What can I do to prevent my dog from getting carsick? She is fine for a short trip, but after 20 minutes, she gets sick.
Motion sickness is one of the undertreated problems that we see in pets. This can make a road trip a nightmare for the pets and their companions. Before trying to fix the problem, it is important to figure out what's making them to throw up in the car. Two main reasons for this are fear of the car ride and true motion sickness. The first is especially common in younger pets or newly adopted pets that have not had a lot experience in cars.
Try to get the pet used to car rides in an incremental fashion. The first few days, put her in the car for a short while without doing anything else. Once she is comfortable with this step, start the car but stay parked (with the door open for ventilation). Next time, start the car and move it a little; then the next, drive her a few blocks and come back home, again increasing the distance at a slow pace. Reward her after each step when she is calm and relaxed. At any point, if you notice her getting anxious or carsick, go back to the previous step. It could take several days until she is relaxed enough to ride without any issues.
You can also help ease the sickness by not feeding her anything at least a couple of hours before the trip; not letting her run or jump while in the car; and letting in some fresh air. Some pets will need help from medications. Your veterinarian can discuss these options and the common side effects. Alternative choices like acupuncture and ginger have some limited success, but may be helpful when the side effects from the medications are intolerable.
This week's expert is Dr. Padma Yadlapalli, Freetown Animal Hospital in Columbia. To submit a question for a local animal expert, email firstname.lastname@example.org.