When you picture a dog in a vehicle, the first image you likely have is a happy pooch with paws perched on the windowsill, staring out the open window, tongue out, enjoying the scenery.
You probably imagine a dog observing the surroundings passing by outside, simply thrilled to be on an outing with their favorite person.
Unless, of course, you’re the owner of a dog suffering from motion sickness. Car rides are a little less fun for Fido when it leaves him feeling nauseated and, in some cases, vomiting.
I just happened to own one of those dogs that found traveling stressful and suffered from motion sickness. Believe me, it was not a pretty situation.
Thankfully, most pets don’t need to ride in a car often, but there are those necessary trips to the vet or kennel.
We know that Dramamine can help humans who suffer from motion sickness, but is it safe for our dogs to consume?
In this article, we’ll help you find out the best ways to protect your beloved dog from the effects of motion sickness so you can enjoy car rides with your favorite furry friend.
Table of Contents
- What Causes Motion Sickness in Dogs?
- Symptoms of Motion Sickness
- Preventing Motion Sickness with Dramamine
- Is Dramamine Appropriate for Your Dog?
- The Right Dosage of Dramamine
- Side Effects of Dramamine
- Dramamine and Overdose Risks
- Administering Dramamine
- Natural Motion Sickness Treatments
What Causes Motion Sickness in Dogs?
Motion sickness in dogs can occur for a couple of reasons. It’s more common in puppies, perhaps because the parts associated with balance in their inner ear haven’t completely developed yet.
Eventually, younger dogs grow out of motion sickness around the time they’re one year old. So if your puppy is still young, hopefully, this is a passing phase.
Puppies may also become anxious when they are placed in a vehicle because their first experience riding in a car was frightening or stressful. Therefore, they associate all car rides with that first traumatic experience.
Now, you might have an adult dog who still gets motion sickness every time you take him on a trip in your car. Adult dogs can get motion sickness due to the motion of travel, much like people.
Anxiety can also be an issue, even for grown dogs. Dogs may get anxious during car rides because they are overwhelmed with all of the unusual stimuli that they aren’t used to seeing or due to the lack of conditioning.
Additionally, if your pooch only travels to the vet a few times a year, they may negatively associate car rides with their stressful experiences there. To them, a car ride means getting taken to an unfamiliar place and getting a shot or an exam.
There could be other medical problems such as vestibular disease or ear infections that make your dog prone to nausea. A vestibular disease involves the vestibular apparatus located inside the inner ear.
Finally, your dog may be on other medications with side effects that cause diarrhea, nausea, or vomiting.
Symptoms of Motion Sickness
So, now you’re asking, “But how do I know if my dog is about to get sick in the car?” Since animals can’t tell us when they’re sick, they give off several visual cues that might include:
- Drooling excessively
- Inactivity or lethargy
- Licking lips excessively
- Shaking or trembling
- Fear of cars
- Rapid breathing
These signs can often lead to the ultimate signals of car sickness:
Of course, if your puppy experiences an episode with one or both of those two events, it is already too late and you have a mess on your hand.
So, try to keep an eye on your dog during the journey. It helps if you can have a companion in the vehicle with you so that one of you can focus on driving while the other can attend to your puppy.
If you think that your poor pup is about to get sick, stop the car and take them for a walk. A short walk may help alleviate his stress.
There are times, however, when dogs might need something more to keep them from an upsetting experience with motion sickness during a drive.
Preventing Motion Sickness with Dramamine
Dramamine, otherwise known by its generic name Dimenhydrinate, is an antiemetic and an antihistamine that humans use for motion sickness. It reduces nausea and vomiting, which are two primary symptoms of car sickness.
Dramamine is a combination of 8-chlorotheophylline, a mild stimulant, and diphenhydramine, which is the primary ingredient in Benadryl.
Dimenhydrinate prevents stimulation of the vestibular system located in the inner ear. The vestibular system is the system of the brain the detects motion. Essentially, this medicine blocks the neurotransmitters that transmit messages from the vestibular apparatus to the area of the brain that coordinates reflex actions such as swallowing and vomiting.
When humans or dogs receive too much stimulation to the vestibular system, they develop symptoms of stumbling, dizziness, vomiting, and nausea. This is, in essence, what causes motion sickness.
