Why Does My Golden Retriever Get Car Sick? [3 Common Reasons And 10 Helpful Tips!]

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I’m sure this is something that many of you want to know “Why Does My Golden Retriever Get Car Sick?”

We’ve all been there, the well-meaning adventurous car ride that we take our Golden Retriever on, that ends up as a very unpleasant experience!

I’m talking about your Golden vomiting all over your car. Yuck!!

So, what gives? For some Goldens, it can happen on the shortest car rides, and for some, it can happen when the car isn’t even moving.

Allow me to explain the reasons why Golden Retrievers get car sick, and how you can prevent it from happening in the future.

Why Does My Golden Retriever Get Car Sick?

Golden Retrievers can experience car sickness at any age, but puppies and younger Golden Retrievers are more commonly affected. The reason is that their ear structures used for balance are not fully developed. Most puppies outgrow motion sickness by the age of 1, once their ears fully develop. However, some Golden Retrievers suffer from car sickness into their adult years. Common causes are stress, fear, and anxiety related to car travel. Senior Golden Retrievers suffering from Vestibular disease can be predisposed to motion sickness as well.

1. Canine Vestibular Apparatus Is Not Fully Developed

Why Does My Golden Retriever Get Car Sick - A Golden Retriever puppy sitting looking at you.

It is very common for a Golden Retriever puppy to become car sick. Their ears are still developing, and the motion of a car can upset the delicate ear structures.

The Canine Vestibular Apparatus, which is located in the inner ear, is the structure directly responsible for managing balance.

Three semicircle fluid-filled canals make up the Vestibular Apparatus. When your pup’s head moves, fluid in the canals shift, which stimulates tiny hairs that line the canals to send signals to the brain.

These mixed sensory signals (the eyes tell the brain there is no movement, but the inner ears sense motion), trigger dizziness and vomiting.

The good news is that most puppies will outgrow motion sickness once their ears fully develop. This gradually happens once your Golden Retriever reaches the age of one.

2. Stress, Fear or Anxiety

For many Golden Retrievers, car sickness is not a physical issue that they grew out of, once their ears fully developed. Instead, it is emotional.

Stress, fear, and anxiety cause car sickness in some Goldens, and for many, the vehicle doesn’t have to be in motion.

Previous negative experiences will have your Golden associating any car ride that way. The build-up of stress, fear and anxiety, in anticipation of what might happen, can cause your pup to become sick.

Any first experience, like a car ride, causes a lot of stress, fear or excitement, which alone can cause your pup to throw up.

With conditioning and desensitizing, you can get your Golden Retriever to get used to car travel, as well as enjoy it.

3. Vestibular Disease In Senior Golden Retrievers

A dark red Golden Retriever laying on a blue blanket looking straight ahead.

Vestibular disease, which commonly affects older dogs, can predispose your Golden Retriever to nausea and vomiting. This disease of the inner ear affects balance.

Symptoms of Vestibular disease can appear suddenly, causing your dog mild discomfort, such as dizziness, difficulty maintaining balance, and walking straight.

The good news is that this condition isn’t dangerous or painful to your dog and symptoms begin to improve in as little as 48 hours. The condition clears up on its own within a few weeks.

If your Golden Retriever is experiencing nausea or vomiting due to Vestibular disease, your vet may prescribe anti-nausea medication to help relieve the symptoms.

Symptoms Of Motion Sickness In Golden Retrievers

The most common symptom is obviously throwing up, but not all Golden Retrievers will resort to that. There are other symptoms that indicate that your Golden is car sick such as:

  • Yawning a lot.
  • Whining
  • Drooling
  • Panting
  • Licking or smacking lips.
  • Getting restless, or anxious.

Be on the lookout for any of these symptoms, as they may be a warning sign that your Golden is about to throw up!

Preventing Car Sickness In Golden Retrievers

You just can’t avoid the car altogether! Sooner or later you will have to take your pup to the vet, or on family outings, or want to drive to the park. Car rides with your Golden Retriever are inevitable.

The good news is that by following these helpful tips, you can get your Golden used to car rides and prevent car sickness.

This short video gives a brief overview of the helpful tips that I have listed below as well.

1. Just Sit In The Car

Start by getting your pup used to the car by just sitting in it without going anywhere. This allows your pup to become familiar with the confined space.

You can offer your pup some of his favourite treats so that he learns to associate the car with a good experience.

Just sit in the car with your pup for a few minutes a day, before you move on to the next step.

2. Take Frequent Short Trips

Once your pup is successful with sitting in the car without issue, you can take a short drive. Let your pup get used to riding in a car by doing frequent short trips. Start out by driving down the street, or to the park.

Eventually, you will be able to increase the length of your trip, as your dog will learn to associate car rides with being safe and fun.

3. Travel On An Empty Stomach

Avoid feeding your dog a full meal right before taking a car ride. An empty stomach decreases your pup’s chances of throwing up.

For some dogs though, a little bit of food before travelling helps with nausea and vomiting. Just make sure it’s a tiny amount, treats are okay to give as well.

It’s okay to give your pup freshwater before travelling, and always take water with you to give your pup when travelling.

4. Use A Crate Or Safety Harness

Keeping your dog safe and secure inside the vehicle is not only important for your pup’s safety, but it can help with motion sickness.

Many dog owners prefer to use a crate to contain their pup inside a vehicle. Be sure to secure the crate in place, less movement will decrease the likelihood of your Golden becoming sick.

Having your pup face forward inside a vehicle helps to decrease motion sickness. Watching vehicles speed by while looking out the side windows can make anyone feel sick.

Using a doggie seatbelt or safety harness, you can make sure your pup is strapped in securely and facing forward. The best spot for your dog is the middle seat in the back.

