by: Renee Prindle-Jones
(Posted with permission of the author)
Whether you're a person or a pet, motion sickness is not a pleasant ride. No matter the occasion-a Sunday drive or a trip to the vet-motion sickness can strike without warning.
Some animals are unaffected, some learn to manage it and others can be conditioned to prevent it.
If your pet gets into the car and vomits, it may be true motion sickness, but there could be another diagnosis.
"It may be due to anxiety," said Dr. Shelly Rubin, public relations counsel for the American Veterinary Medical Association. "They aren't used to being in a car. They're scared, they're stressed and boom! They vomit."
In humans and animals, true motion sickness is caused by the upset of one's sense of balance. "The vestibular apparatus, which is in the inner ear-the semi-circular canals with the fluid in them-controls [an animal's] sense of balance," Rubin explained.
"That gets upset because of the motion, and then they vomit." This is the same mechanism that gives cats their incredible sense of balance that allows them to land on their feet.
Some dogs and cats are more susceptible to motion sickness than others, just like with people. Rubin said there seems to be no scientific explanation, and that "there are some that will routinely have a problem no matter what you do, and some will never have a problem."
Vomiting is one sign of motion sickness, but heavy and excessive drooling is also an indicator. The drooling, however, may be more indicative of anxiety.
"If the cause is
anxiety, we like people to try to condition their pets to riding in cars," Rubin said. "If you condition the animal appropriately with small trials every day, they get used to it."
Even the motion sickness can be relieved with desensitization. "Like anything else, if you get sick on a boat, you need to be exposed to it all the time to get yourself used to it. Constant exposure often extinguishes the problem."
Curing that woozy feeling
Pets can be given medication for anxiety and motion sickness. "Anti-histamines will help that and maybe a little tranquilizer," Rubin said. "Your veterinarian can give the appropriate dosage for that. Give it at least an hour before you travel."
Don't feed the animal for a couple of hours prior to travel, he added.
Riding in the front seat may help people, but it does little for your dog or cat. "I haven't found that to be helpful," Rubin said. "I have found in my dog's case that cracking the window so she can put her nose at it so she can get the air into her nose prevents her from vomiting." However, dogs shouldn't be allowed to stick their heads out the window-the wind could blow particles into their eyes, or, worse, they could jump out.
Alternatively, turning the air-conditioner fan up to high may provide enough cool air to be helpful. Confining a ...
... dog to the back of a vehicle without providing adequate air circulation can exacerbate the problem.
Desensitization takes a little time, but it may extinguish the problem altogether, Rubin said. Part of the problem may be that the only time your pet is in the car is when he's going to the veterinarian's office or to the groomer. Neither of these places is typically on the favorite list for pets. If the only place the animal associates with a car is somewhere he deems unpleasant, he will get nervous and excited and vomit, Rubin said.
Try this process to desensitize your pet to motion sickness:
Take your pet out to the car. Sit with him for a few minutes and allow the animal to get used to being in there. Make it a fun experience. Give him a treat, play with him and give him lots of praise when he is calm.
Put him in a crate or attach a pet seatbelt-whatever method you use to restrain and safeguard the animal in the car. Then start the car and let it run for five minutes and do the same thing again. Give lots of praise as your pet stays calm and give him time to get accustomed to the noises and vibrations.
After your pet is capable of staying calm, go out for a short trip around the block or your neighborhood. When short trips are successful, try a farther destination like a park to meet a friend's dog. Take your pet to the home
of a friend who will welcome him. Go to a pet store
that allows pets to visit. If your dog likes to swim, take him to a watering hole and enjoy a swim. It's important that pets associate being in the car with something positive. They will learn to endure a car ride if the payoff is good.
Who's pointing the finger?
If your pet's motion sickness is less severe or infrequent, examine your driving habits. If you're accustomed to driving in traffic or your human passengers occasionally suffer from motion sickness, you may need to adjust your driving style to a neighborhood mode. Try smoothing out your curves and jerking motions.
Stop periodically on long journeys. Just as for humans, a walk will help your pet regain the balance that has been upset, causing the motion sickness. Even a cat can walk on a leash if it's fitted properly, but your cat may be calmed with a good stroking.
As your pet is adjusting to going in a car, take a few things along with you. Make sure the pet lies on a towel to protect your seat and include an extra towel, paper towels, water, sealing plastic bags and spot cleaner-in case of an accident.