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There’s nothing better than taking your best four-legged friend to the park, hiking trail, or camping for the weekend! And your dog loves spending time with you too - once they’re out of the car. But the journey itself can be nauseating and stressful on dogs, especially dogs that suffer from car sickness and/or anxiety triggered by car rides.
What Is Car Sickness?
Car sickness is caused when the brain is overstimulated by sensory inputs that contain conflicting information. It receives signals from the inner ears, eyes, and nerves in the joints and muscles, and it uses these to calculate what is happening to and around the body. When riding in a vehicle, some of these signals don’t seem to line up.
One common example of motion sickness occurring in humans is when you are trying to read in the car. Your inner ear senses motion, but your eyes and body do not sense the same signals. This conflicting information can trigger an onset of nausea, loss of appetite, or vomiting. It can help to look out the front of the car for a while because it gives your brain more consistent, harmonious series of signals.
In dogs, the brain works the same way to interpret signals about motion and location. As their human, your trouble is not being able communicate to them what is happening or how to calm down. If you have a puppy who is experiencing car sickness, they may grow out of it as their inner ear finishes developing, but some dogs never outgrow the effects.
How Do I Know If My Dog Has Car Sickness?
Some symptoms of car sickness in dogs are also symptoms of anxiety. The good news is that CBD can relieve both ailments, whether your dog’s symptoms are caused by car sickness, car anxiety, or anxiety brought on by the discomfort of car sickness.
Signs and Symptoms
- Your dog may shake or shiver as though they are cold. Dogs often do this when uncomfortable or anxious. If there is a human passenger in the back seat, offering a reassuring hug may help, but if the discomfort is too great this will not stop the symptom. Sometimes this can backfire by reinforcing the response as well.
- Pacing back and forth from window to window incessantly, or even spinning in circles in the back seat, is another symptom. They may also briefly sit or lie down on the seat, only to jump back up and begin pacing a few seconds later.
- Whining is one way for your pup to express that they are uncomfortable or unsure of what is happening. This author has a boxador (boxer/laborador) who doesn’t typically make much noise, but she has learned to yawn when she needs to whine because it makes a similar sound. Every dog will find their own way to express their needs and concerns.
- Your dog may start panting and/or drooling as they become more uncomfortable or nervous.
- An upset, gurgling stomach, or possibly even vomiting, is a fairly certain way to diagnose your dog’s car sickness. If your dog is prone to these symptoms in the car, you can be confident that road trips make them miserable.
- If the car ride is long enough, your dog’s stomach may become so upset that they begin experiencing diarrhea. Nobody wants things to get to that point.
An added concern is that, if these symptoms are left alone, it can cause the potential of distracted driving. It’s hard to keep your focus on the road when your pup is struggling and you can’t help.
How Is Car Sickness Treated?
- You can always try to keep your dog at home, but even if you are able to minimize the number of car rides your dog experiences, there are some trips that are unavoidable.
- Letting some fresh air in the car can help settle an uneasy stomach, but this may not solve the problem or even be a feasible option depending on the weather.
- Antihistamines have been used to treat car sickness in both humans and dogs for years by helping the body and brain regulate a sense of balance. They block histamines from delivering the contradicting signals that cause nausea, so they should be taken before the trip starts. Side effects of common anti-nausea antihistamines, like Dramamine, may include dry mouth and drowsiness.
- A high-quality, natural CBD oil may relieve both the symptoms of car sickness and the anxiety it can cause with relatively little to no side effects. Every dog will experience CBD differently, so talk to your veterinarian about whether they think it might be a good option.
Does CBD Work For Dogs With Car Sickness?
CBD has been shown to suppress both nausea and anxiety in animals. One effect of CBD is that it modulates cortisol (the stress hormone) levels. During one study, the cortisol level of dogs who took CBD before a car ride was measured and compared to a group of dogs who did not have CBD administered. The group that had CBD was reported to have significantly lower cortisol levels after the trip. Whether your dog’s symptoms are brought on by car sickness or by anxiety, CBD can reduce the symptoms they experience during vehicle travel. Additionally, one reason your dog experiences nausea could be that they are anticipating the car sickness from past rides, and have now learned to associate car rides with feeling sick. This is called “anticipatory nausea,” and the association can lessen if the nausea is relieved for a while. CBD has also been shown to be effective in reducing anticipatory nausea.
What CBD Is Best for My Dog’s Car Sickness?
A THC-free CBD should be used since THC is currently thought to be toxic to dogs. Choosing a third-party, lab-verified CBD oil provides peace of mind for owners who prefer high-quality products to help their dog.
A well-formulated under-the-tongue oil has been shown to be the best form of CBD for dogs since they can absorb CBD directly through the tissues in their mouth.
Relievet makes oils that are THC-free, easy to dose, and specifically designed for weight-based dosing. Current studies on dosing CBD are weight-based, meaning CBD is given specific to how heavy your dog is. CBD is usually dosed at 1-4mg/kg, and this is the dose Relievet recommends most of the time.
If your dog cannot or will not take drops under the tongue, the next best options are to use our weight-based treats or to put the oil on food or a treat your dog likes. Our oils are very palatable and go well with any dog treats or foods.
What Can I Expect After My Dog’s Car Sickness Is Treated?
If you are reading this article searching for ways to relieve your puppy’s car sickness, there is a chance that they will grow out of it with time and will not need continued aid. If your dog is experiencing anticipatory nausea due to association, this may also be relieved if the nausea is appreciated for some time. However, some dogs never grow out of their car sickness, and these pups will need some extra assistance whenever they buckle in for a ride. That’s one reason why it makes sense to discuss discuss natural options, such as high-quality CBD oil, with your veterinarian.
Car sickness is a common struggle for dogs, especially puppies. While you may be able to limit the trips your dog has to take, many owners find it useful to have a backup plan to provide a calming effect (and hopefully avoid a backseat full of drool and vomit). In order to keep your dog calmer and more comfortable, try discussing THC-free, lab-verified CBD as an option with your veterinarian as it can directly combat the symptoms of car sickness and anxiety.