Did you know that dog and cat ear anatomy is very similar to ours? They have an ear drum, middle ear (with 3 tiny bones used to hear) and an inner ear (with semi-circular canals to help with balance). This also means that our pets can get car or sea sick.
The symptoms of motion sickness appear when the brain receives conflicting messages from the sensory systems: the inner ear, eyes, skin pressure receptors, and the muscle and joint sensory receptors. As an example, if a dog is in a car, their inner ears sense movement up and down, left and right, but their eyes see a static view, as if they are not moving at all. The conflict within the brain between the sensory inputs is responsible for causing the feelings of motion sickness (drooling, nausea, vomiting).
There are some over-the-counter medications that can decrease nausea in dogs and cats; one prescription (Cerenia/maropitant) is specifically labeled for car-sickness in dogs. You can also check out this website for more information: https://cerenia.com/dog-car-sickness.html
Every veterinarian wishes that their patients could talk to them – especially since with the case of motion sickness, some dogs also have a high-level of anxiety that needs to be treated. Anxiety can present with drooling and not feeling well – similar to what motion-sickness will cause. One way to address car-riding anxiety is to desensitize your pet to the carrier and the car. Short-frequent-happy visits to the car with treats or a favorite toy can over time desensitize and decrease car-riding anxiety. There are different specific medications to treat situational anxiety in dogs and cats, please give us a call to see what is best to try for your pet.
All of SWVH team wishes you a happy summer – if you need advice about how to treat your pets’ motion sickness or travel anxiety, give us a call!