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Dramamine for Dogs: Treating Motion Sickness, Dosing & Side Effects

ElleVet Veterinarian

Reviewed by: Dr. David Tittle,BVetMed, CertVA, GPCert(WVA&CPM), MRCVS

Have you ever sat in the back seat of a car on a long, winding road, and suddenly, a wave of nausea comes over you? It is not a pleasant time for those who have experienced car sickness or motion sickness of a different variation. 

And while our dogs may not be riding roller coasters or checking their cell phones in a moving car, motion sickness still affects them. Fortunately, veterinarians have a solution by the name of Dramamine. 

What Is Dramamine?

Dramamine, a brand-name version of the drug dimenhydrinate, is a medication used to treat nausea, vomiting, and dizziness caused by motion sickness. Dramamine belongs to the same family of drugs as Benadryl, but it works differently. Dramamine is an effective motion sickness remedy for both people and pets.

How Does Dramamine Work?

Dramamine is an antihistamine drug. During stressful situations or allergic reactions, the body can produce chemicals called histamines. Histamines are chemicals that try to identify and remove something causing a problem. 

While this is happening, your heart rate and breathing rate might increase. You may also feel nauseous or feel like the room is spinning.

Dramamine uses antihistamines for a different purpose. Antihistamines also work to block a neurotransmitter called acetylcholine. Your body produces acetylcholine when motion sickness occurs, and it’s responsible for creating many of the side effects of motion sickness. 

The effects of motion sickness are minimized by stopping the production of acetylcholine and putting the body into a semi-sedated state.

What Causes Motion Sickness in Dogs? 

So, we know that car rides and travel can cause motion sickness in our dogs, but what is actually happening? Motion sickness is closely tied to your dog’s vestibular system

The vestibular system involves the inner ear and sends sensory information to the brain as it relates to motion and balance. When this system is imbalanced, say by a turn in the road while traveling in a car, it can trigger motion sickness. 

Other sudden changes in balance or motion can also cause motion sickness, but more often than not, especially with dogs, they will occur when traveling in a car. Motion sickness is more commonly found in puppies and younger dogs. 

Like humans, motion sickness usually affects children more than adults. Young dogs and human children have underdeveloped vestibular systems, making them more vulnerable to the effects of motion sickness. 

Your puppy may grow out of motion sickness. Save long car trips and family boating trips for your adult dog. They’ll be more likely to enjoy outings without the looming threat of nausea. 

Some young dogs may be resistant to getting in the car, as they have learned to associate the car with feeling sick, so limiting the car until they get a little older can help make the car a positive association.

What Are the Common Signs of Motion Sickness in Dogs?

Motion sickness in dogs can manifest through various signs and symptoms. Some common signs of motion sickness in dogs include:

  1. Excessive Drooling: If your dog excessively drools when traveling in a moving vehicle, it may be a sign of motion sickness. Excessive drooling is a common response to nausea in dogs.
  2. Frequent Yawning: Dogs experiencing motion sickness might yawn excessively, as it can be a self-soothing behavior and a response to stress or discomfort.
  3. Restlessness: Restlessness, pacing, or being unable to settle down during car rides or other forms of transportation can indicate that your dog is uncomfortable or feeling nauseous.
  4. Lip Licking and Excessive Swallowing: Dogs with motion sickness may exhibit increased lip licking and swallowing due to nausea or an upset stomach.
  5. Whining or Excessive Vocalization: Some dogs express their discomfort by whining, whimpering, or vocalizing during car rides or any other kind of motion. This behavior is often an indication of distress.
  6. Vomiting: In severe cases of motion sickness, dogs may vomit during or after traveling. Vomiting can occur shortly after the trip or even a few hours later.
  7. Panting or Heavy Breathing: Dogs may exhibit increased panting or rapid breathing as a response to the stress associated with motion sickness.

It’s important to note that not all dogs experience motion sickness, and the severity of symptoms can vary between individuals. If you suspect your dog may be prone to motion sickness or exhibit these signs regularly during travel, consult a veterinarian. 

If you’re finding your pup doesn’t get more comfortable with motion over time:

  • Avoid taking your dog on boats in the future if they aren’t enjoying the sea air as much as you and the rest of the family are.
  • Keep car rides limited to strictly necessary trips. When they need to go in the car, be prepared with a motion sickness solution like Dramamine.

Is It Motion Sickness or Car Stress?

Most dogs love car rides, but if your dog had a traumatic experience in the car, they might develop PTSD and an aversion to traveling that seems similar to motion sickness. The same thing can happen if your dog dislikes the place they know you’re taking them (like the vet’s office). 

The best way to distinguish between motion sickness and car stress is to observe your dog’s behavior before getting them in the car. Do they hide and resist? Do you have to keep them in a crate to prevent them from behaving frantically in the car? 

If it’s the car that’s making your dog nervous, Dramamine won’t do anything to help. Your dog needs something to help keep them calm during their journey from point A to point B. 

What Are the Dosing and Administration Guidelines for Dramamine?

If you have determined it is motion sickness and not stress, your veterinarian can prescribe Dramamine, but you don’t always need a prescription. It’s available over the counter, and you can pick it up at most drug stores or grocery stores. Dramamine will generally come in pill or tablet form with or without food. 

Dramamine will usually take 30 to 45 minutes to take effect, so it is best to administer your dog’s dose before their travel or other events. You should generally not give Dramamine more than once in eight hours. 

How Much Dramamine Should You Give Your Dog?

