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Ask Kolchak: the Carsick Blues

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Ask Kolchak is a new feature where we will do our best to answer your questions about your kibbles, dog food, dog treats and anything we think we can help with. All names have been changed, mostly for our amusement.  Do you have a question for Kolchak? e-mail us at kolchakpuggle (at) gmail (dot) com
Hey Koly,
I have a question for you. I still get car sick, not as much on shorter trips, but on long rides.  I love going with my pawrents when they go out, but the only thing that helps me not to get sick is to not eat before I go for a car ride.  Mom says that makes it hard on me cause she doesn’t want me to feel hungry all the time we are away. Do you have any suggestions to help with car sickness?
– I’ve Got the Carsick Blues

 Dear Carsick,

I hear  ya! I get totally carsick too. Isn’t it absolutely woofing awful?


You know what I hate? The way it feels like someone is wagging a tail inside my belly when I’m in the car too long. I can’t stand that feeling like I’m going to toss my cookies all over the Mama’s lap. (Although, the one time I did it, the look on her face was incredibly satisfying. It was a mix of concern, disgust and absolute horror that her new designer handbag was covered in dog yak.) 
Canine carsickness is more common than people realize. 
Us pups can’t be like “Mama, seriously. Gag me with a spoon. I don’t want to go in that death trap you call a Kia. It makes me want to vomit.” More often than not, we just mope in the car looking like you’ve stolen our favourite toy or told us that there are no more chicken snacks. Other signs of carsickness are: 
  • Inactivity/listlessness 
  • Yawning ( a sign of stress) 
  • Whining (I made the sweetest most pathetic beagle sounds.)
Google carsickness in dogs and you’ll get all sort of suggestion to help Fido enjoy the ride.
We’ve tried them all. We tried the traditional “western medicine” remedies, but to be honest, they gave me diarrhea and the Mama worried about the myriad of really scary side effects. 
Here is the real deal on a few common carsickness remedies and why we don’t use them:
diphenhydramine (Benedryl, )   This product doesn’t actually alleviate motion sickness, it just sedates your dog so that you can’t see their signs of stress. Your dog still feels sick, they just aren’t showing you. 
dimenhydrinate (Dramamine or Gravol)  This medication sedates your dog and helps relieve some of the nausea, but many versions of this product contain theophylline, a drug designed to help make the medication “non-drowsy”. Theophylline is closely related to caffeine and theobromine, neither of which are things you want your dog to be ingesting. 
Both diphenhydramine and dimenhydrinate come with some really scary side effects. They can be really hard on your liver/kidneys . Dogs who are already experiencing liver or kidney issues shouldn’t take them at all. Plus, if your human doesn’t get the dose right for your weight or if they give you the wrong versions of these medications, they can even get you high as a kite on these seemingly innocent medications. 
phenothiazine (Acepromazine)   This is tranquilizer that works by reducing dopamine levels. It has the potential to affect your heart rate or respiratory rate and it’s not recommend for travel in extreme hot or cold temperatures. Dogs are particularly susceptible to cardiovascular side effects. Just like the other two anti-nausea drugs, this one is rather tough on your liver and kidneys.
Knowing all this, the Mama was reluctant to drug me just so we could go on a pleasure jaunt to the dog park.
We started looking into more natural ways to combat motion sickness. A big part of carsickness is the excitement and anxiety that comes along with going somewhere new and having a new experience. 
To help combat the butterflies associated with travel:
  • Take frequent short trips. Run to the corner store or to the park a block away. Make sure your pup gets lots of attention and positive reinforcement** (see later note on treats). Over time, increase the time spent in the car. 
  • Buckle up Bonehead. Dogs who are firmly secured in one spot with an appropriate car safe harness are less likely to be bothered by the motion of the vehicle. 
  • Crack a window. Opening the window allows a bi of fresh air in and it stabilizes the pressure within the vehicle. Allow your dog a window seat will also help to combat nausea.
  • Travel on an empty stomach. Feed Fido a light snack or nothing at all. You can always feed him his full meal as soon as you arrive at your destination.
Often, a little desensitization and practice can go a long way. There are also things you can do to help your pup get less queasy right now.
  • Ginger Cookies – Nature has a way of curing what ails us. Ginger is a great natural anti-nausea remedy. You can make special Ginger cookies Our gingerbread recipe works great as a treat for carsick dogs
  • Ginger Pills – You can also buy ginger capsules at your local health food store. 1 – 100 mg capsule 30 minutes before you travel should help settle Fido’s stomach.
  • Rescue Remedy for Pets – If you suspect your dog’s carsickness is anxiety related, a dose of this Bach Flower Remedy helps to calm your pet and make the ride more enjoyable.
  • Vitamin B6 – Many who experience car sickness are also deficient in B vitamins. Try having a snack of tuna or calf’s liver the night before  or the morning of your car ride.
Since we started using the Ginger remedy, I’ve been a whole lot better in the car. I don’t whine or whimper anymore. I haven’t yakked on the Mama in a coon’s age. In fact, I even smile in the car now. I like it – the car takes us great places! I hope this helps Carsick. We’re thinking of you!
Are you a car sick pup? How do you combat the carsick blues?
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