German Shepherd in car - travel sickness

I think my young dog might suffer from travel sickness, as a few times recently on fairly long journeys she has been ill in the back of the car. Is there anything we can give her before we take a trip to stop this happening?

Wolfgang Dohne advises…

This is a very common problem, especially with young dogs who are not used to travelling in a car. It is probably caused by a combination of anxiety (in some puppies) and an abnormal stimulation of the vestibular system in the inner ears. The constant movement of the car causes dizziness and nausea comparable with seasickness in humans. Strong petrol or diesel fumes in the car can also make matters worse.

Thankfully, there is a whole range of things you can do to improve this problem and I find that most dogs grow out of it with time.

The first thing to avoid is feeding your dog before a car journey. If you know that your dog is likely to be sick, a full stomach will not help. Make sure that your puppy has something to drink and not more than just a small meal (if very young), or no food at all if already older than three or four months.

It is also sensible to avoid any longer car journeys if possible, as they will not be enjoyable for your dog and also not for you.

Start with getting your puppy used to the car slowly: put the puppy into the car for a few minutes a couple of times a day without even moving the car. You might even give a treat when you get the puppy out of the car again.

Once the puppy is a bit more accustomed to the car itself, go for very short journeys – just a couple of minutes around the block – and get the puppy out again. Avoid fast acceleration or hard braking and increase the journey times slowly.

The jury is still out on whether the puppy’s place in the car makes a difference. There is generally less movement on the backseat in the middle of the car than in a cage in the rear, but please make sure that you have strapped your canine companion in a well-fitted safety harness before transporting him.

If this is not helping or if a longer journey cannot be avoided, speak to your vet and ask for some travel sickness tablets. They work very well in nearly all dogs, but they have to be taken an hour before a journey. They have virtually no side effects and most dogs will only need them for longer journeys.

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