Got Motion Sickness?

Vomiting is just one of those things that happens with both dogs and cats. While the most common cause stems from an irritated stomach lining, sometimes, a vehicle is to blame!

Many cats and dogs vomit when traveling. Air, boat, or car, the mode of transportation doesn’t seem to matter when an animal suffers from motion sickness. The following information can be shared with clients of animals that experience illness when they travel.


#1. AGE

When motion sickness occurs in young animals, it’s often related to the immature development of the parts of its inner ear, specifically those involved in balance. When this is the case, the problem is often outgrown by the time the animal reaches its first birthday.

If the animal continues to have issues as it gets older, motion sickness may be caused by:


Some animals experience motion sickness because they have learned to associate being in the vehicle with a stressful event. For instance, if an animal only rides in a vehicle when it is taken to a boarding kennel or to the veterinarian, it may relate travelling to being separated from family or getting its shots. This worry may lead to stomach upset that results in vomiting and, sometimes, diarrhea.


Motion sickness can also be triggered by something an animal goes through when it is young. If the first rides of a puppy or kitten are traumatic or frightening, the animal may continue to relate traveling with being scared and may experience bouts of motion sickness throughout its entire adult life.


Motion sickness may also be related to issues involving an animal’s health, for example:

  • Infections of the middle- or inner-ear
  • Vestibular disease
  • Medication side effects of vomiting or diarrhea.


There are easily observable signs that indicate an animal has motion sickness and is about to vomit. These include:

  • Restlessness
  • Excessive drooling
  • Lethargy
  • Yawning
  • Nausea.


Tip #1. If an animal acts as if it is going to vomit, stop the vehicle and take the pet for a walk. It may provide some temporary relief

Tip #2. Most animals travel best on an empty stomach, withhold food and water for 12 hours before travel begins

Tip #3. Place animal in a carrier that has been padded with a blanket from home

Tip #4. Keep the vehicle cool and quiet; avoid playing loud music

Tip #5. Choose a travel route that’s smooth, not bumpy, with minimal stops and turns.

Tip #6. Ease the animal’s anxiety:

  • Start by taking them on several short trips to help them become accustomed to being in the vehicle
  • Travel with them to fun places, such as the dog park or to an area where they can join you to hike or play in water
  • Give pet a toy that it enjoys, but reserve it for use only during travel times

Tip #7. If the animal does get sick, it will stress less if all around it remain calm


If the animal remains susceptible to the effects of motion sickness, there are various prescription medicines, over-the-counter drugs, and natural therapies that may be tried. However, certain treatments that work well with dogs are not as helpful with cats, so it is advised to first talk with the veterinarian.

When talking with clients, advise them that motion sickness may not be something an animal can control, but there are steps an owner can take that may help to alleviate the symptoms.