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Car Sick

Car SickDear John,

I have a 3 month old purebred Whippet. He was flown in from England with my Granny which of who is the breeder. He is very out going and loyal puppy. Loves to be around people and snuggle.

My issue is every time he is in the car, he begins to foam/drool at the mouth. The drool is a lot, he then will get sick. This has happened every time except once when I drove him home from the airport but he was in my granny’s lap.

I don’t want to give him any drugs, is there something I’m not doing to help him. I have read about the stress and anxiety in dogs. Any information and or advice would be greatly appreciated


Dear Don,

What you are seeing is probably not motion sickness, it’s terror and there’s no practical cure. The drugs you don’t want to use don’t usually work anyway for this sort of thing and now there’s a new one on the market to inhibit the dog’s ability to vomit which I think is just weird as I don’t know, other then keeping the car clean how that’s good for the dog. The only possible treatment that could work and is for all practice purposes impossible to provide and pretty darn hard on the dog is flooding also known as rational override. In flooding, the subject is exposed not incrementally to what it fears but instead, completely, experiencing the full intensity of its fear until habituation occurs. I don’t recommend it. It be like sleeping with a bed full of snakes when you’re terrified by snakes until you finally wake up one day and say, “Hey snake! Good morning!” In your case your dog would pretty much have to live in the car until its feelings callused over.

It’s not unusual for people with dogs that become ill in the car to think the dog is suffering from motion sickness but it rarely is. My apologies to your granny, but once again I have to point the finger of shame at the breeding community. In North America, breeders are under no legal obligation to do anything other then feed and house the puppies they breed. Subsequently, and I’m not exaggerating they sentence dogs in the hundreds of thousands to death, others to unnecessary periods of anxiety throughout their lives, of course shared by the the men, women and children that purchase them. Breeders that think leaving their pups’ socialization to litter mates and/or other dogs might as well only feed every third puppy in the litter. Puppies before 12 weeks of age need exposure to a huge range of sounds, sights, smells and being handled by every possible age of human, if they are going to live comfortably with the average city dweller.

I’ve found that dogs with symptoms similar to yours have had little, no, or negative exposure to travel during its imprint period. In most cases the breeder doesn’t before adoption bother to pop the entire litter into a box and take them for short happy rides in the car at least a half a dozen times before they are sold. This is particularly effective when an adult dog that loves car rides in included in the outings. Instead their first exposure is when a car pulls up and out streams a gaggle of excited humans, shortly thereafter there’s an abduction and the pup is whisked away from home, mom and litter mates. The next trip in the car is usually to the veterinarians and the pup’s worst fears are confirmed, it’s an alien abduction and it is pocked, prodded and yes, there’s an anal probe, courtesy of the vet taking its temperature. For many dogs they are kept at home as per the veterinarian’s instructions until the next couple sets of inoculations have occurred which of course means a couple of more car rides to needle city. In your dogs case it seems we can throw in a transatlantic flight which surely had its own set of scary imprints. I wish there was more I could do for you. Not very encouraging, I know but these are imprints that are life lasting.

-John Wade

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