Typically, veterinarians follow a dosing structure of about 2-4mg of Dramamine per pound of body weight. Make sure your veterinarian takes an accurate weight for your dog. Estimating can cause you to over-medicate your dog or give them an ineffective dose. 

Dramamine usually comes in a split 50mg pill, which means that half of a Dramamine pill is 25 milligrams. A six-and-a-half-pound dog can usually safely have up to half the pill, but it’s better to start with a quarter of a tablet. You can use pill cutters to cut them evenly into four pieces.

If your dog weighs less than six pounds, it’s better to use Dramamine prescribed by a vet. It’s easier to give the proper dosage to a small dog when the veterinary pharmacy has already calculated and diluted the proper amount.

While it is common practice to try and hide your dog’s medication in their food bowl, limiting food intake before traveling or entering another motion-sickness-prone situation can be helpful.

If your dog does not accept the Dramamine without it being concealed in some way, try hiding it in a small treat they typically enjoy rather than including it in their meal. Most dogs will happily eat anything wrapped in a small piece of cheese.

What Are the Side Effects of Dramamine in Dogs?

While Dramamine may be prescribed by a veterinarian in some cases, it can have potential side effects in dogs, including:

  1. Drowsiness or Sedation: Dramamine can cause drowsiness and sedation in dogs, affecting their energy levels and overall responsiveness. It is not recommended to give Dramamine to dogs before activities that require alertness, such as during training or exercise.
  2. Dry Mouth and Urinary Retention: Dimenhydrinate can cause dry mouth or a decrease in saliva production, leading to increased thirst in dogs. It may also affect bladder control, causing urinary retention or difficulty urinating in some cases.
  3. Gastrointestinal Upset: Dogs given Dramamine may experience gastrointestinal side effects such as vomiting, diarrhea, or an upset stomach. If your dog experiences these symptoms, it’s important to consult a veterinarian.
  4. Allergic Reactions: As with any medication, dogs can potentially have an allergic reaction to Dramamine. Signs of an allergic reaction include difficulty breathing, swelling of the face or throat, hives, or rash. If any of these symptoms occur, seek immediate veterinary attention.

The good news is these side effects are not very common. Most dogs can safely use a proper dose of Dramamine without incident.

Contact your veterinarian if you think your dog is showing adverse side effects to Dramamine or signs of an allergic reaction. Keep an eye on your dog and monitor their symptoms. The vet may recommend a “watch and wait” approach. 

The vet will also tell you how long to monitor your dog. If the symptoms start to get better on their own, you may not have to come in. If they stay the same or worsen, you’ll usually need to head to the vet.

Is Dramamine Right for My Dog?

Dramamine may be a valid option if your dog struggles with travel and has shown signs of motion sickness. It is vital to address the issue, or your dog may start associating motion sickness with things such as riding in the car, making things even more difficult moving forward. 

Sometimes, Dramamine will work so well that your dog can get back to sticking their head out the car window and enjoying the wind in their fur! 

In other cases, Dramamine will take the edge off motion sickness symptoms, but you should still be cautious when traveling with your dog. See how your dog reacts to Dramamine and let them show you where their limits are.

Although Dramamine is safe for most dogs, at ElleVet, we believe it’s best to talk to your veterinarian before giving your dog any medication your vet hasn’t already approved for your pet. This is especially true if your dog is also being treated for a different condition or if your dog is currently taking other medications. 

Some treatments and medications don’t work well together, and your vet can tell you if there’s any risk for interaction. 

How Can I Keep My Dog Comfortable in the Car?

Dramamine works wonders, but it may not be a comprehensive solution. Your dog may still have some mild motion sickness issues when traveling. It’s important to make your car a calm and restful environment. 

Common sense goes a long way in keeping your dog comfortable. They may remain calm throughout the trip if you can put them in a crate with a comfort object, like their favorite blanket. 

Avoid bumpy roads, and don’t take the long way if your car-averse pup is along for the ride. If you have to run other errands, drop your dog off at home first. Just focus on getting your dog where they need to go (like the vet’s office or the groomers) and back home comfortably.

If the trip is long, find a safe place away from a major road where you can pull over and give your dog a break. Put your dog on a leash and let them walk around in a grassy area. They may chew grass or relieve themselves to try and relieve some tension. Give them a breather before you put them back in the car.

Dogs and people with motion sickness are more prone to seasickness, too. Dramamine is slightly effective for seasickness but works much better for traditional motion sickness.

It’s a lot harder to manage seasickness on boats, even if you give your dog Dramamine. It’s not easy to pull a boat over and let the dog get out. If the situation gets too intense for your dog, they’ll be trapped. You should avoid taking dogs with motion sickness for boat rides.

Final Notes

You and your dog can do plenty of things together that don’t involve being in a vehicle. You can take your dog for long walks or to the nearest dog-friendly park if the car ride is relatively short. 

Remember that your dog isn’t missing out if the thing you’re doing will make them feel sick. They’d much rather enjoy the comfort of their own home.

Keeping your dog happy, healthy, calm, and well is the most important part. Sometimes, that involves giving your dog Dramamine before traveling, but sometimes, it means changing the plans to accommodate all members of the family. 

Sources:

Motion Sickness: Symptoms & Treatment | Cleveland Clinic

Antihistamines: Definition, Types & Side Effects |Cleveland Clinic

The Vestibular System| Neuroscience | NCBI Bookshelf

Travel and motion sickness: An expert weighs in on Dramamine, ginger and more | UC Davis Health


The ElleVet Team
844-673-7287
[email protected]

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