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Motion Sickness in Cats (Cars and Planes)

By: PetPlace Veterinarians

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Many people are aware of the nauseating signs of motion sickness and the effect it can have on a relaxing vacation. But, did you know that motion sickness could also affect your pet? And a sick pet is not a happy traveling companion.

Motion sickness is an illness associated with motion – as in a car, a boat or an airplane. Since vacations typically involve traveling, pets prone to motion sickness don't always enjoy the trek to the final destination.

The cause of motion sickness is stimulation of the vestibular apparatus located within the inner ear. When this apparatus is stimulated, your pet feels dizzy and nausea may develop. Usually, the signs of motion sickness stop when the vehicle stops moving. Pets afflicted with motion sickness begin drooling, feel nauseated and may even develop vomiting or diarrhea. If your pet is known to experience motion sickness that is not easily treated, you may want to reconsider bringing him/her along on vacation.

Treatment

There are various ways to treat and even overcome motion sickness.

Frequently, the signs of motion sickness can be overcome by conditioning the pet to travel. Slow, short and frequent trips in the vehicle, gradually increasing length of the ride, can help condition your cat.

Some cats cannot be conditioned and medications are necessary. Commonly used medications to help reduce the nausea associated with motion sickness include diphenhydramine (Benadryl®), meclizine (Bonine®) and dimenhydrinate (Dramamine®). These medications are available without a prescription but should never be used unless specifically recommended by a veterinarian. Proper dose and use are crucial to effectively treat and diminish the signs of motion sickness.

For some pets, the motion sickness and anxiety associated with travel is so severe that sedatives are necessary. Commonly used sedatives include acepromazine and phenobarbital. These are available by prescription and should be used with caution in animals traveling by airplane because they may have side effects. In a cargo hold, there is little direct supervision of animals, so side effects may go unnoticed. In addition, there is little chance that a pet can receive medical help while the airplane is in the air.

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