The term “motion sickness” or kinetosis refers a discord between vision and feeling, or is caused by an imbalance in equilibrium. In relation to human and animal experience, motion sickness occurs when movement is felt but not seen (as when one is inside an enclosed boat cabin), or seen but not felt (as experienced while standing still and watching rapid motions, like a chase scene in a film), or when movements are felt and seen but not in a way that registers sensibly (such as running fast on a stationary treadmill, or driving at a slow pace on a severely jolting and bumpy road).

Motion sickness can also be experienced when the one of the ears ceases to function, and imbalance of spatial comprehension occurs. When the inner ear is unable to accurately assess the body’s spatial orientation in regard to the ground and surrounding objects, the result is disorienting. The vestibular system found in the ears of mammals greatly contributes to our sense of balance, and when compromised, can result in motion sickness and nausea.

Causes of Motion Sickness In Pets

Dogs and cats also rely heavily on the vestibular system for balance. Motion sickness is essentially an overload of senses directed at a creature’s inner ear. Though humans are easily susceptible to motion sickness (whether caused by driving on winding roads, riding high-speed or upside-down roller coasters, or simply going for a sail over choppy waves), the experience is much more severe for pets. With their heighted hearing abilities, canines and felines are intensely effected by over-stimulation of the inner ear, which causes motion sickness.

Symptoms of motion sickness:
When a dog or cat is becoming disoriented, nauseous or showing signs of anxiety while in a moving vehicle, it usually means that motion sickness is setting in. These are a few of the common symptoms:

  • Shaking
  • Yawning
  • Panting
  • Barking/Meowing
  • Drooling
  • (Extreme cases) Vomiting and diarrhea

Treatments for Motion Sickness

Oral medication: Similar to human relief products like Dramamine and Benadryl, veterinarians can prescribe motion-sickness, car-sickness, and sea-sickness medications for dogs and cats which may be administered orally.

Aromatherapy/Essential oils: Some pet owners find that simple essential oils or relaxing scents can bring balance and relaxation to their pets. Rubbing a drop of peppermint oil on the paws and tongue of a pet can prove to be a powerful anti-nausea agent.

Calming Collars: Some pet care product companies have developed wearable aromatherapy and pheromone emitting collars. These effective tools are geared toward centering, balancing and calming discombobulated pets. Several minutes before taking a car ride, pet owners will snap the color on their dog or cat, and let the natural remedies go to work.

Practice training: Preparing animals for motion-intense experiences is a helpful method of preventing future bouts of sickness. Occasionally wrestling your pup, or holding him while rolling around on the ground, will help accustom him to the feelings of imbalance. Because he is with you, the pet will also associate these experiences positively, and will be less anxious when similar motions occur.

Play with your dog in the car while it is running, as this will help your pet view the vehicle as an unthreatening and familiar place. This will combat the nervousness and anxiety which might be contributing to the symptoms of motion sickness. Additionally, adding a bit of travel training (such as being carried around in a crate) to your routine training practices will help minimize the car-ride illness, and will help prepare your cat for future journeys.