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Preventing/treating "car sickness" in cats

Discussion in 'Vet's Corner' started by Dr. Cris Bird, Jan 30, 2012.

  1. Dr. Cris Bird

    Dr. Cris Bird Savannah Super Cat

    Messages:
    40
    Many of us travel a lot with our cats to shows. I'd like to ask Dr. Per a question about preventing or treating "car sickness" in cats. By "car sickness," i mean vomiting of cats while in a moving car.

    I'm a research scientist, not a vet, so I'm guessing on this. But it seems to me (based on my personal experience with my cats) that feline car sickness is usually either caused by motion sickness or by stress-induced traveler's diarrhea. I haven't had very many cats with genuine motion sickness, but I have had one or two over the years. I've much more often seen cats develop loose stools after an entire weekend at a show -- not at the beginning of a show -- and sometimes that intestinal discomfort seems to lead to nausea and vomiting.

    I've found that stress-related diarrhea and the associated vomiting can often be prevented by feeding a cat Fortiflora, which helps keep beneficial bacteria in the intestinal tract and prevent overgrowth of "bad" bacteria. It does not always work, though. Occasionally, cats seem to need something stronger, such as Flagyl (metronidazole).

    I have heard of vets recommending dimenhydrate (Dramamine) for feline motion sickness, but that would probably only work for those few cats prone to motion sickness.

    I have also occasionally heard of vets recommending famotidine (Pepcid) for preventing feline nausea during a journey. I have not tried it because that doesn't make any sense to me. Why would a medication that reduces secretion of stomach acid be useful in treating any kind of "car sickness?" Am I missing something?

    Thanks!
     
  2. admin

    admin Paige Staff Member

    Messages:
    12,095
    Great question, Cris...I am wondering the same thing. I get car sick when I ride in the back seat of any car. My savannahs get car sick when I put them in the rear of the car as well...once I move them to the front seat, they are fine. Is it possible it is for the same reasons?
     
  3. Breheart

    Breheart Guest

    I agree, great question. Hearing the reasons behind why would be interesting to find out as well as treatment.

    Keljin for sure has some sort of either motion sickness or stress caused by his car rides, not sure which. Every trip to the vet, I have him in the front seat and facing forward in my car, and he manages to either vomit or have diarrhea all over his crate every time I take him into the vet.

    I can smell it before we get out of the car and I think to myself "oh god.. please not again".. It is such an embarrassment to hand over a poo or vomit coated kitten to the vet to be examined :( Now I usually just don't feed him the night and morning before a vet visit and hes fine now, but its just an inconvenience and I hate making the poor guy feel yucky!
     
  4. admin

    admin Paige Staff Member

    Messages:
    12,095
    Breanna, Taj used to do the same thing...sometimes they are so nervous as well..my vet gave me something to give Taj before his trip to the vet and it has helped tremendously as taj also howled loudly the entire way...

    Also, the more often they ride in the car, the less stressed they will be. Because I was traveling to shows with Zuri, I would take her int he car with me every day and she became much less stressed.
     
  5. Patti

    Patti Admin Staff Member

    Messages:
    9,962
    Great question Cristy - I have a girl who vomits every time I take her for a ride in the car, but usually it's only once - we never have a repeat performance on the return trip home. I've never thought about pre-treating her for motion sickness but would be interested to hear what Per might advise.
     
  6. Per Lausund

    Per Lausund Moderator Staff Member

    Messages:
    481
    First of all, I think you very correctly distinguish between car sickness (as in true motion sickness or vertigo) and vomiting! Some animals (incl humans!) experience discomfort when subject to changes of direction or orientation, especially when they cannot coordinate with visual impressions. This discomfort varies in intensity from mild discomfort to violent vomiting and an expressed death wish: the last is very rare, but motion sickness has been described as a condition where you first believe you will die, then hope you will die and finally you´re glad you didn´t. Very few animals (in my experience) experience this, and these symptoms may be alleviated using drugs. True motion sickness usually appears after some time in the vehicle/boat/plane/whatever and usually when violent, persistent changes of direction are felt. Sitting in the back reduces your ability to see the road, and may well exacerbate the symptoms. I am lucky enough not to have experience of this first hand!

    Some animals start salivating and worrying (or became lethargic and detached first) the moment they are put in a carrier for transport or placed in a vehicle. In my experience this is more usual than true motion sickness: this is stress- or fear-related, and the vomiting is "normal" to the stress. It is usually caused by fear of being enclosed in a carrier, losing control over what´s happening and expecting something bad (like a vet!) at the other end. As you mention, at shows etc some cats may develop diarrhoea, caused by changes in flora as a result of stress. This stress may also lead to vomiting, and as far as I have seen stress and fear is the dominant cause, vomiting and diarrhoea the result. Using Pepcid may be an attempt at reducing the secretion of acid which also comes with a stress reaction.

    How to treat: Personally, I don´t believe in medication to stop this. Put the cat in a carrier, put it in the car, sit next to it, talk to it and DON`T GO ANYWHERE! After a few minutes, take cat inside, feed something good or play or reward. In many animals, repeating this a few times and varying the time in the vehicle gives results, and you can move to step two: a drive around the block, back home, repeat play/reward etc. Also, if trips to the vet are a problem, get the vet assistants to play along and visit just for a cuddle and a treat. That way there isn´t just probing and jabbing at the other end! get the animal to associate the car with something at worst harmless, at best prelude to fun. In difficult cases a sedative may be of help at the start (see Paige´s post above), but do not get into the habit of sedating an animal just to transport it.
    Myself, I just put my cats in a carrier, secure it in the back and drive, and if they want to talk I answer back once in a while. Works for me!

    As to dietary additives and probiotics to combat stress effects, I´m all in favour!
    :)
    P
     
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  7. Per Lausund

    Per Lausund Moderator Staff Member

    Messages:
    481
    Hi!
    Does this specifically happen only on "vet days"? Or is that the only time you take him for a ride? Sounds like stress or fear of what´s coming may be part of the problem.
    P
     
  8. Breheart

    Breheart Guest

    I'm not sure, I don't really have an answer for that. I haven't taken him on car rides other than the vet so far. So the fear makes sense, sounds like I need to associate some positive memories with car rides, not sure how to do that or where to take him.

    Thanks Per
     
  9. Per Lausund

    Per Lausund Moderator Staff Member

    Messages:
    481
    Desensitize him like I described in the main post if you can, if necessary start with a mild sedative. And talk to your vet about just visiting the clinic to socialise with the assistants or something fun? Look at it from his point of view: you stick him in a carrier, you sound worried, you drive to a place and he gets poked and jabbed or gets something that tastes vile. And it´s all the car´s fault!
    :)
    P
     
  10. Breheart

    Breheart Guest

    Yes that was my mistake. I read your reply to my specific post before I saw the big detailed one just above it! I have read it all now and that sounds very good. Thank you Per!
     
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