Motion sickness affects between 20% and 50% of pets. If undiagnosed and untreated, motion sickness can lead to fear and anxiety and cause behavioral problems before the pet even gets in a car or plane. It can even happen during a 5-minute drive to the vet. How can you help a dog who suffers from motion sickness?
First, learn to recognize the symptoms:
- Excessive drooling
- Lip licking
- Inactivity or immobility
There are two main approaches to relieving dogs of motion sickness—desensitization techniques and medication. Desensitization techniques target the behavioral problems that result from motion sickness; begin with letting the dog sit in a motionless car while giving praise and positive reinforcement when they are calm, and work up to short trips to fun places such as the dog park.
However, if it is true motion sickness, antiemetic drugs are the most helpful solution. Maropitant citrate (Cerenia, zoetisus.com) is the only FDA-approved drug targeting motion sickness-induced vomiting in companion animals. There is a tablet and injectable form for dogs, as well as an injectable formulation for cats. Maropitant citrate does not sedate the animal unlike extra-label prescriptions for motion sickness in humans, such as meclizine (Bonine, wellspringpharm.com) and dimenhydrinate (Dramamine, prestigebrands.com).
The signs of motion sickness may not immediately alarm you but if the symptoms endure every time your pet has to get in a vehicle, then it is worth a conversation with your veterinarian. The comfort of your pet and the happiness of your family is important in the human-animal bond.