What To Give Dogs For Motion Sickness

Updated October 30, 2021

Anyone who’s had a car sick dog knows four things:

  1. It distresses dogs
  2. It makes a mess
  3. It’s very frustrating
  4. It reduces dogs’ enjoyment of life

The good news is that most dogs can be helped if you’re prepared for a bit of effort.

Before I discuss the ways to prevent and treat car sickness, a special word is needed about puppies.

Do Puppies Get Over Car Sickness?

If your puppy is showing signs of motion sickness, do not be alarmed. Nausea from travel happens to all young dogs and most grow out of it without any problem. The trick is to not push things too fast.

If your pup looks anxious, is drooling or shaking in the car, be especially careful. Taking short trips just up the street for a treat or play is a great way to start. By building their confidence slowly they should learn to enjoy car trips.

Getting out and about from an early age is important, not just to the vet. Read here how to get puppies immunised as fast as possible.

Preventing Car Sickness In Dogs

I’ve had several dogs with motion sickness, and I’ve never needed pills, so let’s explore this area first. Here’s what’s worked for me:

To Feed or Not To Feed?

How much food to give before travel appears to matter a lot. There are two competing issues here:

  1. Food in the stomach makes vomiting less likely
  2. Food in the stomach makes a lot more mess

The answer is to compromise. It’s best not to feed a meal before travel but then to give just a tiny biscuit or snack before you leave.

I have a feeling this is part of the reason why ginger seems to work for motion sickness.

Reduce Travel Anxiety

It is clear to me that motion sickness is a vicious circle. The more a dog associates travel with nausea, the more likely they will be to vomit.

The anxiety may have started due to normal puppy car sickness but it then feeds the problem. That’s why I stress the importance of taking it slowly with puppies (and treating early).

Other things you can do are:

  • Offer distractions like favourite toys
  • Get a passenger to give a calming touch
  • Treat the anxiety even if it’s not a problem elsewhere
  • Allow your dog to look out the window while still using good car restraints; for example, PetStock here sell a booster seat for small dogs

From my experience, letting dogs look out the window works well, possibly for a number of reasons. However, if you open the window (which may help) please make sure the gap is too small to fit through.

Drive Like A Nanna

The faster you drive, especially around corners, the more likely it is that your dog will be sick. If you have a choice, choose a less winding route. If you don’t, slow down and enjoy the scenery!

Car Sickness Tablets For Dogs

For some dogs, medications are essential to break the cycle. It amazes me how many dogs only need them for a short time to never get car sick again.

Natural Remedies

I’ve already mentioned ginger above, which is worth a try. I see other natural treatments for sale, and all I can say is that they look harmless.


Maropitant is a relatively new anti emetic that works extremely well for car sickness in dogs. In fact, as the most effective and only registered treatment for motion sickness, it’s the drug I turn to first.

Maropitant lasts for 24 hours with each dose and rarely causes any side effects. The only problem is its cost. If you need it every day it gets a little pricey.

Benedryl® and Dramamine®

Twenty years ago, treating motion sickness was a lot easier. All I had to say was ‘go down to the pharmacy and buy some Dramamine’. Then people started using it as a recreational drug and it was removed from sale.

I believe that Dramamine is still available in some countries, but not Australia. The same applies for Benedryl tablets. If these are available in your area, please discuss them with your vet before use.


Another over the counter human medication that can work in mild cases is promethazine. It’s a mildly sedating antihistamine with a small antinausea effect. Click here for dog antihistamine doses.

Adaptil® Collar or Spray

I like DAP collars but they don’t seem appropriate to use for travel unless you also need them at other times.

DAP spray, on the other hand, makes perfect sense. You could impregnate a bandanna with it and put it on your dog for car trips. While I’m not aware of evidence for efficacy, it can’t hurt to try.


Lastly, metoclopramide (called Maxolon® for human use) can be a last resort. Its use for me is when nothing except Cerenia is working but the owner finds the costs are too high (Cerenia costs around $10-15 per dose).

To use metoclopramide requires a valid prescription so you would need to talk it over with your vet.

Whatever you do, don’t give up until your poor dog can enjoy travel again. You’ll be glad you did!

You might also like: Driving With Dogs | Treating Anxiety in Dogs

Have something to add? Comments (if open) will appear within 24 hours.
By Andrew Spanner BVSc(Hons) MVetStud, a vet in Adelaide, Australia. Meet his team here. The information provided here is not intended to be used as a substitute for going to the vet. If your pet is unwell, please seek veterinary attention.

