If there’s anything more miserable on a journey than a child who has motion sickness, it’s travelling with a dog that gets car sick.
If you dread a trip to the beach because it means mopping out the car when you arrive, then Dramamine for dogs may be the answer you’re looking for.
It’s estimated for every six dogs, one will suffer from motion sickness.
That’s a lot of owners for whom popping their dog in the car for a quick trip to the woods is out of the question.
Indeed, it’s not just the mess and inconvenience that strikes pet parent’s to the core but the whole misery of the situation because travel sick dogs are…miserable.
Your fur friend shivers and shakes, yawns, drools excessively, and pants and can’t settle, and that’s even without them throwing up!
No one wants their canine companion to be unhappy and those that suffer from travel sickness are visibly distressed.
So wouldn’t it be good if there was an over-the-counter product which could improve things?
For those who aren’t familiar with Dramamine, it is non-prescription anti-histamine that has a mild sedative action and anti-nausea properties.
If this is ringing bells the reason it sounds familiar is the active constituent, dimenhydrinate, is related diphenhydramine which is in Benadryl in the US.
Dramamine works by blocking messages sent from the vestibular center in the inner ear to the brain.
In short, although the inner ear is frantically sending signals that the world keeps lurching from left to right and back again, they brain doesn’t pick up and so the dog doesn’t feel sick.
Dramamine is a popular choice for many dog owners because it helps take the edge off travel related anxiety and reduces feelings of nausea.
But just because something is popular doesn’t mean you should run with the crowd.
It is sensible to stop whenever giving your dog medication and ask if it’s safe.
In the case of Dramamine the answer to: “Is Dramamine safe for dogs?” is yes in most cases but there are exceptions, and as always, check with your vet before giving any new medicine to your dog.
Let’s start by pointing out that Dramamine is not a product licensed for use in the dog by the FDA.
This means that the drug has not been extensively tested in dogs and there could be side effects that have not yet been identified.
In turn, this means that if you choose to give your dog Dramamine, then you do so largely at your own risk.
As with any medication there are potential side effects so speaking to your vet first is always recommended.
Little is known about Dramamine and the effect on puppies developing in the womb, so this medication should never be given to pregnant dogs or indeed those nursing puppies.
Likewise, the slight sedative effect means it is not suitable for working dogs, such as detection or assistance dogs, because at the end of the journey they may be too groggy to focus on their work.
There are also medical contra-indications for giving Dramamine. These include the following:
Dramamine can also interact with certain drugs.
Depending on the medication your dog takes, Dramamine may make it less effective or amplify the effects leading to possible overdose.
Therefore it is essential to speak to your vet if your pet is already on meds.
As a rule the side effects are mild and not dangerous (there are however exceptions).
Those most commonly are a dry mouth, mild sedation, sickness, diarrhea, or loss of appetite.
Dramamine can have more serious side effects in some dogs and it’s not possible to predict which animals will react badly.
One of the more unfortunate effects is that it can cause problems emptying the bladder, and so Dramamine should never be given to any dog with a a history of difficulty passing water.
In addition, other unwelcome side effects include breathing difficulties, extreme lack of energy, seizures, and coma.
From this you can see that no medication should be given lightly and only to those dogs that are otherwise fit and well.
You’ve weighed up the pros and cons, your dog is healthy, and you’ve checked with the vet.
You decide to go ahead and give Dramamine a go for a dog that can’t go on a trip to the park without being sick in the car.
The next question to answer is: What is the correct Dramamine dosage for dogs?
The dosage is pretty wide and how much Dramamine to give a dog is decided on whether they are small, medium, or large!
Nothing too tricky.
Dramamine can be given every eight hours and the recommended dose is:
The maximum dose is 7.2mg per one kg of body weight, so just be careful with those teacup yorkies or other tiny dogs.
Dose your dog at least one hour before setting off so that the medication has time to work (bear in mind it doesn’t work if the dog is already feeling nauseous).
Also, there are fewer side effects if you give the dose with food.
Whilst you don’t want the dog to have a full stomach prior to a long journey, that compromise of a handful of dry dog biscuits should do the trick and help settle his stomach.
There’s nothing quite like bumping along a windy road in a hot stuffy car for making even the most seasoned traveler feel queasy.
In addition to giving Dramamine there are some simple actions you can take to make your car-sick canine’s journey more comfortable.
To start with, keep your departure low key.
Know that stress and anxiety feed into motion sickness and make it worse (indeed, some experts claim that travel sickness is 95% stress-related and only 5% down to motion.)
This makes sense with dogs, especially as their first journey was probably leaving their litter mates and every that was familiar to them.
Hot on the heels of that journey was a trip to the vet for vaccinations, and so the youngster associates the car with distress.
In practical terms, as well as being relaxed and calm when you set off, think about the following.
Make sure the car is cool and there is some air moving inside.
A little ventilation goes a long way when it comes to preventing motion sickness!
Also, some dogs do better if they can see where they are going, so consider using a crash-tested car restraint and letting the dog travel on a booster seat or in a dog pod.
Stop frequently to let the dog stretch his legs and take a drink of water.
If you have the time to plan ahead then start a desensitization program to break the dog of the mental link between car travel and nausea.
Take this in small steps, only moving onto the next once the dog is happy.
For the extremely anxious dog this means starting by helping him to be happy in a stationary car on the drive way.
Do this by leaving the car doors open and playing with him and his favorite toy on the back seat.
Get him used to jumping in to get a treat at the start and end of a walk.
Once he is voluntarily jumping into the parked car you can move onto the next step.
This involves feeding the dog in the car, and remember at this stage the engine is still turned off.
Only once the dog is tail-in-the-air anticipating breakfast on the back seat can you try shutting the car doors.
Bit-by-bit add in new elements such as starting the engine briefly (but not driving anywhere), reversing out of the drive and back in, and then a short trip round the block.
Keep things fun so as to build positive associations, so for those early run outs visit a super-exciting doggy destination such as a park or wood.
And finally, know that Dramamine is just one tool that can help reduce your dog’s travel problems.
With the bigger picture in mind, taking time to build his confidence in the car will pay dividends in the end.
Dr Sarah Robinson attended veterinary school at Oklahoma State University receiving a D.V.M. in 2008. Sarah’s longtime interest is to help people to better communicate with their pet companions, and in doing so, to help them to strengthen their relationships with their dogs and cats. Sarah has published numerous articles on canine feeding in pet related magazines, veterinary journals and leading natural health web sites.