Dog Car Sickness: Natural Remedies That Work

dog car sickness

Have you ever felt like you’re going to throw up when you’re riding in the car?

There are times when your dog’s tummy feels the same way! Dog car sickness is actually very common. And if your dog’s ever been anxious or 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 …

  • Nausea
  • Dizziness 
  • Vomiting 
  • Restlessness 
  • Panting 
  • Drooling 
  • Whining 

Car sickness is more common with younger dogs because their systems haven’t fully developed. In the same way children are more likely to get motion sickness than adults. Like people, most dogs will grow out of it, but some may not. 

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. 

RELATED: What’s the best way to keep your dog safe in the car?

Natural Remedies For Car Sickness

1. Herbs

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. (I’ll talk more about how to give herbs later on).

Ginger 

Ginger is well known for its anti-nausea effects. In fact, a study compared ginger to dimenhydrinate. 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, speak to your holistic vet first.

Tinctures are a convenient way to give your dog herbal remedies when on the go. If you use a herbal 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

RELATED: More reasons to have ginger in your dog’s first aid kit …

Peppermint

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 herb 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

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 

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 it for pregnant or lactating dogs. 

Give your dog 10 to 20 drops per 20 lbs body weight as needed. 

Dill

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.

RELATED: Top five herbal remedies for dogs …

2. CBD Oil 

Cannabidiol (CBD) oil comes from cannabis and hemp plants. The difference between the two is that hemp plants have much lower amounts of 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 new research shows it may also be an effective remedy for nausea and vomiting

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. The problem is you can’t simply tell your dog to do the same 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 are still able to see out the window, cover the crate with a blanket or towel). But you should only use a crate if your dog is relaxed in one. Otherwise, it could cause anxiety that could make his car sickness worse (more on that later). 

RELATED: 6 steps for crate training your puppy …

4. Fresh Air

When a dog is starting to get sick in the car, some pet 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 some fresh air. 

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. 

5. Homeopathy 

If your dog is nervous before a car ride, you can also try one of these homeopathic remedies.

Nux Vomica

Nux vomica is one of the most common homeopathic remedies. It’s often used for constipation, indigestion, irritability or general digestive upset. 

But, 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

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. You’ll see a return to the usual joy in a few minutes.

You can offer this treatment before getting into your car. It’s useful for other types of anxiety or nausea too.

Cocculus Indicus 

Cocculus indicus is a great choice when fresh air, or the smell of food, aggravate your dog’s car sickness.

If you think your dog is sick from watching everything pass by the window, try Cocculus indicus.

This natural remedy works quickly.

Tabacum

Dogs that suffer from anxiety and motion sickness benefit the most from tabacum. It works well when your dog associates negative feelings with a car ride. Like a visit to the vet, perhaps?

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.

You may also want to look for a product that combines remedies specifically for dog car sickness

Not sure about homeopathy? Here are a few tips:

  1. Choose the remedy you feel will work best and try this first. Then select another the following day if the first option doesn’t work.
  2. To give your dog a dose, 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 negate the remedy. 
  3. Crush the pellets if your dog won’t take them and 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.

Unlike drugs, homeopathic remedies don’t work by body weight. It doesn’t matter whether you give one drop (or pellet) of the remedy or five. As long as some of the remedy makes it into your dog’s mouth, you’re good.

RELATED: What is homeopathy?

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 is showing any of these symptoms, his car sickness may be because he is nervous … 

  • Chewing 
  • Crying or barking 
  • Restlessness 
  • Excessive licking 
  • Panting 
  • Trembling 

Natural Remedies For Anxiety 

If you think anxiety could be causing your dog’s car sickness, there are a few things you can do. 

1. Conditioning 

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, such as the dog 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. Homeopathy 

If your dog seems nauseous and nervous, try Argentum nitricum. This homeopathic remedy is useful for dogs who feel hurried or apprehensive. 

You can give your dog Argentum nitricum using the same methods I mentioned earlier. 

3. Rescue Remedy 

Rescue Remedy is a blend of flower essence 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 3-5 minutes apart is usually enough.

You can give doses directly from the Rescue Remedy bottle. Place the following number of drops in your dog’s water or onto his tongue. 

Small dogs … 2 drops
Medium to large dogs … 3 to 4 drops
Extra-large dogs … 4 drops 

RELATED: Learn more about flower remedies …

4. Lavender Essential Oil

Lavender essential oil is incredibly versatile. It’s used for many different problems from joint pain to insomnia. It’s also an effective natural remedy for your dog’s car sickness due to anxiety. 

In fact, one study looked at the effects of lavender oil on traveling dogs. Research showed just a small amount could calm dogs and reduce excitement. 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 very sick. 

Add 10 drops of essential oil to ½  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. 

RELATED: Beware the dangers of undiluted essential oils …

5. Herbs 

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 20 lbs body weight; divide amount into multiple doses 

You can give these alone or in combination with the herbs I mentioned for motion sickness. Again, dosing will depend on the dog, herb and application. But you can use the general rules I mentioned 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!

References

Pongrojpaw D, Somprasit C, Chanthasenanont A. A randomized comparison of ginger and dimenhydrinate in the treatment of nausea and vomiting in pregnancyJournal of the Medical Association of Thailand. 2007;90(9):1703-1709.

Wells DL. Aromatherapy for travel-induced excitement in dogsJournal of the American Veterinary Medical Association. 2006;229(6):964-967. 

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