13 Replies to “What To Give Dogs For Motion Sickness”

  1. Hi Andrew – what are the risks (aside fr overdose) of using maxalon if on hand? And what is the dosing schedule for a canine?
    Thanks in advance.

    1. Hi Robyn. I’m sorry, that sort of general advice could end up causing more harm than good. It’s best to ask your vet for advice tailored to your dog.

  2. Hi I collected my new puppy at 8 weeks old & for 3 hours she was fine in the car. Then there was a detour and we were on windy roads for the last hour and she was sick 3 or 4 times. Then the next journey a few days later she was sick after 15 minutes. She drools, yawns, licks her lips within 2/3 minutes of being in the car. She can manage 15 minutes after doing shorter 5 minute journeys for a couple of weeks. Is it motion sickness or anxiety now? I’m going to be travelling for 13 hours, which is driving and a ferry. So I don’t know whether she needs motion sickness medication or anxiety medication! Please help!!!!

    1. Hi Elle. There isn’t more I can say other than what is in the article. It’s always very hard to decide if anxiety is exacerbating the motion sickness. Early medication is usually best if so, so please talk to your vet.

  3. My dog (Jack Russell X), now 8 months old has been carsick from the day we brought him home. It’s bad; really excessive drooling, shaking, low whines, lots of vomiting (e.g 6 vomits in 30 mins) absolute car sickness without doubt. I feel dreadful for him and I’ve tried everything! Natural remedies, no food, small amount of food, windows open, windows shut, talking to him, quiet, patting him, not patting him and also lots of acclimatising him with very, very short trips around the block (less than 1km), AND simply sitting in the car with him either with the car running or without. No luck with anything to date. Now, I have a system set up where I have puppy training mats around him in his ‘car seat’ and a small pail lined with a doggie poo bag and I have actually trained him to vomit in the bucket! ‍♀️ Poor little thing. I do hope that as he is still young he may still grow out of it, but at the same time, I’m sad we are missing out on building these early memories and experiences with him. Wish I could just bring him to school pick up or down to the beach. It seems like the only option is to medicate him for travel. I know I need to speak to the vet, but to date they have just said he will will just grow out of it.

    1. These are just a sort of experiences that made me write this article. In my experience puppies like these need to be medicated very early to avoid them developing bad associations with travel. That way, the time they are using the medication can be short. Maropitant is a very safe drug and the benefits of its use far exceed any possible harm it might cause. I believe the greater harm is in not using it or using it too late in these cases.

      1. I agree. Please don’t let your dog be sick in a bag. Please do everything you can to stop the sickness, including medication. Poor pup will learn to be terrified of the car and the anxiety alone will make him sick
        I realise this was written a while ago so hopefully you are no longer doing this.

  4. Our 4,5 months old puppy was ok in the car in the beginning, even was fine for one hour trips. Started to feel car sick after 16 weeks old, first time after the drive to Windy Point, that seemed understandable. But now developed bad drooling, nausea and vomiting even after 10-15 mins drive to dog school. Can it be normal and we just need to follow the advice from the article?

    1. Hi Olga. What is almost certainly happening here is a learnt response caused by bad experience of travel. As mentioned in the article, we find that the anxiety associated with the car trip tends to make future motion sickness worse. Therefore, it’s important to try and reduce this as much as possible. In the short-term, it’s better to medicate so that the problem does not worsen.

  5. My dog starts to drool excessively as soon as I put her in the car, the car doesn’t is not even started. By the time I have driven about 5 minutes she has strings of drool hanging from her mouth. Sometimes she vomits other times she doesn’t. Is there anything I can give her, I have tried ginger which doesn’t stop the drooling.

    1. Hi Marian. You can try any of the ideas on this page especially Cerenia. In addition, many vets will use some of the situational medications found here. The idea is that dogs’ motion sickness appears to be made worse by the anxiety associated with previous events. Medication seems necessary in these cases to break the cycle.

  6. My dog sits up in the car, , leans up against the back of the seat, puts her head up, mouth open., she looks distressed, but no sound from her. Looks very weird, I have tried window up & down, no difference. She is fine if someone else is in the back seat with her.

    I am planning on doing short holiday trips with her when this virus situation is over, but am quite concerned about her in the car.

    Can you please give me some advise?

    1. Hi Norma. It sounds like car travel makes her quite anxious and I wonder about situational meds like gabapentin, trazodone or especially clonidine. Take a video and show it to your vet when you take her in so they can see if this sounds sensible.

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