While taking your pup home for the first time, or out for their first adventure or two in the car, you may have noticed them drooling. This can be alarming, especially if there is a lot of drool and your pup is not acting themselves. Is drooling in the car something to worry about?
While it is relatively common for puppies and adult dogs to drool when traveling, it is not necessarily ‘normal’. Read on to learn about the many causes of drooling when in the car and what you can do to help.
6 Reasons Why Your Puppy Drools In The Car
One thing is for certain, drooling when in the car is not expected and does indicate an issue. For many dogs, the issue can be remedied. The first step in helping your puppy is getting to the root cause of the issue.
1. Car Sickness
Probably the most common reason for a dog to drool when in a vehicle is motion sickness. Signs may become apparent straightway or may appear when you’ve been traveling for some time. The drooling can be accompanied by panting, retching and even vomiting.
Interestingly, your dog may not drool on every car ride. You may find they fare worse when the weather is warm, the road is winding and it has been a long journey.
It can help to keep journeys short and sweet and to ensure the car is cool and well ventilated. Dogs should be in a crate or harness to prevent them moving too much. Some cope best when able to view the road from their seat.
It is advised the pup avoids a heavy meal before setting off and that frequent breaks are taken. For bad motion sickness, your vet can issue some prescription medicine (such as Maropitant), which is very effective.
If your dog is a poor traveler, consider only using the car when needed. They’d probably prefer to walk to the local dog park than drive to the one out of town. We all know that feeling awful feeling of nausea: one to be avoided where possible!
2. Stress or anxiety
Signs of stress can be subtle or blatant and, as an owner, it is our job to pick up on them. While we may not view a car ride as a big deal, some pups find it hugely overwhelming.
If you think your dog has anxiety when traveling by car, watch out for additional signs including:
- Hiding away under blankets
- Attempting to escape from the car
- Reluctancy to get in the car
We tend to find that those pets who have generalized anxiety and additional diagnoses (such as separation anxiety and noise phobias) are more likely to stress about car travel.
Many of our furry friends would benefit from natural calming supplements which can be taken before a journey. We can also spray pheromones such as Adaptil on a blanket for them to lie on, which takes the edge off.
For very anxious dogs, consultation with a behaviorist and/or prescription anxiolytic medicine are often needed. Most behaviorists will work on ‘desensitizing’ your pup to the car, so it is no longer a ‘big, scary thing’. Results won’t be instant but we can usually see an improvement within a few months.
3. Previous bad experiences
If your dog used to be a relaxed traveler but has suddenly begun to drool, ask yourself if anything has recently happened. Perhaps they were in the car when there was a crash, or maybe they recently vomited or passed urine or feces within the car?
Any bad memory that your pup associates with the car can make it difficult for them to ride comfortably going forward.
It can help to try and make your pup love the car again. Ensure every journey is as smooth and comfortable as can be and consider playing some classical music. Reassure your pup with calming words and tasty treats or a chew to distract them.
For most confident dogs, the more positive car rides they have after a bad experience, the more relaxed they will become. Over time, the drooling should become a thing of the past.
Cars are well known for acting as ‘green houses’ when the sun is out, warming to alarming temperatures inside. This is true whether or not the car is on the move. Keep the air cool and well ventilated, using the air conditioning as needed.
Keep in mind that your dog has a ‘winter coat’ on at all times. If they are a little agitated or anxious when in the car, this will further increase their body temperature. When traveling, it is safer to have the inside of the car a little too cool rather than a little too warm.
Early signs of overheating include panting and restlessness. As the dog becomes warmer, you may notice they are drooling, trembling, have glazed eyes, and are lethargic.
If you’re concerned your dog has gotten too hot, bring them to the vet immediately. Heatstroke can be fatal, especially when prompt treatment is not started. On the way to the vet, crank the A/C right up and cover your dog in a cool, wet towel.
5. Diffusers or fragrances
While we may enjoy the bubble gum or minty fresh scent of our car fragrance, our dog probably does not. They have much more sensitive noses than us so may find the aroma overbearing.
Keep the scent inside your car neutral, so your dog is not overwhelmed when they get in. Signs of irritation can include sneezing, runny eyes, coughing, and drooling.
6. An unrelated issue
Remember, there are lots of causes for drooling and there may be something else going on with your pup. If they drool at other times, consider that they may be teething, or perhaps have picked up a stomach bug.
When it comes to car anxiety and motion sickness, any drooling should cease soon after the dog is out of the car. If this is not the case, there may well be more going on.
Keep a close eye on your pup for any additional signs such as vomiting, lethargy or food refusal. If not themselves, have them checked over by your local vet.
Should You Be Concerned?
It is understandable that you will worry if you spot your dog drooling when in the car.
This is especially true if they are a young pup and you have recently rehomed them. However, if the drooling is mild and stops when out of the car, you are likely dealing with some simple motion sickness.
Many pups grow out of motion sickness as they grow older, so continue to expose them to the car, ensuring the car rides are enjoyable and not too long. Take frequent breaks and offer plenty of reassurance and treats.
If the drooling continues after the car journey or your pup is otherwise unwell, a vet check is sensible.
How Can You Help Your Pup When Traveling By Car
The first step is identifying the cause of the drooling. Something as straightforward as motion sickness is generally dealt with by avoiding heavy food before travel and/or using some anti-sickness medicine.
If you think anxiety is at play, there won’t be a quick fix. However, consulting with a canine behaviorist can usually help address the issue.
The behaviorist can work alongside your pup one-on-one, so they can overcome their fear and learn to love the car.
Extra resource: Animal Trust: Car Travel With Dogs