Car sickness is a common problem in both cats and dogs in Alta Loma, Rancho Cucamonga, Upland, Ontario, Claremont, Fontana and the rest of the Inland Empire, particularly when they are young. The key to overcoming carsickness is to “condition” your pet to enjoy being in the car. If behavioral conditioning doesn’t work, we have drugs, which can help to reduce the nausea and vomiting, however, it is difficult to give drugs every time you want to take a ride with the pet, particularly since most of the drugs need to be given 1-2 hours before you begin your trip.
In order to desensitize your pet to the car:
- First allow them in the car for “fun” time without it moving. Take them in the car with the doors open and bring their toys and just let them play with you in the car. Praise them copiously and offer a small treat after 5 –10 minutes of good behavior.
- At the first sign of discomfort (vocalizing, salivating or retching, take them out of the car and simply sit with them near the car. Repeat this exercise 2 times daily for 2-3 days until you are sure the pet can be in the car for 20-30 minutes without reacting.
- Next, do the same exercise, but this time start the engine of the car (doors still open). If your pet does not react adversely to the engine noise for 5-10 minutes, try closing 1 door at a time. Again, at the first sign of discomfort, stop the engine and take the pet out of the car.
- Once you can close all the doors in the car with the engine running without your pet having an adverse reaction, you can try driving a short distance 30 seconds or so (say down the block). If the pet is doing well, reward the behavior with a treat. At the first sign of discomfort, stop the car, open the windows and attempt to play with your pet. Take the pet out of the car for a few minutes if necessary until he/she is calmed down then try slowly again.
- Eventually the time in the car is increased so the pet associates the car with being in a fun place. During this time, it is important that the owner teaches the puppy what is appropriate car riding etiquette (not jumping up or running around). If, at any point, the dog shows signs of fear or nausea the training should be stopped and resumed at a point the dog can tolerate.
- Appropriate desensitization takes many weeks to months and occurs so slowly that the dog barely notices a change. This systematic desensitization works well for any puppy or dog who vomits because of anxiety or fear.
- If your pet is vomiting due to nausea caused by fear or anxiety this program of desensitization is likely to be successful. Some pets get nauseous due to problems arising from the balance center (vestibular center) in the ear. Pets who are vomiting due to this issue may only respond to drugs to stop the nausea.
- For these pets, we generally recommend a drug called Cerenia. This drug stops nausea from all sources in the body. In order to be effective, it must be given 1-2 hours prior to travel. The drug can be given with a small amount of food, but not a full meal.