Living With Animals: The Long Drive

Ken White, Peninsula Humane Society & SPCA

August 11, 2017

We Californians love our cars and live in such a beautiful part of the world. While driving trips are among my favorite travels, I’ve known plenty of car-sickness sufferers. Many claim the best antidote is simply to let them drive, which certainly begs the question: What to do when the dog gets car-sick? Our Frida happily has outgrown the problem which reportedly affects 20% of dogs, but when she was young she (and her humans) suffered through many long, miserable, smelly drives. There’s really nothing like being stuck in traffic, unable to pull off the road, when that telltale uhnk-uhnk-uhnk noise starts coming from the backseat.

Vomiting is the obvious symptom, but drooling, dry heaves, pacing, panting, whining and yawning are among the signs. There are pharmaceuticals your veterinarian can prescribe, and some vets may suggest off-label dosing with human meds (Dramamine, Benadryl), but we should always consider drugs the last option.

For those who lean organic, there are a number of dog-specific herbal teas plus home brew recipes found on-line which rely on plants I’ve found effective for my own occasional stomach upsets (chamomile, ginger root, fennel seed). Keeping the car temp cold and breezy helps, as may having Fido face forward by strapping into a doggy seatbelt. And remember, what goes in must come out so cut down food and water intake just before the trip. Invest in a car seat cover (or simply a beach towel).

Behavioral approaches can also prove very effective. If the only time Sparky gets into the car is for trips to the vet or for hours long rides on jammed highways to a vacation spot, simple angst associated with the car might be part of the problem. Try some short drives to fun destinations, and take breaks on those long trips. No reprimanding the hound who hurls (he really can’t help it!) and, whatever you do, pack paper-towels and a few plastic bags!