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dog riding in car

yeahhhh we know the feeling

Dramamine is a brand-name version of the anti-nausea medication Meclizine. (It’s also the active ingredient in Cerenia, Antivert, and Bonine.) Dramamine isn’t approved for pets by the FDA, but it’s prescribed pretty frequently by vets because it has very few side effects.

Some drugs formulated for humans are bad for dogs — and can be lethal. Dramamine, however, is an exception. But that doesn’t mean it’s 100% safe for all dogs.

👉 Always consult your veterinarian first. There are a variety of health issues and drug interactions that could make Dramamine unsafe for your dog. 

Identifying motion sickness in dogs

If you’ve ever gotten travel sickness (AKA car sickness) and had to throw up on the side of the road, you know it’s no fun. Even short trips can trigger nausea that lasts several hours after the ride. One of the benefits of being human is that we can identify our symptoms and then treat our conditions.

Think of our four-legged friends in comparison. Dogs can’t even complain if they feel bad — in the human language, that is. Dogs do show indicators of motion sickness that you can look out for on your next car ride together.

Some symptoms of motion sickness in dogs include:

  • Lethargy or acting afraid to move
  • Whining
  • Excessive lip licking
  • Unusual yawning
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Dry-heaving
  • Stress-related diarrhea
  • Excessive drooling
  • Trembling
  • Pacing
  • Rapid breathing
  • Fear of getting in the car
  • Peeing or pooping in the car

Some dogs cannot take Dramamine

Dramamine is effective in lessening the symptoms of motion sickness in dogs. However, certain dogs with certain medical conditions should not take Dramamine. Because Dramamine is an antihistamine, dogs with allergies to antihistamines should steer clear. Mama dogs who are pregnant or nursing should avoid it because it may adversely affect her puppies. Natural Puppies notes that dogs with certain serious health problems like heart disease aren’t able to take Dramamine. Some of these conditions include urinary obstructions, high blood pressure, COPD, lung, heart, and liver diseases. The list goes on, so check with your vet first.

Dogs who are already on certain medications should not take Dramamine because of harmful drug interactions. These drugs include certain depressants, heparin, warfarin, epinephrine, and anticholinergic drugs.

Dramamine also won’t work if your dog’s condition is caused by an inner ear problem. That’s something that your veterinarian would need to diagnose and treat separately.

Dramamine dosage

👉 2-4 mg per pound

Your vet is the best person to tell you if and how much Dramamine your dog should take. As a general rule, Dramamine dosage is based on your dog’s size.

Our betterpet advisor Erica Irish, DVM, recommends a dose of 2-4 mg per pound of your dog’s weight. She notes that you should start with the lower dose first to see how your dog handles the meds. Avoid giving your dog more than four tablets in one sitting. (Dramamine comes in both liquid and chewable forms.)

The math for dosing goes like this: If you have a large 50-lb dog, they would need 100 to 200 mg. If you have a 5-lb small dog, they need only 10 to 20 mg.

The original tablet form of Dramamine runs about $5 for a 12 tablet pack of 50-mg tablets. The dose for your 50-lb pupper is a little over $1.50 per dose.

When to administering the meds

You’ll want to give your pup Dramamine about 90 minutes before your road trip. This is because it takes about that long to take effect. Make sure you wait eight hours in between doses. You don’t want to overdose your pup! Dogs should take a max of three doses of Dramamine per day.

Stay away from non-drowsy formulas with ginger

Dramamine offers a  “Non-Drowsy” formula that uses the natural ingredient ginger to keep humans more alert. Ginger in small doses for dogs is fine. In larger doses and higher concentrations, it may cause gastrointestinal upset.

Side effects of Dramamine

The most common side effect of Dramamine for dogs is lethargy. If you’ve ever taken Dramamine, you might have experienced its sedative effects, too. Being a little sleepy is not a bad thing for pups in the car, on a train, in a plane, or on boat rides. It’s just something to be aware of in addition to the other mild side effects like dry mouth and urinary retention.

More serious side effects include diarrhea and vomiting and lack of appetite which could lead to weight loss (if used often). If you give your dog Dramamine, and they throw up or have unusual stools, don’t give them another dose. Speak to the vet about your pup’s experience for further guidance.

Alternatives to Dramamine

There are a few non-drowsy natural remedies your pup can take if they’re not a fit for Dramamine. Ask your vet first, of course. Many doggie CBD products claim to help motion sickness. It may also ease any fear or anxiety your dog has about riding in cars. Remember that there’s no scientific evidence backing up CBD manufacturer’s claims just yet — but studies are in progress.

Our vets and the AKC recommend scenting your car with lavender or chamomile oil before a car trip. Both of those oils can soothe anxiety and motion sickness. Just be sure your dog can’t lick where you’ve applied the natural oils. A common trick is to dab a cotton ball with the scent and then place it out of your dog’s reach.

👉 Our in-house advisor Erica Irish, DVM, suggests using dog pheromones such as DAP. Your pup’s vet might also prescribe calming treats and supplements.

What about Benadryl?

Benadryl (diphenhydramine) and Dramamine (dimenhydrinate) are both H1 receptor antagonists. In simple terms, that means they’re both antihistamine drugs that do the same exact thing. But again, you should never give your dog meds without talking to your vet first.

How Dramamine works

Dramamine is the commercial name for the drug dimenhydrinate. Dimenhydrinate is an over-the-counter drug. It’s an antihistamine. Antihistamines work by —  just as the name sounds — blocking histamines. Histamines are chemicals your (or your dog’s) body creates when it’s faced with something stressful — in this case: motion sickness.

Imagine you’re a dog in a car and you’re looking at your favorite chew toy. Your chew toy is sitting still on the seat next to you in the backseat. That makes sense to you. You’re sitting still, too, just wondering how much longer until you get to the park.

However, your body detects the car is moving. You look out the window and see all the fun trees whizzing by. You experience movement while sitting still, doing nothing squeaking your toy. You can feel the car moving, but you aren’t. Basically, your doggo brain gets mixed signals and has to deal with that.

The canine brain does so by releasing histamines. Dramamine works by blocking the histamines and preventing an upset puppy tummy.  Hooray! Now you’re at the park, and you feel great and ready to play!