Motion sickness is usually obvious. A typical scenario is when the owner takes her dog on a car ride for one of the first times (bringing it home from the breeder, first trip to the veterinarian for puppy shots or a routine wellness examination, puppy kindergarten, etc.), and her dog becomes nauseous and vomits in the car. Once the motion of the vehicle stops, the dog quickly returns to normal. If the symptoms of motion sickness only happen when the dog is in the vehicle
– whether it is stationary or moving – motion sickness is the presumptive diagnosis.
However, if a dog does not eventually adapt to travel, or if the symptoms do not resolve shortly after the dog gets out of the vehicle, there may be something more serious going on. In those cases, a trip to the veterinarian might be appropriate. Owners might consider contacting the clinic right before leaving for the appointment, so that the veterinarian or one of his technicians can be ready to observe the dog as he arrives in the clinic’s parking lot. The information from this real-time observation can be invaluable to the veterinarian in coming up with an appropriate diagnostic plan, if one is needed. It may be that by seeing how the dog acts in the car and for a short time thereafter, the veterinarian will be able to conclude that motion sickness was the cause of its discomfort.
If further assessment is required, the veterinarian will take a complete history from the owner about the dog’s symptoms and will perform a physical examination. Depending upon the information obtained from those assessments, he may recommend further testing, including blood work and a urinalysis to evaluate the dog’s overall health. If motion sickness is the cause of the dog’s condition, advanced testing is typically unnecessary.
Most dogs with motion sickness quickly adjust to and ultimately enjoy travel, especially by car with their owner present. If discomfort persists, a veterinarian can recommend and/or prescribe a number of medications that can prevent nausea and provide mild sedation to calm a stressed dog during travel. There also are a number of non-medical preventive techniques that owners can try.