TRAVEL AND THE QUEASY TUMMY (Musings on Motion Sickness)

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Tessi wasn’t always the suave traveller she is today. Though she’s always willingly hopped in the car - rewarding beach destinations likely helped - we couldn’t go more than 45 minutes without her getting sick.


Thankfully, the problem gradually lessened and eventually disappeared. Yet, when I first realized it was becoming an issue, I was dismayed; I wanted my dog to enjoy the open road as much as I do. My dad tried to reassure me she’d adjust. In my research, I’ve learned young pooches are typically prone to motion sickness because the formation of their ears that gives them balance hasn’t fully developed yet.

If your canine suffers a sensitive stomach, these tips may help ease his journey:

  • Do not feed him for at least a few hours beforehand.
  • Keep the air cool inside the car. Open the window a bit to allow fresh air to circulate.
  • Face your buddy forward so the passing scenery doesn’t make his eyes have to constantly adjust, which can lead to queasiness. (My mom suffered from this issue.)
  • Keep him closer to the front of the vehicle, where there is less movement, but not to where airbags are installed, which can be dangerous to him.


Beyond the notion of a physical aspect, I wondered if there was a psychological reason. Did an unhappy car ride in Tessi’s unknown history cause her to be sick on future ones? Did her previous owners drop her off and abandon her? Maybe she just had too many visits to the vet. Even being picked up as a stray could trigger future unease. I’ll never know.

No matter the reasons why our pets started getting sick in the first place, they can become conditioned to repeat the behaviour even if they no longer suffer the original distress. They may associate getting sick and car rides. Going through the basic steps for getting them used to the car, by gradually accustoming them to it (link – my that mutt article), can help eliminate the bad habit they’ve formed.


I had tried any herbal medications I came across. I’d like to think they alleviated the nausea a bit; nevertheless, Tessi would still throw up. I could have asked her vet for a suggestion on something stronger, but I didn’t like the idea of drugging her. (I was reluctant since I know what anti-nausea medication, such as Gravol®, does to me – makes me groggy. I just want to sleep, which is great for nighttime, but not for enjoying those fun destinations.)

Keeping Safe

I now suspect the crate I had put my girl into to keep her safe aggravated her sickness. I found the big, rigid object awkward in the car, so eventually I bought a seatbelt attachment so I could hook her up instead. Once I started using it, she never got sick again, though she’d still look a little queasy. I wonder if the crate had teetered a smidgeon on the back seat.

We had finally reached a point I was confident she wouldn’t throw up in the car anymore, as she hadn’t for a dependable amount of time. One day, my friend, Gen, joined us on one of our two-hour trips to take Wayne to get his truck for work (he was a long-haul driver then). Gen shared the back seat with Tessi, who likes to snuggle with whoever is back there. As we neared our destination, Tessi’s expression started looking a little glazed. Gen had been enjoying the cuddling until Wayne, because he doesn’t travel with Tessi as often, voiced his concern that she’d be sick. While trying to convince him otherwise, I tried not to chuckle at the appalled look on Gen’s face, as she angled herself as far as she could get from Tessi.

My girl was fine that day and has been since, all evidence of discomfort ultimately replaced with the excitement of potential discoveries waiting to be made. And Gen would go on to explore more of the world of dogs upon adopting her own two canines, Rupert and Huck.

 (c) Cheryl Smyth, 2014

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