Dog car sickness is common. And if your dog’s ever thrown up in the backseat, you’ve probably already realized that.
So, what actually causes this reaction? And is there any way to stop it?
Why Do Dogs Get Car Sickness?
Car sickness happens when the motion of a vehicle interacts with the nervous system. It’s an imbalance between what your dog is seeing and what he feels.
Dogs sense motion through their inner ears, they see it with their eyes and they feel it with their bodies. Intentional movements create specific inputs that allow for coordinated responses. When movement occurs without intention, then motion sickness can start.
If your dog is feeling motion sick from being in the car, he will show symptoms …
Car sickness is more common with younger dogs because their systems haven’t fully developed … just as children are more likely to get motion sickness than adults. Like people, most dogs will grow out of it, but some don’t.
The good news is, there are several natural remedies that are perfect for dog car sickness. You may even have some at home in your cabinets right now.
Natural Remedies For Car Sickness
If your dog has an upset stomach and is vomiting, here are some herbs you can try. You can give them to your dog separately or in combination, as described later in the post.
Ginger is well known for its anti-nausea effects. In fact, a study compared ginger to dimenhydrinate (1). Dimenhydrinate is in popular nausea drugs like Dramamine for dogs and humans. In humans, ginger was as effective as conventional drugs and had fewer side effects.
Caution: Don’t use ginger for dogs undergoing surgery, on blood thinners or going into labor. For pregnant dogs or dogs with diabetes or heart conditions, talk to your holistic vet first.
Tinctures are a convenient way to give your dog herbal remedies when on the go. If you use a ginger tincture, use the following dosages …
1 to 10 lbs … 1 to 3 drops, 2 to 3 times daily
10 to 20 lbs … 3 to 5 drops, 2 to 3 times daily
20 to 50 lbs … 5 to 10 drops, 2 to 3 times daily
50 to 100 lbs … 20 drops, 2 to 3 times daily
Over 100 lbs … adult human dose
Peppermint calms the muscles in your dog’s stomach, which can help ease nausea and flatulence.
Caution: Don’t give your dog undiluted peppermint essential oil. It’s highly concentrated and can cause liver or kidney problems. You also shouldn’t use peppermint in combination with homeopathic remedies.
You can give peppermint as an infusion. Steep 2 tbsp of dried herb in 8 oz of almost boiling water for 20 to 30 minutes while covered. Strain the infusion and cover to let it cool. Give your dog the following amount of tea based on his size …
Small dog … 1 tsp, 2 to 3 times daily
Medium dogs … 2 tsp, 2 to 3 times daily
Large dogs … 1 Tbsp, 2 to 3 times daily
Extra-large dogs … 2 Tbsp, 2 to 3 times daily
Catnip isn’t just for cats … you can also use it to help with your dog’s upset stomach. Catnip has a sedative effect on dogs, so it can help calm nerves and make them feel more restful.
Caution: Catnip seeds are not safe for dogs. Products made from leaves, stems and flowers are safe for dogs.
To give your dog catnip add 12 drops of tincture to your dog’s water. If your dog doesn’t respond, try adding another 6 drops at a time until your dog seems calm.
Fennel has a similar effect to catnip when used for digestive issues. It’s also a great option for dogs who don’t like the taste of peppermint and other mints.
Caution: Don’t use fennel for pregnant or lactating dogs.
Give your dog 10 to 20 drops per 20 lbs body weight as needed.
Dill is also an effective anti-nausea herb. Its compounds work like an antigas remedy to reduce stomach upset.
Caution: Don’t use it for pregnant or lactating dogs.
To give dill to your dog, make dill seed tea. Add 1 tsp of dill seed to 8 oz of boiling water. Once cooled, give your dog 2-8 oz before you head out.
2. CBD Oil
Cannabidiol (CBD) oil comes from cannabis and hemp plants. The difference between the two is that hemp plants have almost no THC (tetrahydrocannabinol). THC is what causes psychoactive properties. If you give your dog products made from hemp, he’ll enjoy the calming effects of the CBD without getting “high”.
CBD has many different benefits. Research has studied its use for seizures, cancer, pain relief and mood disorders. But research at Canada’s Guelph University shows it may also be an effective remedy for nausea and vomiting (2).
As an added bonus, CBD oil can help ease anxiety. And, as you’ll find out later in this post, anxiety can be a factor in your dog’s car sickness.
RELATED: How CBD oil calms anxious dogs …
3. Use A Crate
A major contributor to motion sickness is watching the world fly by the window. For people, the solution is simple – look out the front windshield. Of course, you can’t simply tell your dog to do that and expect him to understand.
That’s where a crate comes in. If your dog is in a crate it will stop him from being able to look out the windows and may help reduce his motion sickness. (For dogs who can still see out the window, you can cover the crate with a blanket or towel). But … only use a crate if your dog is crate trained and relaxes in it. Otherwise, it could cause anxiety that could make his car sickness worse.
4. Fresh Air
When a dog is starting to get sick in the car, some owners will immediately open a window. For some dogs, this can ease car sickness by helping to balance the air pressure in the car. Not to mention that the smells of the outside world can be distracting.
But for other dogs, opening the window can make their car sickness worse.
If your dog starts to show signs of car sickness, try cracking the window to let fresh air in. If it doesn’t seem to be helping or makes his symptoms worse, keep the windows closed. Instead, make frequent stops to give your dog a break and get fresh air with a short walk.
You also want to watch the temperature. Warmth can worsen car sickness. Turn down the heat a bit or turn on the AC to help cool things down. Watch your dog to see if it helps ease his symptoms.
Homeopathic remedies can be very effective for car sickness.
Nux vomica is one of the most common homeopathic remedies. It’s often used for constipation, indigestion, irritability or general digestive upset. And it’s also one of the best treatment options for dog car sickness.
