My Greyhound Gets Carsick: how to stop the wobblies

I never knew greyhounds got carsick, until mine did!  

There are two chief factors to greyhounds getting carsick: inner ear disturbance and/or car anxiety.  It is, typically, a combination of both.  The cure with the best record of success is desensitization – Getting the dog accustomed to riding in the car, without fear.  Immediate solutions include ginger, pheremone spray (for the interior of the car), and simply moving the dog closer to the front of the car, with proper safety precautions.  Travel sickness medications are available for dogs, but the side-effect of sleepiness can make them less desireable for greyhounds than for other breeds.  

We all have a vision of the perfect ride with our dog – Sunny day, dog’s head poked out the window, tongue lolling in the cool breeze, the look of simple joy adorning his long face…It’s quite a different picture from the dog sulking in the back of the car, drooling and wretching (or worse).  

It’s easy to fall into a vicious circle of taking the dog in the car only when absolutely necessary.  Since that means vet visits, this makes the greyhound even more anxious about riding in the car, compounding and reinforcing the problem.  If you see yourself and your greyhound in this description, help is here!  When I had this problem with my greyhound, Lily, I never thought it would get any better.  Research has proven me wrong about that; so read on!

Symptoms of Carsickness in Dogs

Your pet may be miserable with carsickness, even if he doesn’t vomit, according to Jason Nicholas, BVetM, who outlines the following additional symptoms:

  • “severe drooling
  • licking lips
  • panting
  • yawning
  • whining
  • restlessness”

Your greyhound may get carsick, even if he did not in the past; which is what happened to Lily.  Although some greyhounds never completely get over their carsickness, I believe there is always room for improvement. 

Why Does Your Greyhound Get Carsick?

Start by trying to hone in on why your pet might be getting sick.  In Lily’s case, we didn’t take her in the car for a long time; and when we decided that we should start, we had a new car with a rear compartment that seemed just perfect for a dog.  By then, however, Lily had developed the idea that car equalled vet, so she had the anxiety factor.  All that room to move around in the compartment had her walking around in circles, something that makes me feel a little green, just writing about it!  

If you have any personal experience with getting motion sick, you will be well-eqipped to help your greyhound with this problem.  Typically, anxiety and motion sickness go hand-in-hand (or paw-in-paw!).  An anxious dog may become nauseus.  Conversely, a dog who remembers being carsick the last time out will feel apprehensive.  Although you should prepare to treat him for both issues at once; you can treat him more effectively, if you know the root of the problem.

Things You Can Do to Alleviate Greyhound Carsickness

An Empty Stomach is a Calmer Stomach

As much as your greyhound will hate this, it is advisable to curtail his diet before setting out in the car.  The recommendations I’ve read on this ranged all the way from just not giving him treats in the car, to witholding food completely that day, until car travel is over.  The AKC recommends “not to feed the pup six to 12 hours before any planned travel or even sitting in the car. Feed her after …travel back in the house. Don’t use treats to reward her in the car. This will only stimulate an already off-balance digestive system.”

As a point of reference, the last time Lily got carsick, it had been three hours since her last meal.  A good compromise might have been to just feed her some plain rice in chicken broth early in the day, because dehydrating her could be counter-productive. Like many greyhounds, Lily is a poor drinker, and gets all of her water from what I put in her food.  Alternatively, I could have fed her just a small portion.

More tummy solutions can be found at my article about The Dreaded Greyhound Gas:

Fresh Air is Medicinal

Crack the windows to be sure there is plenty of fresh air.  In hot weather, don’t skimp on the air conditioning. Be sure the car is a comfortable temperature before putting the dog in there.

Some Greyhounds Don’t Have “Sea-Legs”

If your greyhound is a whirlwind of activity in the car, he is much more likely to get sick.  Anyway, it’s safer that he’s not wandering around loose, distracting the driver.  Your two options here are either a crate or a safety harness.  

The kennel of choice for the car is a plastic Vari-Kennel.  Some greyhounds will get less carsick in these kennels; and, when they do, the mess is, at least, confined to the easily-cleanable kennel space.  I’ve been warned, though, not to stop just to clean up a sickness mess, or the dog may decide that vomiting is how we make the miserable car stop.  Covering the kennel, so the dog cannot see out the window has also been cited as cutting down on the carsickness.  

If you use a Vari-Kennel, be 100% sure there is PLENTY of cool air circulating to keep your greyhound comfortable.  This goes double, if you cover the kennel in any way.

I’ve had a couple of car harness fails.  The best car harness solutions are to either spend the money ($50 – $100) for a really good one, or simply get a good, padded greyhound harness and buy a separate strap for securing it to the seatbelt.  I think you get better quality for your money with the latter.  

It’s difficult to predict how this will work for your greyhound.  Some owners complain that the gangly greyhound gets tangled up in the seatbelt, or seems uncomfortably restrained, since they aren’t used to sitting.  

If you have never had the pleasure of wrestling a child’s carseat into place, you may not realize that your seatbelt has a locking mechanism, which really comes in handy when securing your greyhound in a harness.  To activate the lock, pull the seatbelt all the way out, until you hear a click.  Then, carefully let it retract, until it is where you want it.  I say “carefully,” because if you pull or release the belt too quickly, it can twist and jam – A REAL pain!

It is the difficulty in sitting up, and the lock on the seatbelt, that has always made the harness a good choice for my greyhounds.  I find they get weary of sitting up pretty quickly, so they lay down.  The seatbelt retracts a bit more, and it’s harder for them to get up again, so they tend to just give up and go to sleep.

If using a harness or a Vari-Kennel doesn’t seem right for your situation, you may wish to try placing a beanbag chair type of dog bed in the back of the car.  Owners who use this approach say that the beanbag provides more stability when he stands up; yet, its comfiness encourages the dog to lay down and settle in for the ride.