Is Dramamine Appropriate for Your Dog?
Several studies illustrate that many cases of motion sickness in dogs are not related to motion but rather induced by stress. Regardless of the reason for their negative reaction to car rides, you want to find the best solution for your pets.
Currently, Dramamine isn’t FDA approved for cats and dogs, but veterinarians prescribe it frequently because it has few side effects. Vets can legally prescribe it as an extra-label drug as long as your vet is sure that it’s a suitable treatment. It’s also sometimes prescribed for animals diagnosed with anxiety and utilized as a sedative.
Since traveling removes your pet from the comfortable environment that they are familiar with, you may want to speak with your vet about using Dramamine for your dog. Make sure that you provide your dog’s care provider with his complete medical history including any other medicine that he may be taking.
Discuss the symptoms that you’ve observed as well as any questions you have about your dog’s medical condition. Your veterinarian can determine if this medication is an appropriate treatment or if a more complicated medical problem might be the cause of their illness.
If your dog has any of the following medical problems, it is critical that you consult with your veterinarian:
- Urinary obstruction
- Allergies or hypersensitivity to antihistamines or Dramamine
- Intestinal or stomach obstruction
- Bladder neck obstruction
- Enlarged prostate or prostate disease
- Gastric outflow obstruction
- Nursing or pregnant
- Lung disease
- Heart disease
- Liver disease
- Kidney disease
- High blood pressure
Also, be aware that Dramamine may interact with other drugs such as:
- Central nervous system depressants
- Anticholinergic drugs
Additionally, Dramamine may decrease anticoagulant effects and it may increase the effects of Epinephrine. You will want to take all these factors into consideration before you choose to give your dog a dose of Dramamine for motion sickness.
The Right Dosage of Dramamine
Appropriate dosing for your pet is critical. Dosing depends on your dog’s breed, pre-existing medical conditions, size/weight, current medications, and other health issues. Often, medium to large dogs can take 25-50 mg of the medicine at least ½ to 1 hour before traveling. Small dogs can have 12.5 mg.
Wait at least eight hours before offering another dose. Every dog reacts to medication differently and each one will tolerate Dramamine differently.
These doses are common but consult your vet before giving these amounts to your pet. Remember, always ask your vet before giving your dog any medication.
Dramamine for Kids, chewable, or standard tablets should be okay for your pet at the right dosage. The “All Day/Less Drowsy” version of the medication should also be safe. It contains meclizine for a less drowsy and sedative effect.
Note that the “Non-Drowsy Naturals” form of the drug is not safe for dogs since it contains large amounts of ginger. Ginger is okay for dogs in small quantities but not in high concentrations.
Side Effects of Dramamine
Your dog may experience some common side effects when taking Dramamine and they include:
- Urine retention
- Dry mouth
More severe side effects may include:
- Weight loss
- Reduced appetite
- Rapid heartbeat
The severe side effects are rare, so monitor your dog to see if any of these symptoms appear. If they do, or you feel uncomfortable about the dosing, stop the medication, and consult your veterinarian. You may even want to discuss alternative treatments that would suit your pet better.
Dramamine and Overdose Risks
Please be careful when you give your dog any medication, even if it has been prescribed by a medical professional. Always make sure to medicate your pet with the appropriate dose. Watch for these symptoms and signs of an overdose in your dog:
- Urinary retention
- Extreme sedation
- Rapid heartbeat
If you think that your dog has overdosed on Dramamine, contact your vet, emergency veterinarian clinic, the Animal Poison Control Center Helpline (1-888-426-4435), or the ASPCA Pet Poison Helpline (1-800-213-6680).
Usually, you’ll be advised to induce vomiting in your dog or to take them to the closest emergency vet clinic.
Here are some general tips for administering Dramamine to your dog. Of course, follow your veterinarian’s instructions above all else. The best way to give your dog his medicine is to crush it up and mix it with his food or favorite treat.
Pill poppers are also available at pet stores or online. A pill popper is a device shaped like a tube that holds the pill or tablet in one end. Put the device into your dog’s mouth by placing the end with the pill close to the back of his throat, then release the pill.
The pill popper prevents your dog from spitting the pill out and works well for medicines that are more effective if left intact.