Give your dog this remedy if he looks like he could be sick. It treats vomiting and sour stomach issues effectively.
Sepia works exceptionally well with senior dogs. It can also work to lift your dog’s spirits if he feels anxious about going for a drive.
The impact of this homeopathic remedy is often immediate for your dog. If the remedy’s a good fit for him, you’ll see a return to his usual joy in a few minutes.
You can dose this remedy before getting into your car. It’s useful for other types of anxiety or nausea too.
Cocculus indicus is a great choice when fresh air or the smell of food aggravates your dog’s car sickness. If you think your dog is sick from watching everything pass by the window, try Cocculus indicus.
This remedy also works quickly.
If your dog seems nauseous and nervous, try Argentum nitricum. This homeopathic remedy is useful for dogs who feel hurried or apprehensive.
You may also want to look for a product that combines remedies specifically for dog car sickness.
How To Use Homeopathic Remedies
For all the above remedies, go with a 6C or 30C potency. You can give these 30 minutes to 1 hour before travel and repeat while en route.
Here’s how to dose the remedies.
- Choose the remedy with the best-fitting description for your dog, and try it first. If the first option doesn’t work within an hour, switch to the next best-fitting remedy. If it helps but the improvement doesn’t last, re-dose as needed.
- To give your dog a dose, for any size dog, tip 3-5 pellets in your dog’s mouth, in the cheek area. You want them to melt on the gums. Try not to touch the pellets with your hands as this can antidote the remedy.
- Sometimes it’s easier to give a wet dose. Mix them in a dropper bottle of filtered or spring water before you go driving. Shake the bottle or pound it on your palm 10 times before dosing. You can use a dropper to place liquid directly on the gums. If you add about 10% alcohol (like vodka or brandy) to the bottle, it’ll preserve the remedy for years. Otherwise it’ll last 2-3 days without alcohol. Don’t refrigerate it.
Unlike drugs, homeopathic remedies don’t work by body weight. No matter what size your dog is, it doesn’t matter whether you give one drop (or pellet) of the remedy or five. As long as some of the remedy touches your dog’s mucous membranes (like his gums), you’re good.
When Car Sickness Isn’t Really Car Sickness
Sometimes it isn’t the motion that makes your dog sick, but the anxiety he feels being in your car. The problem is, symptoms of anxiety-induced car sickness look just like motion sickness. But there are some key differences. If your dog shows any of these symptoms, his car sickness may be because he is nervous …
- Crying or barking
- Excessive licking
Natural Remedies For Anxiety
If you think anxiety could be causing your dog’s car sickness, there are a few things you can do.
The first thing you want to do is get your dog used to being in the car. Take him on more frequent short car rides … Even if it’s just around the block. This should help your dog get more comfortable with the experience.
You may also want to take him on longer trips to places he likes, like a local park. This will help him associate car rides with positive feelings. This can ease his anxiety.
Try saving special toys your dog gets only for travel. This gives him a fun distraction that may reduce his nervousness.
If these tricks don’t work, you can try some of the following home remedies.
2. Rescue Remedy
Rescue Remedy is a blend of flower essences you can give right before getting in the car to ease your dog’s anxiety. If you feel your dog needs more during the ride, you can repeat the doses as needed. Three doses given 3 to 5 minutes apart is usually enough, but you can’t overdose flower essences, so give more if needed.
You can give doses directly from the Rescue Remedy bottle. Place 3-4 drops in your dog’s water or onto his tongue.
3. Lavender Essential Oil
In fact, one study looked at the effects of lavender oil on traveling dogs. The research showed just a small amount could calm dogs and reduce excitement (3). As an added bonus, it can help limit the effects of motion while traveling.
How To Safely Use Lavender Oil
If you’re using lavender oil (or any essential oil), you must dilute it in a carrier oil. Otherwise, you could make your dog sick, as undiluted essential oils are very powerful.
Add 3 to 6 drops of essential oil to 1 oz of the carrier oil of your choice. Good carrier oils include almond oil, avocado oil or jojoba oil.
Put a few drops on a blanket and bring it in the car with your dog.
There are other essential oils that can help with anxiety. Find some recipes here.
There are also a few herbs you can use to help calm your dog’s anxiety. Valerian is a good choice as it will relax your dog, as well as calm his nervous stomach.
You can use a tincture and put it on food or water. It can also be placed directly in your dog’s mouth.
1 to 20 lbs … 1-4 drops, 2-3 times daily
20 to 50 lbs … 5-10 drops, 2-3 times daily
50 to 100 lbs … 10-20 drops, 2-3 times daily
Other herbs that can act as mild sedatives include …
- Oatstraw – 1 to 2 ml per 20 lbs daily of body weight; divide amount into multiple doses
- Skullcap – 0.5 ml of tincture per 20 lbs body weight, up to 3 times daily for up to a week
- Passionflower – 0.5 to 1.5 ml of tincture per 25 lbs body weight; divide amount into multiple doses
You can give these alone or in combination with the herbs mentioned earlier for motion sickness. Again, dosing will depend on the dog, herb and application. But you can use the general rules described earlier.
Going for a ride should be fun. With these natural treatment options for dog car sickness, you’ll help everyone have a great time on the road!
- Pongrojpaw D, Somprasit C, Chanthasenanont A. A randomized comparison of ginger and dimenhydrinate in the treatment of nausea and vomiting in pregnancy. Journal of the Medical Association of Thailand. 2007;90(9):1703-1709.
- Parker LA, Rock EM, Limebeer CL. Regulation of nausea and vomiting by cannabinoids. Br J Pharmacol. 2011;163(7):1411-1422.
- Wells DL. Aromatherapy for travel-induced excitement in dogs. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association. 2006;229(6):964-967.