Traveling in the car with pets – for some, it’s a simple, everyday occurrence, but for others, it’s an epic struggle. Panting, whining, drooling, shaking, lip licking, vomiting and diarrhea are some of the symptoms that your dog is suffering from motion sickness in the car. As a result, some dogs do not even like approaching the car and will refuse to go in.

All this makes car travel with your dog a stressful experience for all involved. To help, here are four tips to help your dog tolerate, and perhaps even learn to love the car.

Golden Retriever in back seat of car

Start with Quick Trips

For puppies and dogs with motion sickness or general car anxiety, it’s important to start slow. Introduce your dog to the car by playing with her around it and then inside of it, without the engine running. With these positive associations in place, you can start letting her into the car with the engine running. After this point, you can finally start driving, starting with short trips around the block.

It may take several days or weeks for your dog to adjust, so remember to be patient and keep a calm and positive demeanor throughout. This process may be slow and painstaking at times, but it is teaching your dog the important lesson that the car is not a scary place but something that can be fun and exciting!

Dog jumping out of the back of an SUV

Make Sure C-A-R Doesn’t Equal V-E-T

Think about it – you’re a puppy, and you’re taken away from your mother and put into a loud, scary machine that moves very fast. You recover from this first trip, get settled into your new forever home. Then you are put into that metal beastly thing again and transported to the vet’s office, where you are poked and prodded in an exam room. After all that, it’s no wonder that you don’t look forward to the next car ride!

Make sure to take car trips with your dog to fun places that he enjoys, like the dog park or Grandma’s house. This will help him replace those early, scary associations with positive ones.

DogWatch dog Lucy in the car

Invest in a Car Seat, Harness or Crate

If you suffer from motion sickness, you know that shifting focus down and side-to-side is more likely to make you sick than if you keep your focus straight ahead. The same is true for dogs. Your pup’s anxiety may cause her to pace or jump about in the car, which isn’t helping the situation and presents safety hazards for both dog and driver.

Luckily, there are plenty of options on the market than can help with this problem. Small dogs can be buckled into a special dog car seat – a square, padded bucket seat with clips that attach to the dog’s harness and the car seat. Dogs of all sizes can wear a harness that attaches to a seat belt, keeping them safer and more secure throughout the ride. A third option is to crate your dog in the car, which not only reduces her movement but also may help reduce her anxiety by giving her a familiar refuge from the sights, sounds and motions of the vehicle. All these products have the added advantage of reducing your likelihood of being distracted by your dog during driving.

Black pug chewing red and black plush toy

Less Food, More Toys

Calming your nervous pup with treats may at first seem like a logical solution, but remember, filling his stomach with food when he’s dealing with motion sickness may lead to more vomiting and diarrhea. If possible, your dog should travel on an empty stomach.

Reward your dog with a toy instead. Make it one he loves, and one he only gets to play with in the car. Again, this helps associate car rides with fun times and positive outcomes.


For more information about car sickness in dogs, check out these resources:

American Kennel Club

Cesar’s Way

VCA Animal Hospitals