How Can We Help Our Seasick Dog?

Dog on a boat
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Q. My dog loves going out on the boat with us, but sometimes he gets motion sick. What can we can do?

A. Dogs get motion sickness when the inner ear gets jangled, causing nausea and dizziness. Motion sickness is more common in puppies, and many dogs outgrow it in part because they enjoy being out in the car — or boat, in your case — so much.

But the feeling of being sick may worsen over time into fear with similar symptoms, as the animal learns to associate being on the boat (or in a car) with discomfort. If you are boating on a lake or river and your dog is hanging his head over the rail in rough weather only, the occasional solution may be one of the motion-sickness medications people take. Just discuss it with your veterinarian first, because not all over-the-counter medications are safe for pets (some, in fact, are lethal), and you need to know if the drug is right for your dog and what the proper dosage will be.

For more severe or frequent cases, your veterinarian can provide a prescription medication that will help your dog. The same is true when anxiety is in the mix.

Because your dog only sometimes gets motion sick, however, I would want to know if you are boating on a saltwater body. Thirsty dogs will drink salt water (or take it in while swimming), setting up a cycle where they get thirstier (because of the salt) and drink more and more. If you’re not paying attention, the first time you notice there’s a problem may be when your dog throws up. If the problem might be salt water, the solution is to make sure your dog is offered plenty of cool fresh water while you're out on the boat so that he’s never tempted to drink the salty stuff.

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