Car Sickness Options

By Dr . Joi Sutton|2023-09-25T13:00:27-04:00Updated: July 16th, 2015|Pet Care, Pet Newsletter|0 Comments
  • Dog smiling with his head out of a car window

This morning I got an email from one of our readers about car sickness. Pets with diabetes go to the vet more often than the typical pet, and it’s no fun when your pet gets car sick. And if you haven’t yet started doing glucose curves at home, car sickness could mess up a glucose curve done in the vet office. We wish to mimic the pet’s usual feeding schedule and routine when a glucose curve is done at the clinic. (My regular readers know I much prefer curves be done at home!)

It’s not uncommon for pets to feel queasy if they don’t go for car rides on a regular basis. Today I will offer some suggestions for car sickness, but before I discuss medications let’s mention practice. Just like we may get accustomed to riding in cars, pets do too, especially if they are able to look forward. Short trips are your best bet. If there is anxiety involved for car rides (say if they only go to the vet clinic where they know they will be poked and prodded by vets and nurses) you might consider short trips to fun places where no such “pet torture” occurs. Start with brief trips around the block or to the post office. Dogs may learn to get a kick out of car rides. Cats rarely find car rides fun. I did know a cat many years ago who liked to travel in her owner’s convertible, but I digress.

Now let’s discuss chemical assistance!

Meclizine is one of the Bonine formulations, an over the counter drug that you may have taken yourself if you’ve ever been on a deep sea fishing trip or cruise. It is for motion sickness. It comes in a generic and can be quite inexpensive if you get it from your vet. Many vet clinics carry this med in their pharmacy for when pets have vertigo. Meclizine is extra-label use in dogs and cats. It is an antihistamine that has anti-nausea effects. It often causes sedation.

My next suggestion would be Ondansetron, the generic of Zofran. Two decades ago Zofran was ridiculously expensive, pretty much reserved for nausea for cancer patients. These days, the generic is inexpensive. It is a prescription oral anti-nausea med. Buyer beware! A couple months ago I called this prescription into a human pharmacy (a big chain of food stores with an in-store pharmacy which for this newsletter will remain nameless) for a pet whose humans couldn’t make it to my clinic at the end of my workday. I was later quite irritated to find out the pharmacy charged seven times what I charge for it at my vet clinic. So be sure to call around for pricing, or get it from your vet. It’s inexpensive and it works well for nausea, especially if you are taking a trip across country or need to give it for numerous days. It can make some pets a little sleepy. I’m okay with that… I’d rather have a sleepy pet than clean up a mess on my car seat pet. Ondansetron is extra-label use in dogs and cats, but I use a heck of a lot of it in my vet practice.

Finally, there is Cerenia. Cerenia is fantastic for car sickness! Unfortunately, it can be pricey. Nonetheless, pricey may be better than cleaning up pet vomit inside your car. Cerenia at the lower dose and used for nauseous pets can be used for up to five consecutive days. (Vets use Cerenia for nausea due to numerous causes). Each dose lasts 24 hours. The dose for car sickness is much higher than the usual dose and can be given for 2 consecutive days. The higher “motion sickness” dose is FDA approved for dogs but is extra-label use in cats.

Regardless of the drug, administer it an hour or 2 before the trip. Traveling with pets can result in anxiety (for you and your pet) or just plain old motion sickness. Sometimes a pet’s motion sickness is worsened by anxiety. Do have a chat with your vet about the best options for your sweetie. Happy travels!

You know I like hearing from our readers. Don’t hesitate to email me at [email protected]

NOTE: Consult your veterinarian to confirm that my recommendations are applicable for the health needs of your pet.

About the Author: Dr . Joi Sutton

Dr. Joi Sutton is a 1993 graduate from Oregon State University. She has practiced both in emergency medicine and general practice. Dr. Sutton has done extensive international volunteer work though Veterinary Ventures, a nonprofit organization that takes teams of veterinarians to undeveloped countries for humane medical care. She also runs a small animal practice in South Florida. Connect with Dr. Joi on LinkedIn

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