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To the rescue of our pets' motion sickness!

To the rescue of our pets' motion sickness!

- Categories : Behaviour

© Martine Lavallée, BAA and animal health technician

Our dogs and cats can suffer from motion sickness quite frequently. This can be a real burden and source of stress for their owners, who often avoid traveling with their four-legged companions because of the discomfort. For the latter, the inconveniences of transport may dissipate as they age, but they can also persist into adulthood. The symptoms of motion sickness appear on various means of transport: car, plane, train, boat and others.

Medical (with a veterinary prescription) and natural treatments, as well as measures such as positive conditioning, will help control our pet's motion sickness. Here are just a few examples.

The symptoms

The symptoms of motion sickness leave no room for doubt. They start with yawning, followed by excessive salivation and panting, as well as anxiety, trembling and excessive vocalization. Our most stressed animals may also experience urination and diarrhoea. 


One of the causes of motion sickness may be a previous bad experience that our pet still carries the scars of. In our most sensitive animals, these troubles can manifest themselves even before getting into the vehicle. They are able to spot a familiar object or behavior in their master that indicates to them that car travel is imminent.

Another possible reason could be a problem with the inner ear and balance management. Our little four-legged friend's inner ear is used for balance, but can send the wrong signals to the brain when moving in a vehicle. 

This concern is particularly acute in our young animals, since the structures that make up the inner ear have not yet fully developed. As a result, the mechanism governing the inner ear - responsible for hearing and regulating balance - is not yet perfected. 

In some animals, this disorder does not disappear with age. In others, it softens and eventually disappears, but there's really no set rule.


Transporting your pet to the vet or on vacation can be a challenge, and requires a great deal of organization. Here's what we can do to help.

Whatever the vehicle, it's important to do everything we can to make sure your pet feels comfortable on every trip. To limit the phobia of cars in particular, which may well be the cause of motion sickness, it's possible to gradually get your pet used to it from an early age. 

If our pet has been adopted as an adult and has previously been traumatized by travel, we should first get him used to getting back into the car with the engine off. Let's use his favorite toys and treats to lure him inside. Lavender essential oil, diluted and sprayed — never directly on our pets — on car seats or on a towel, can make learning easier, as it is soothing. 

Once you've managed to get your pet into the car, you should thank him verbally (soft, cheerful words) and offer him a reward. Then, over several sessions over the following days, we'll consider starting the engine.

Once he's ready to get into the car without the aid of treats, we can turn on the engine and leave it running to familiarize him with its sound. Then, as our little friend begins to get the hang of it, we'll be able to take him on his first short trip, followed by longer and longer ones. Turning on the engine, starting the vehicle and arriving at the destination should always be synonymous with pleasure, rewards and congratulations. The aim is for our pet to associate the car trip with a positive experience. 

On the other hand, if we're leaving with our companion for a longer trip such as a vacation, let's practice short car rides in the weeks leading up to our departure. While we're on the move, let's plan stops every two hours, for exercise, necessities and snacks. 

This method is easier for our dogs than for our cats, as the latter are often placed directly in their carrier before being loaded into the vehicle. So let's choose a carrier large enough to hold a litter box and a bowl of water. 

During stops every two hours, and if our kitty is already used to the harness, let's take advantage of the opportunity to offer our feline a short walk and some snacks.

Other measures to adopt when traveling by car with our buddy remain calm driving, with no jerks, sharp turns or braking, and a well-ventilated vehicle with the right temperature, neither too hot nor too cold, and no cigarettes.

When using public transport such as boats, buses, trains or planes, try to find the most direct route or flight possible. Let's get to the airport, bus station or terminal early enough to place our pet in the recommended compartment. Then, when we arrive, make sure we pick him up promptly.

Natural treatment

As an effective, non-aversive treatment during the ride, and not during the period of vehicle taming, I recommend Zanimo's homeopathic remedy TRAVEL.

This formula maintains the balance of the nervous system during transport. TRAVEL is a natural solution for reducing the symptoms of car travel. It has been developed by homeopathic experts to rigorous manufacturing standards. It is designed with a glycerine base and contains no alcohol for your pet's well-being. It is suitable for all breeds of dogs and cats, from two months of age.

In a nutshell

Some animals suffer from motion sickness for two very different reasons: a complication of the inner ear, or stress and anxiety developed after a bad experience. It's best to teach your pet to love the car and the journey again through positive conditioning, using treats and rewards. In some cases, natural or medical treatment may be required.

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