How to Plan a Stress-Reducing Travel Schedule for a Pet with Motion Sickness?

April 16, 2024

As pet owners, you often share many aspects of your lives with your dogs. Going for a walk, playtime in the park, and sometimes even sleeping in the same bed are among the common activities you do together. However, when it comes to traveling in a car, not all pets share the same enthusiasm. Some dogs experience motion sickness, which can make any trip an anxiety-inducing ordeal for both of you. This article aims to help you understand more about motion sickness in dogs and provide practical advice on how to manage this issue so that you can plan a stress-reducing travel schedule for your pet.

Understanding Motion Sickness in Dogs

Before we delve into strategies to plan a positive travel experience for your pet who suffers from motion sickness, it’s essential to understand what this condition is and why it occurs. Motion sickness in dogs is not fundamentally different from human motion sickness. It’s a distressing condition associated with the sensation of movement, typically during car travel.

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The American Kennel Club (AKC) explains that dogs, particularly puppies, may experience motion sickness because the ear structure involved in balance isn’t fully developed. This can lead to a sense of disorientation and ultimately, nausea and vomiting. While most puppies outgrow this condition, some dogs continue to be anxious and stressed during car rides throughout their lives.

Recognizing the Symptoms and Consultation with a Veterinarian

Though your dogs can’t directly tell you they’re feeling unwell, they’ll show signs of discomfort before and during a car ride. These symptoms might include excessive drooling, whining, pacing, lethargy, vomiting, or even diarrhea. If your pet exhibits these symptoms specifically linked to car travel, they may be suffering from motion sickness.

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It’s crucial to consult with a veterinarian to confirm the diagnosis and consider possible treatment options. Your vet will guide you through the best medical, behavioral, and precautionary measures to help your dog cope with motion sickness effectively. Do not administer any medication to your pet without the vet’s prescription as it could inadvertently harm your pet.

Create a Positive Car Travel Experience

For dogs that have experienced motion sickness, the mere sight of a car can trigger stress and anxiety. It’s essential to help your pet associate car travel with positive experiences. Start by taking your pet on short, frequent car rides to places they love, like the park or a pet-friendly café.

You could also try using calming techniques such as playing soft music or providing a familiar blanket or toy in the car to make your pet feel more at home. Remember that patience is essential during this time, as it can take a while for your dog to overcome their fear of car travel.

Adjustments in Travel Schedule

Traveling with a pet who has motion sickness requires careful planning and adjustments in your travel schedule. It’s advisable to feed your pet a light meal at least a few hours before the car travel to avoid aggravating the symptoms of motion sickness.

Ensure you take frequent breaks during the journey to allow your dog to stretch, get some fresh air, and relieve themselves. This will not only help prevent nausea but also let your pet burn off some energy, which can help reduce their anxiety level.

Comfort and Safety Measures in the Car

The way your dog travels in the car can significantly impact their comfort level and susceptibility to motion sickness. Dogs should always travel in a well-ventilated crate or carrier that is securely fastened. This will not only ensure safety but also provide a secure environment, which can help reduce anxiety.

Using pet travel safety equipment like car harnesses or seat belts can also provide stability during the journey, which can help minimize motion sickness. A comfortable temperature and sufficient ventilation are also critical to prevent overheating, which can exacerbate nausea and discomfort.

Planning a stress-reducing travel schedule for a pet with motion sickness may appear daunting. However, with patience, planning, and the right approach, car travel can become a positive experience for your pet. Remember, every dog is unique, and what works for one might not work for another. It’s essential to observe your pet, understand their needs, and take a customized approach to help them cope with this condition.

Utilizing Distractions During Car Rides

A helpful strategy to lessen the impact of motion sickness on your dog is to utilize distractions during the car ride. This approach can help divert your pet’s attention from the sensation of movement, reducing the likelihood of motion sickness symptoms.

Incorporate your dog’s favorite toys or chewable items during car rides. This can keep them occupied and provide a sense of comfort and familiarity. Some dogs are comforted by the presence of another dog or familiar individual in the car. If possible, consider having a family member or friend accompany you during the journey.

Another potential distraction is the use of window screens or shades. Some dogs feel less anxious when they cannot see the passing scenery and constant motion outside. A window screen can help in such scenarios. However, always ensure that even with the use of window screens, there is adequate ventilation in the car.

Another way to distract your dog is by using calming dog music or audio books. Research has shown that certain types of music can have a relaxing effect on dogs. Experiment with different calming sounds to see what works best for your pet.

Incorporating Physical Activity Before Car Travel

Physical activity before a car ride can greatly help a dog suffering from motion sickness. A tired dog is less likely to be anxious and more likely to sleep during the car ride. Therefore, incorporating physical activities like a long walk, a visit to the dog park, or even some at-home dog sports can be beneficial.

However, be sure to give your pet enough time to rest and hydrate after the physical activity and before boarding the car. A physically exhausted dog may be more prone to motion sickness. Ensure to strike a healthy balance between physical exhaustion and mental relaxation.


Dealing with a pet suffering from motion sickness can be challenging, especially when travel is necessary. However, understanding the cause and symptoms of this condition, consulting with a veterinarian, and employing strategies to create a positive car travel experience can significantly reduce your pet’s travel anxiety.

Making adjustments in the travel schedule, ensuring comfort and safety measures in the car, utilizing distractions, and incorporating physical activity before travel can all contribute to a more pleasant car ride experience for your pet.

Remember that patience and understanding are key. It may take some time for your pet to adjust and feel comfortable during car travels. Stay observant and responsive to your dog’s needs and reactions, as this will help you figure out what works best for your pet. With the right approach, car travel can eventually become a stress-free activity both for you and your pet.