photo of dog riding in car

Treat the Cause

Question:
Our two-year-old Golden retriever is totally unhappy traveling in any vehicle, including our motorhome; which is a shame because we travel a lot. We tried giving him a tranquilizer, but then he was just as anxious because he felt so horrible from the medication and still hated the movement of the motorhome. Simba is our fifth Golden and we have never encountered this problem.

Dr. Nichol:
Simba is in good company; lots of dogs freak-out riding in a car. You can help your boy feel better but it will be necessary to treat the underlying cause of his heeby jeebies. Tranquilizers won’t cut it.

Motion sickness, more common in puppies, triggers nausea and hypersalivation, often with long strings of drool dripping from their chops. Often camped-out on the floor of the car a queasy canine may vomit or even pass diarrhea, making an otherwise unhappy road trip downright revolting for the entire family. Over-the-counter Dramamine II (meclizine), given about 30-60 minutes prior to travel, can save the day.

Some dogs are simply anxious about the vibration and unnatural movement of the car. An as-needed prescription antianxiety medication called Sileo can help these freaked-out dogs relax until the weirdness ends. Sileo is a gel that you would administered between Simba’s lower lip and gum about 20-30 minutes before piling into your motor home. This safe treatment can be repeated every 2 hours.

And then there are dogs who just get highly agitated seeing so many interesting people, creatures, and vehicles that absolutely must be investigated and chased, zipping past the windows. Dogs who watch with growing fascination as the car gathers speed can instead ride in a covered crate in the rear of the car. Being unable to see the overwhelming stimuli will eliminate the frustration from that #%!&@ window that prevents a dog from literally jumping out and hitting the road.

Tranquilizers are not the answer. The most common is an old fashioned sedative called acepromazine, which does little to reduce anxiety. Immobilized and unable to physically act out their stress, pets on “ace” are trapped in a chemical straightjacket. Modern medicine is better.

Each week Dr. Jeff Nichol makes a short video, blog, or a Facebook Live to help bring out the best in pets. Sign up at no charge at drjeffnichol.com. Dr. Nichol treats behavior disorders at the Veterinary Emergency & Specialty Centers in Albuquerque and Santa Fe (505-792-5131). You can post pet behavioral or physical questions at facebook.com/drjeffnichol or by US Post to 4000 Montgomery Blvd. NE, Albuq, NM 87109.