Timing of Doses
Dosage timing is crucial to determine the effectiveness of Dramamine for your pet’s motion sickness. The times mentioned above are based on common dosing. Half an hour to one hour before traveling is a good rule of thumb.
If you have any concerns, consult your vet for the proper timeframes to adhere to when dosing your dog. Don’t miss any doses that your vet has recommended.
How long you continue to administer Dramamine to your pet is up to your vet. Your veterinarian uses several factors to determine administration length, including how your pet responds to the drug, what medical condition your vet is treating him for, and if your dog has developed any negative reactions to Dramamine.
Continue giving your dog the full prescription of Dramamine every time you take him on a car ride unless your vet advises otherwise. You should keep administering the medicine even if your pet shows signs that he’s improving during car rides.
Continue to Monitor the Health of Your Dog
Since Dramamine was formulated with humans in mind, it’s vital to continuously monitor your dog’s response to treatment. By remaining aware of his condition and the signs of adverse side effects or reactions, you can reduce the possibility of more medical problems.
If your pet vomits after ingesting Dramamine, it may indicate that he can’t tolerate the medicine. If this occurs, discontinue use and consult your dog’s veterinarian.
Natural Motion Sickness Treatments
There are also natural treatments available that work in conjunction with Dramamine or as an alternative. You might want to try these before resorting to medication.
Short Trips and Conditioning
To relieve some of your dog’s travel anxiety, try taking short trips to places such as a close park where he can get out and walk. Short breaks help alleviate some of your pet’s anxiety.
You can also try rolling the windows down when you’re in the car. Praise your pet and reward their good behavior, which can start conditioning them to ride in a vehicle with less anxiety. Once they no longer associate traveling with negative experiences, the symptoms of motion sickness may subside.
You may start by simply placing your dog in the car and starting the engine without moving. For the next trip, start the car and back out of the driveway and then gradually work up the trip time from there. This process may take several weeks, but it can also save your pet a lot of stress and trauma.
Here are some additional tips for traveling:
- Don’t feed your pet for 12 hours before traveling. Withholding food reduces nausea and the need for frequent breaks during long trips by car, train, or plane.
- Take frequent rest stops. If you’re traveling in a car and it’s feasible, taking breaks is good for your pet.
- Give your pet special toys that are only for traveling. Special travel toys help your pet associate car rides with something fun and enjoyable.
- Use a safety harness designed for dogs or a carrier for safety. Anxious dogs panic and can cause accidents or hurt themselves. Dogs often consider carriers a safe place. This is also safer for you and anyone else in the vehicle, reducing the risk of an accident.
- Keep the vehicle quiet and cool for your dog. Play soothing music and make sure that the temperature doesn’t get too hot because that will only exacerbate nausea and anxiousness.
- Include something from home to make your pet feel comfortable. Put a blanket with your dog’s scent or yours in the car. You can even bring one of your t-shirts and lay it in the dog’s carrier.
Additional Medical Remedies
Pheromones such as Adaptil or aromatherapy scents such as lavender can also calm your dog. These scents are naturally soothing. Some herbs have a calming effect such as kava, Bach flower, valerian, skullcap, and passionflower just to name a few. Peppermint, chamomile, and small amounts of ginger also help calm your pet.
Additionally, there are other anti-nausea medicines such as Cerenia that are available by prescription. For pets with extreme anxiety, your vet may prescribe Xanax or other prescription medicines for anxiety. You should start any prescription medicines a few days to several weeks before you travel for the maximum effect.
Today, there are even vet-recommended hemp and CBD products that are safe and effective at relieving motion sickness symptoms and anxiety in pets. Canna-Pet® has all organic, high-quality hemp pet products that help with gastrointestinal disorders, nausea, and vomiting. Most well-known pet insurance companies cover these products. There are also CBD treats and oils for animals that naturally relieve the symptoms of motion sickness.
It is no secret that your pet’s health and safety is of the utmost importance. Undue stress and anxiety can be traumatic for your dog. Dramamine is an excellent choice to reduce or eliminate car sickness symptoms and make traveling much easier on your pet.
Always remember to contact your vet before giving any herbal or prescription medicine to your dog. A veterinarian can give you the best advice on how to remedy motion sickness.