Car Sick Dog to Grandma's House

Car Sick Dog to Grandma's House

Q: Grandma lives three states away. We plan to visit her this summer and would like to take Sadie along. Unfortunately, Sadie gets sick in the car. She's excited when we say, "Let's go for a ride," but the moment she gets in the car, she pants, drools, whines and sometimes gets sick to her stomach. Any suggestions? -- D.L., Aurora, IL

A: I assume Sadie is a dog. Begin by purchasing some products which will make your job easier. Start by asking your veterinarian about Cerenia, a drug which effectively eases motion sickness. As long as your dog is feeling sick in the car, there's not much you can do to help her.

Next, buy an Adaptil collar, Adaptil spray (both are a 'knock off' of a calming pheromone) and a ThundersShirt, a vest that fits snuggly around a dog's chest.

The ThunderShirt will serve several purposes. One is to help ease Sadie's anxiety Fitting snuggly around the dog's body, somehow Thundershirts help relieve uneasiness in many dogs. Another purpose is to re-condition Sadie to car rides. When she's wearing a ThunderShirt, car rides will no longer be associated with queasiness.

Before Sadie goes anywhere near the car, first acclimate her to a ThunderSshirt in the house; whenever she has it on, she gets fed and played with. After food 'n fun, take off the ThunderShirt. It's important for Sadie to begin to associate the ThunderShirt with impending excitement. It may take a few weeks before your dog makes that association.

Now, ask your veterinarian about a nutritional supplement called Anxitane, which also helps sooth tattered nerves. Give your dog Cerenia about an hour before putting her in the car for her first behavior modification practice session.

Put on the Adaptil collar and leave it on throughout the training period (easier than putting it on and taking it off for every car ride). Spray Adaptil on the back seat of the car before departing (test on fabric first).

Return to fetch Sadie, put on her ThunderShirt and take her to the car. Either using a toy or treats, play a new game by asking her to jump into the car, and then out several times in a row. Surprise her with some treats on the back seat. That's it, then return to the house. Don't give Sadie any opportunity to not like the car.

After several days of these car play sessions, when Sadie is looking forward to the game, close the car door with her inside and start the engine, but don't go anywhere. Now, return to the house for Sadie's regular meal. Sadie will associate even a brief visit with the car with the meal that happens after.

Next time, play with Sadie a little in the car, offer her treats on the back seat, and drive down the driveway five or 10 feet. Then go back in the house for another meal.

If Sadie continues to do fine with this routine - and I'm betting she will - drive down the block, continuing to  return promptly for a meal, so the car ride is further associated with something good. If Sadie begins to drool, whine or act anxious in any way while riding in the car, you need to back things up a step.

Other tools, which help some dogs, include a soft kind of Elizabethan collar often used post-surgically so dogs can't scratch (brands include the Kong EZ Collar or Buster Collar). Also, some small dogs feel more secure in safety seats.

If Sadie is happy, gradually extend the length of the practice rides. If she enjoys playing with other pets, a good destination might be a pet store or dog park. Once Sadie is OK with car rides to the park, Grandma's house might be next.

Over time, most dog owners can ease off Cerenia. Dogs with severe motion sickness may need Cerenia for all car rides, or dogs with milder cases might be fine scarfing down a few ginger cookies (for dogs).

©Steve Dale PetWorld, LLC; Tribune Content Agency


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