forms, such as chews, treats, or oil so you have more options on which one is preferable for your dogs.
Which Dogs Are More Prone To Motion Sickness?
Certain factors could affect their susceptibility to being more prone to motion sickness. The first is age, then their psychological condition, and lastly their preexisting medical conditions.
Puppies are a lot more prone to motion sickness than adult dogs, just like how a human baby is compared to adults. This might be the fact that their brain and orientation are just not used to being in a moving vehicle. Those who do not ride cars often will always be more susceptible than someone who rides them frequently.
The reason why puppies are way more susceptible to car sickness is that their inner ear is not well developed, so their balance is still off. As they age and move out of their puppy phase at around 9 to 18 months depending on breed, they will become more well-coordinated.
That’s why sometimes we see dogs grow out of their motion sickness because they’re a lot more used to it as time goes on. Be patient, and take your puppy or dog in the car with you more often, and this might solve the issue in the future.
Another factor that we have mentioned is their psychological condition. A dog that is already stressed and anxious is more prone to experience motion sickness than those who are considerably happy and healthy.
They could be traumatized from the last time that they were riding in a car and they associate it with visiting the vet or other horrible experiences. This could cause their body to go into shock and anxiousness, and they will be nauseous or vomit on the way.
Lastly, your dog can be more prone to motion sickness if they already have a pre-existing condition. If they have an ear canal infection then this can be an excruciating experience for them. Their balance will be way off, and being in a moving vehicle will make it way worse.
This is because the ear is the center of balance for dogs, as it is for humans. If you are traveling for further distance, this might need to get treated immediately before you can plan on taking your dog. If not, motion sickness will be inevitable and your dog will soon show signs of nausea during the trip.
As far as the breed is concerned, there is no record of any breeds being more prone. It seems that in general all puppies, stressed dogs, and dogs that have pre-existing conditions will be more susceptible to motion sickness.
So if you have a puppy, or a mature dog that already has a preexisting condition, you should be ready with the right prevention and medication treatments that are the right kind for them. This way you can avoid hurting your pet and making a mess in your car at the same time.
What Are The Symptoms Of Motion Sickness in Dogs?
There are several symptoms that you need to look out for when you suspect your dog is having motion sickness. Although the causes of motion sickness in dogs and humans are similar, the symptoms can differ.
Keep in mind that, unlike humans, dogs are unable to express when they’re uncomfortable so always keep an eye out for your dog when you are traveling. Especially if you have a dog that is more prone to motion sickness, such as the ones we’ve mentioned in the previous part.
Generally, the symptoms are as follows:
- Excessive licking of lips. This might be dehydration or nausea setting in. Dogs will usually lick their lips when they’re either hungry, sick, or dehydrated.
- Panting. If your dog has shortness of breath or panting, this could be a sign of anxiousness and stress due to being in a moving vehicle. It’s unusual for dogs to pant excessively, especially if they’re not doing strenuous activity.
- Drooling more than usual. As we’ve explained previously, when your dog is experiencing nausea it will have hypersalivation or drool more than usual. Aside from medical conditions, hypersalivation means that they are nauseous.
- Yawning. If your dog is yawning a lot, don’t just assume that they are tired and need some rest. Yawning during a trip could mean that they are stressed and anxious.
- Restlessness. When they start to feel uneasy, your dog might be moving around in the car to express that they’re uncomfortable or to release their nervous energy.
- Whining. Your dog may also be whining since they are experiencing pain and feeling uncomfortable. Try to comfort them if they’re whining, and if they’re still doing so after several minutes there’s a good chance they have motion sickness.
- Exaggerated swallowing. This is a reaction to another symptom we’ve already mentioned. Because stressed and nauseous dogs hyper-salivate to compensate they will also be swallowing more often and in an exaggerated fashion.
- Stillness, or not moving inside the car at all. When it’s clear that they are no longer moving and not reacting to any communication you give them, then they’re trying to conserve their energy and are probably feeling very nauseous.
How To Prevent Motion Sickness In Dogs
There are ways that you can prevent motion sickness in dogs from happening. It varies from meal timing to psychological conditioning. If you have identified why your dog is experiencing motion sickness, then you can choose the best way to prevent it. If you still don’t know, then you can still try these other ways.
- Don’t feed your dog near your departure time. If your dog is experiencing motion sickness, be very nauseous and it could lead to vomiting. To minimize these risks, we suggest you not feed them right before you depart.
- Rests frequently during your road trip and taking breaks. Even we humans need breaks when we go on long journeys. Try to take breaks in between after several hours on the road.
- Distract them with something they’re interested in. This can be a toy or something else. This way, they won’t focus much on their nausea.
- Open up the windows slightly but not fully as this could pose a risk to your dog. Your car won’t feel as stuffy and they can breathe more fresh air which might help keep nausea at bay.
- Allow them to see the view outside. More often than not, people and animals are more prone to motion sickness if they are unable to see the view outside or feel like they are too enclosed. If you crack open the window, they can look out and have a view which may lessen sickness.
- Seat them with a harness for safety. By doing so, you are limiting their movement and the rocking they’ll experience during a car ride. This means they’ll be less likely to feel nauseous.
Motion sickness in dogs is surprisingly common, so you aren’t alone. To make the drive more comfortable for both of you, you can opt for medications or for more holistic approaches like natural supplements or preventative car.
As always, before administering any medicines, consult your vet thoroughly as they will know your dog’s history and be able to advise you on the best course of action. Be patient, and don’t get mad when your dog makes a huge mess in your car. They don’t mean it, and they are more miserable than you! Good luck!
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