Some owners prefer to put their dog in the passenger seat because there is less movement as compared to the back. I don’t recommend this simply because of the airbags in the front of your car. If they happen to deploy, they can cause serious harm to your dog!

5. Keep The Car Cool And Quiet

A Golden Retriever sitting in a car sticking his head out of the window.

In general, Golden Retrievers prefer cooler temperatures, and this is especially true in vehicles.

Your pup will feel even hotter in a confined space like a car, which will only add to your pup’s stress and anxiety about car travel.

Be sure to open the window to allow fresh air to come in. Opening a window is preferred, rather than turning the air conditioning on.

Rolling the windows down even just a little will equalize the air pressure and help reduce nausea.

Even in the wintertime, your Golden will want to have the windows open.

Keep the noise level down as well. Turn the radio down or off, to keep the car ride nice and peaceful for your pup.

6. Bring Your Pup’s Favourite Toys

Bring your pup’s favourite toys along for the ride. Your pup will feel more secure in the car with something familiar from home.

Many dog owners bring their pup’s favourite comfort companion, Snuggle Puppy to help make their dog feel calm and less anxious.

Toys are also a good distraction to keep him happy and occupied while inside the car.

7. Make Frequent Stops

Golden Retriever puppy walking on a cobblestone pathway beside parked cars wearing an orange sweater.

If you plan on doing a long car ride of a few hours or more, be sure to make frequent stops.

This allows your dog to get out and stretch, as well as take bathroom breaks if needed. It also gives your pup a break from all the motion.

8. Have Someone Sit In The Back With Your Dog

Sitting in the backseat with your dog while someone else drives is a great way to help keep your dog calm.

Not only can you distract your dog, but you can comfort them.

A word of warning though, if your pup happens to throw up, it could end up all over you. I speak from experience!!

9. Try Natural Remedies For Motion Sickness

Natural remedies are always a better option than resorting to medication. The good news is that there are many natural remedies to help your dog with car sickness.

  • Ginger is well known for its anti-nausea effects. It is safe to give your dog in small doses. Consult your vet for the proper dosage for your dog, based on age, weight and health status. Many owners feed gingersnap cookies to their dog prior to travelling.

Be sure to check out this recipe for homemade Gingersnap Cookies For Dogs.

  • Lavender can be used as a safe aromatherapy option. It helps calm your dog and ease stress and anxiety symptoms associated with motion sickness. Spray it on a cotton ball and place it in the car 30 minutes before travelling. Or spray your dog’s blanket or bedding before placing in the car.
  • CBD supplements are a safe and holistic option to treat anxiety and nausea related to car travel. CBD for dogs is available in treats, chews and oil. Whatever form you choose, you can offer it to your dog before travel.

10. Medication

There are a variety of medications that can be used to treat motion sickness in dogs.

Common over-the-counter medications include Benadryl and Dramamine. Both are antihistamines that help reduce symptoms of motion sickness and offer sedation.

Cerenia is an anti-nausea medication that can only be prescribed by your vet.

If your Golden Retriever is experiencing anxiety due to car travel, your vet may be able to prescribe anti-anxiety medications. These medications should only be used for extremely stressed dogs.

A drug-free option that works well for many dogs experiencing anxiety, is the Thundershirt. Commonly used for noise-related anxiety, the Thundershirt is also successful for treating travel anxiety.

Before giving your Golden any kind of medication, always consult with your vet to ensure the proper dose based on your dog’s age, weight and health status.

Final Thoughts

As you can see, there are several reasons why your Golden Retriever gets car sick.

If your Golden is still a puppy, there is a good chance he or she will outgrow motion sickness once their ears fully develop.

For adult Golden Retrievers who never outgrew car sickness, it could be related to stress, fear or anxiety.

Preventing car sickness in your Golden takes time, whether it is waiting for your puppy to grow out of it, or conditioning your adult Golden to get used to the car.

Regardless of the reason, taking some preventative steps before you embark on a car ride, will ensure that your Golden will feel less sick.

Does your Golden Retriever get car sick? Do you have any helpful tips or advice to prevent car sickness in Golden Retrievers?

Please share your thoughts and comments below. I would love to hear from you!

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2 thoughts on “Why Does My Golden Retriever Get Car Sick? [3 Common Reasons And 10 Helpful Tips!]”

  1. I have a Golden Retriever as well, called Cliff, they are the kindest dogs that I have ever owned! That being said, car sickness is one of his weaknesses as well, even though now he is already 5 years old. Although he is always very enthusiastic to go anywhere with us in the car 🙂

    We also take him on holidays with us in the car, so sometimes that is a bit harsh on him and I’m happy to read your hints to avoid or help him with this.

    The treats that you are talking about that contain CBD, do you have a place to advise where I could buy those, please? I would like to try, thanks!

    • Hi Lizzy,

      Thanks for sharing your experience.  My Golden is just like yours, always ready and willing to go for a car ride with us, as she wants to be included in all of our outings.  Sometimes though, she doesn’t enjoy the end result, for instance, if we drop her off at the groomers.  Luckily, she has outgrown motion sickness, and car rides do not bother her.

      It sounds like your Golden Cliff struggles with a bit of anxiety related to car travel.  The helpful tips above will certainly help you out.  If you’re interested in CBD for dogs, you can try them in treat form or oil.  Treats are convenient and tasty to your dog, and the oil you can place a drop directly in your dog’s mouth.  The oil is said to be more effective.  You can purchase CBD oil or treats at your local pet store, or you can also purchase online.

      I am sure with a little time and implementing the tips in this post, your Golden Cliff will feel much better during car rides.

      Thanks for taking the time to comment.



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