Dogs & Seasickness: Prevention and Remedies


If you’re new to boating or a new canine friend has just joined the family, there’s always a natural apprehension about how the pup will mix with the boating experience.

After all, people get seasick and aren’t cut out for the water. Does the same apply for our pups?

Do dogs get seasick on boats?

Just like people, dogs can certainly exhibit symptoms of seasickness which may include trembling, excessive salivation, and regurgitating. However, these can often be signs of other underlying issues, so it’s important to rule those out first before giving up on your dog being your shipmate.

Let’s dive into some tips and tricks you can implement to reduce the chance that your dog will get sea sick from the get go, and how to prevent it if they’ve already shown that they are prone to it.

Properly Introducing a Dog to Boating to Prevent Seasickness

  • Proper Exercise Beforehand
  • Meal Consistency
  • Bathroom Duties Beforehand
  • Make Boat Dog-Friendly
  • Day on the Boat without Boating
  • Make the First Outing Short and with Frequent Trips to Shore

The best way to not have a dog get seasick is to introduce them to the boating lifestyle properly. An ounce of prevention, so to speak.

If your pup has already shown signs of seasickness, you can follow these recommendations as well to make sure that it’s indeed seasickness and not some other cause.

First, let’s start with what to do with the dog before you even get to the marina. You have a responsibility as a dog owner to give your dog an adequate amount of exercise to burn up excess energy.

The last thing we want is a pup who is completely amped-up out of boredom and introducing them to a cramped, rocking, and unfamiliar situation. In this case, if the dog were to exhibit negative reactions when boating, it might be legitimate seasickness or excess energy combined with anxiety.

Do yourself and your dog a favor by neutralizing the excess energy beforehand.

Secondly, make sure you only give your dog their normal meals (type, size, and time) beforehand. Unfamiliar food or a larger quantity than normal might have symptoms that mimic seasickness, and the rocking of the boat definitely won’t help an upset stomach.

Thirdly, since your dog hasn’t been adjusted to boating yet, then I’m sure it hasn’t been trained to use a designated potty-station that you’ve made for it on your boat (if you don’t plan on making a couple trips to shore). In that case, it is imperative that you get the dog to perform his or her personal duties before getting onboard.

A dog that needs to go to the bathroom while on a moving platform and being terrified to upset you by doing its business on your boat is surely going to cause some anxiety and malaise.

Fourth, take steps to make sure that the setup on the boat is as dog-friendly as possible but within reason. Obviously, we don’t want to overhaul the entire vessel, but laying down some rugs and giving your dog his or her designated lounging spot is letting your dog know that they have their “safe space” and the rugs (preferably with rubber strips on the bottom) will help them keep their balance and prevent anxiety from slipping and clawing for balance.

Fifth, introduce your dog to boating on a day when you’re not actually going out on the water but just doing some work on the boat. If your boat is at home, lift your dog into it and let them hang out while you do some work. If it’s docked, spend a day doing small chores on board and let your dog get used to just being on it without any excessive motion. Make sure to take frequent walk breaks.

You can also have your dog respond to new commands and reward them with a treat. Commands such as having them lie down in their bed on the boat, for example.

Doing all of this will let your dog associate the boat with relaxation and rewards and they’ll be that much more likely to enjoy the experience when you finally launch.

Finally, when you do launch, plan on a trip that is relatively short and with frequent trips ashore. This might change, of course, if your dog is loving the waves, but you just want to set the expectations for yourself before pulling the ropes so that you’re not annoyed. Progressively increase the trip duration or type of trip until you find when you hit the threshold with your dog’s tolerance.

With all of the aforementioned steps, we’re trying our best to remove all of the variables that can cause your dog stress and anxiety before you hop on your boat. Knowing that you have eliminated all of the wild cards is essential is properly concluding that your dog is truly seasick.

What if My Dog Keeps Getting Seasick?

All hope is not lost if you’ve followed the above steps and still find that your dog can’t handle the waves.

Of course, you should consult with your pup’s veterinarian, but there is an FDA approved product that your might be able to try to overcome seasickness. It’s extremely affordable online and has 5 stars out of over 100 reviews.

The product is called Cerenia, and you can actually purchase it online with a prescription at chewy.com. The link will take you to the exact product and is not an affiliate link.

Maybe it’s Best to Leave Your Pup Ashore

Let’s face it, you can do everything right leading up to the experience and even medication might not help. In that case, you can always keep trying to slowly introduce your dog to boating like I mentioned above and hope for the best, or just accept that your dog wasn’t cut out to have sea legs.

There’s nothing wrong with that, but I know that it can be disappointing. However, respecting your dog’s anxiety and physical limitations and not repeatedly subjecting them to fear will definitely help your relationship with your dog and the trust between you in the long-run.

Bob Van Nuck

Bob lives in central Michigan and enjoys running, woodworking, fixing up small engines, and getting out on the water with family, of course!

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