Overcoming Car Sickness

Car sickness is a form of motion sickness that is caused by excessive, uneven, rhythmic motion in a car. Some doctors say this malady is caused by motion's effect on the labyrinths of the inner ear, but many other factors can bring on motion sickness. In humans, car sickness can be caused by smells and odors, physical discomfort, unsanitary conditions, suggestion, and fear. Fear has a decided effect on the dog. Psychosomatic illnesses in dogs have been well documented in veterinary literature. In severe cases, merely putting a dog in a parked car will cause salivation. Car sickness can not always be cured in humans. This may be true with some dogs, but we have never experienced it to be so.

The initial manifestation of car sickness in dogs is often an excessive amount of salivation. This is often - but not always - followed by retching and vomiting. The presence of food in the dog's stomach may increase the likelihood of car sickness. Even with only the discomfort of salivation, the dog's appearance would be sickly. He would neither be ready for the show ring nor a visit to Aunt Judy's.

Every ride for the dog should not end up with an inoculation at the veterinarian's office or tedious plucking at the grooming salon. These factors would certainly increase the incidences of psychosomatic car sickness.

The standard method for combating motion sickness in humans is to give Dramamine before the onset of the symptoms. Dramamine will cause extreme drowsiness and is unsatisfactory as a cure for dogs. The show fancier cannot arrive ready to enter his dogs in the ring if they have been given this medication. It is equally unsatisfactory for the average dog owner who wants to make his dog a true part of the family and take him along on outings.

The "sink or swim" method is not the best approach. In this method, you would take the dog out driving until the problem is cured. This is hard on the dog and on the humans who have to clean up after him. The following steps are designed to give dog owners with car sick dogs a minimum amount of work. Some of the steps can be followed when you are going out in the car anyway. If your dog is responding well, you can skip some steps and proceed more rapidly. It will depend upon how severe the problem is. Proceed when your dog seems blase with the present step.

How to Cure Car Sickness

  1. Put your dog in your parked car. Praise him, pet him, reassure him. Make him feel it's a party. Do not start the motor. After a few minutes, take him for a walk and then home. Do this twice a day for a few days.

  2. Take Fido out to dinner...that is, out of the house and into your car. At his normal feeding time, put him in the car and give him his chow. After a few trys, leave the car and let him eat there alone. Come back, praise him and walk him as soon as he finishes eating. If he won't eat with you gone, take your favorite magazine and keep him company. Try this for one week.

  3. Now put Fido in the car, turn your engine on, make sure the window is cracked so that he has air and talk to him. Tell him "The Three Bears", shut off the motor, and take him out. Always praise him for sitting in the car.

  4. Increase your warm up - motor on, car parked. Tell him a longer story. Praise and go home.

  5. Time for a spin. Proceed as above and go for a very short ride. Talk to him, reassure him, praise him when you get home. Do this for a few days.

  6. Now you can start to take Fido on your short errands. When running out to the drugstore or for the Sunday papers, take him for a ride. When you get to your destination, take him with you. Tell him he's terrific - and drive him home. If he begins to salivate while you're driving, pull over and stop for a few minutes, then proceed. A nice walk before the trip home will relax him and make it all worthwhile for him as well. He'll look forward to the next journey.

  7. Continue slowly until you can take him on longer and longer trips.

Final Tips

A. Don't feed your dog before you work with him in the car. Except when feeding him in the car, let him look forward to dinner immediately after the lesson.

B. Always leave the window open for enough fresh air but NOT enough for him to jump out.

C. As he progresses so that he can go for short runs, take him whenever you can...on chores, for a short visit to friends, for a fill-up at the gas station. Work his rides into your normal routine whenever possible. Happy motoring!