Carsickness is Worse in the Back of the Car

Try letting him sit in the back seat or the front passenger seat, and see if he feels better.   This one doesn’t surprise me at all – When I used to travel a lot on crowded commuter trains, I often switched seats with fellow passengers who confided in me that they felt sick if they had to ride facing the rear window.  It got to the point where I knew just by the look on their faces.

Use of a harness and seatbelt is advised for safety reasons, and to make sure he doesn’t end up in your lap. 

How to Desensitize Your Greyhound to the Car

We think of going out in the car as one activity. To your greyhound, it is a series of events unpleasant events. Desensitizing your hound will be easier, if you reframe your thinking to be more like his!  Break down riding in the car into a series of steps, and begin your training from Step 1.  Optimally, work on one small step a day. 

The first step is not in the car at all! Teach your greyhound to lay down on command. Considering their lazy nature, this should not be difficult.  That mastered, train your dog to get in and out of the car willingly.  

That should give you the basic idea, so here are my recommendations for the rest of the sequence:

  1. Sit in the car with your greyhound (laying down), doors open. Pet him and talk to him, making the time enjoyable. 

  1. Sit in the car with your greyhound (laying down), doors closed. Crack the windows to keep the air cool and fresh. 
  1. (If you are using a seatbelt/harness or crate, add those in an extra step here)
  1. Repeat the previous step, with you in the driver’s seat. 
  1. (At this point, if your car is garaged, bring it outdoors before starting the day’s session).  Start the car and let it run for a few minutes. 
  1. Finally, the big day – Drive the car out of the driveway and back. 
  1. From this point, the drives will become (very) gradually longer. Take it slow; and, hopefully, your greyhound will no longer get motion sick. 

It is often said that the carsickness will get better with time, practice, and lots of patience.  

Going Cold Turkey on Carsickness

Conversely, great success has been reported with curing a greyhound’s carsickness permenantly by, of all things, taking a long car-trip!  Many owners have taking the plunge, and made an extended trip with their nauseus hound, and reported that the dog (after a rough start) never had carsickness again.

I gave this remedy its own section, because out of all the cures I researched, this was the one which came up the most frequently, and with the best results.

Reduce Static in the Car – Does it Work?

This is a simple, non-medical solution that is worth trying – Hang a small length of chain off the back bumper of your car. Huh?  I’ll explain – The chain, long enough to just hit the ground occasionally, when the car hits a bump, reduces the electrical static in the car.  They also sell rubber straps on Amazon for this purpose.  Reviews there cite mixed results with this therapy.

If it doesn’t cure your greyhound’s carsickness, at least you won’t be zapping him every time you get out of the car.

Natural Aids for Greyhound Carsickness

Ginger for Dog Carsickness – Proven Track Record

Ginger is a tried-and-true home remedy for nausea of all kinds.  It comes in several forms which are very greyhound-friendly:

  • Ginger dog treats
  • Gingersnap cookies (the best are those from Trader Joe’s, as they contain 3 forms of ginger – fresh, powdered, and candied – but you may find these tend to “evaporate”)
  • Candied ginger – This is much easier to find than it used to be, it’s not expensive, and a little goes a long way.  It is often located in the supermarket’s produce section, off to the side, on a shelf with packages of dried fruits and nuts.

Treat your dog to some ginger about 1/2 hour before setting off in the car, for best effectiveness.

Pep Up Greyhound Paws with Some Peppermint

Rubbing some peppermint essential oil on the large pads of your dog’s front paws can be an effective herbal remedy for his carsickness.  I was particularly interested to run across this one, because it is also great for short-circuiting your dog’s fear during thunderstorms (I cite that remedy in my article, “Why Does My Greyhound Pant So Much?,” which you can read here:

Pheremone Sprays to Reduce Carsickness

Another remedy I cite in the article about greyhounds’ panting is the use of phermone sprays.  The type you need is known as DAP (Dog-Appeasing Pheremone).  You spray it around the interior of the car before you put the dog in there.

Some Natural Remedies from a Veterinarian

Dr. Marc Smith, DVM, owner of Natchez Trace Veterinary Services has great ideas for natural alternatives.  In a detailed article, he discusses natural remedies, such as Digest Zen and Huo Xiang Zheng Qi. 

These sound very promising! The Huo Xiang Zheng Qi, however, is a more medically complex solution than simply reconditioning your dog or giving him some ginger; so be sure you read up on Chinese herbal medicine and ask your vet what he thinks, before embarking on this treatment. 

What About CBD?

Never take risks with your greyhound’s health. They are extra-sensitive dogs. 

There are so many unknowns about CBD, and it is known to interfere with some medications. With so many options available for your greyhound, I do not recommend CBD. When choosing  treatments for your greyhound, always stick with your vet’s advice or products that have a long-proven track record with fellow greyhound owners. 

Ask Your Vet About Motion Sickness Medications

For a pharma-based solution for motion sickness, Dr. Marc Smith, DVM recommends Cerenia.  Unlike other dog carsickness pharmaceuticals, this one is approved for this specific use by the FDA.  The interesting thing about this medication is that drowsiness is NOT listed as a side effect.  Excessive  sleepiness is the most common concern, when considering a pharmaceutical solution for your greyhound’s carsickness.

Sources for Further Info

Full article with both pharmaceutical AND natura dog carsickness solutions from Dr. Marc Smith, DVM:

Jason Nicholas, BVetM gives a good view of the problem, as well:

Solid advice from the AKC:

Gail McGaffigan

The owner of the Greyhound Homecare website and YouTube channel, Gail has had retired racing greyhounds as pets since 1997. Please visit our channel, too!

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