Understanding Canine Motion Sickness

As the summer comes to an end, many of us will be traveling to fun places and hoping to bring our dogs with us. In fact, a recent study showed many pet parents travel with their pets every year! It turns out most of us take our dogs with us on daily errands (bank, gas station, coffee, etc), and nearly half of us bring our dogs along on weekend trips.2

Sadly, these activities with our furry friends can be impacted if that dog suffers from motion sickness.  A 2018 study found that nearly half of dog owners (48 percent) say their dog experiences some signs of motion sickness when traveling in a car.2 This has a significant impact on the relationship between the pet parent and dog, because frequently they cannot go on trips together as often, or sometimes not at all.  This is unfortunate and leads to feelings of sadness and guilt for having to leave our dogs behind.

What exactly is motion sickness?  Some call it “car sickness,” however it is not limited to riding in automobiles. Just as in people, some dogs do not feel well when they ride in cars, planes, or even on boats. Of course, dogs are individuals, so not all dogs will suffer from the same condition to the same degree. The most common symptom we tend to think about is vomiting, however there are many other signs and symptoms that dogs can exhibit, either alone or in combination, that can still be related to motion sickness. These include4:

  • Drooling
  • Dry heaving
  • Excessive lip licking
  • Excessive panting
  • Inactivity
  • Pacing
  • Restlessness
  • Shaking
  • Vomiting
  • Whining
  • Yawning

What might surprise you is that motion sickness can also be related to fear and anxiety. This occurs when the areas of the brain responsible for motion sickness combine with the area of the brain responsible for memories of fear and anxiety from previous experiences.5,6 That means it is important to pay close attention to the onset of signs that could indicate motion sickness and note any correlations with travel, including anxiety or avoidance behavior like resistance to getting in the car. Sharing this information with your veterinarian can help determine the right treatment so that we can stop our pups from experience this distress and prevent if form getting worse.

Even though many dogs suffer from this condition, only a handful of pet parents who notice the symptoms will report them to their veterinarian.7 These dogs are truly suffering, and early recognition is key to long term success.  Fortunately, there are ways to alleviate this distress, and discovering them starts with reaching out to your veterinarian. Ask about Cerenia® (maropitant citrate), which is the number one choice among veterinarians for the prevention of vomiting due to motion sickness in dogs8 and does not make your dog drowsy. Finally, your veterinarian can also discuss behavioral conditioning and work with you to find ways to keep your furry friend by your side.

IMPORTANT SAFETY INFORMATION:

Use CERENIA Tablets for acute vomiting in dogs 2 months and older, and for prevention of vomiting due to motion sickness in dogs 4 months and older. Safe use has not been evaluated in cats and dogs with gastrointestinal obstruction, or those that have ingested toxins. Use with caution in cats and dogs with hepatic dysfunction. Pain/vocalization upon injection is a common side effect. In people, topical exposure may elicit localized allergic skin reactions, and repeated or prolonged exposure may lead to skin sensitization. See full Prescribing Information.

References

  1. 2017–2018 National Pet Owners Survey conducted by the American Pet Products Association (APPA).
  2. ZMR: Omnibus study Motion Sickness and Noise Aversion 2018.
  3. ZMR: Cerenia Owner AU Report-Jan 2018.
  4. Conder GA, et al. Efficacy and safety of maropitant, a selective neurokinin 1 receptor antagonist, in two randomized clinical trials for prevention of vomiting due to motion sickness. J Vet Pharmacol Ther. 2008;31(6):528-532.
  5. Yates B, et al. Physiological basis and pharmacology of motion sickness: An update. Brain Research Bulletin, 1998 47(5), pp.395-406.
  6. Encarnación H, et al. Vomiting. Compendium: Continuing Education for Veterinarians. March 2009.
  7. ZMR: Brand Health 2018 Emesis and Motion Sickness.
  8. ZMR: Cerenia Motion Sickness Incidence by Symptom 2012.

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