By Dr. Becker
Just like us, dogs and cats can get an occasional upset tummy that makes them feel lousy. And since our animal companions can’t talk to us, often the first we know of their misery is when they suddenly start vomiting. When it happens in your car, while you’re driving, it’s especially stressful for both you and your queasy furry friend.
If your pet tends to suffer with sporadic bouts of nausea and vomiting, the first thing you should do, if you haven’t already, is make an appointment with your veterinarian.
There are many dog and cat disorders that have vomiting as a symptom, so it’s important to rule those out before assuming your pet’s nausea is the result of motion sickness or another relatively harmless trigger.
Once Fido or Tiger has received a clean bill of health from your vet, you can start experimenting with natural remedies to relieve his occasional upset stomach. As always, I highly recommend that you consult with a holistic or integrative veterinarian on the most appropriate remedies and dosing for your individual pet.
5 Natural Remedies for an Upset Stomach
Catnip is a very effective herb for calming a pet with an upset stomach. I recommend using a glycerine tincture, about 12 to 20 drops for every 20 pounds of body weight. You can also combine fennel with catnip to treat your pet’s nausea.
Other herbs that help with indigestion and nausea include peppermint, dill, and one of my personal favorites, ginger. I recommend using fresh ground ginger or the dry herb, in the following amounts mixed into a delectable meatball:
1/16 teaspoon (a pinch)
✓ Dogs under 10 pounds
✓ Medium-size dogs
✓ Large dogs
✓ Giant breeds
¾ to 1 teaspoon
Give the ginger one to three times a day as needed. If you’re using it to help with motion sickness, be sure to give it to your pet at least an hour prior to travel. Alternatively, you can add ¼ cup ginger tea per 20 pounds to food daily as needed.
Some pet parents swear by the benefits of kefir to soothe their dog’s or cat’s indigestion. Kefir is a fermented milk beverage that contains beneficial probiotics. Although regular, pasteurized cow's milk can be irritating to pets' GI tracts, fermented milk is different.
It’s easy to convert raw milk to kefir yourself. All you need is one-half packet of kefir starter granules in a quart of raw milk (preferably organic and if possible, unpasteurized), which you leave at room temperature overnight.
You can offer the kefir once an hour over the course of three hours after your pet stops vomiting. Give 1 to 2 teaspoons to cats and small dogs, 1 to 2 tablespoons for medium-sized dogs, and 2 to 4 tablespoons for large dogs.
Going forward, you can add 1 to 3 teaspoons of this super probiotic to your pet’s food once or twice a day for overall improved GI defenses.
3. Flower Essences
Many pet parents have good luck treating their pet’s nervous nausea with Bach Flower essences such as Scleranthus, Rock Rose, or Rescue Remedy.
4. Essential Oils
Therapeutic grade essential oils are very powerful healing tools. Even tiny amounts of these oils can have a potent effect on every system in your pet’s body.
If your dog’s or cat’s nausea is triggered by rides in the car, try diffusing the essential oil of lavender in your vehicle by adding a drop to her collar or place a cotton ball with a few drops on it close to her.
In a small study of dogs with travel-induced excitement, researchers learned that the ambient odor of lavender in the car caused the dogs to spend much more time sitting and resting, and less time moving about and vocalizing.1
For severe cases of nausea in big dogs, I often recommend a commercially available peppermint oil blend in caplet form.
Other essential oils that may be beneficial for nausea are ginger, tarragon, lemongrass, cardamom and spearmint. Place just 1 or 2 drops of the oil on your dog’s paw, or rub it on her stomach.
Cats are much more sensitive to essential oils than dogs because their metabolism is so different. Strong odors are offensive to many cats, especially the odors in citrus essential oils.
To be on the safe side, I recommend discussing the use of essential oils with cats with your holistic or integrative veterinarian. For an in-depth discussion of essential oils and cats, check out my interview with Dr. Melissa Shelton, an expert on the use of oils in veterinary medicine.
5. Homeopathic Remedies
By far the most popular homeopathic remedy for nausea caused by motion sickness is Cocculus (Indian cockles). It can be given to your pet right before you put him in the car. Other remedies, depending on your pet’s particular symptoms, include Aconitum, Argentum and Ipecac.
When giving homeopathic remedies, try not to touch the pellets with your fingers. Instead, shake three of the large pellets or a half capful of the smaller granular pellets into the cap, and try to pop them into your pet’s mouth.
Alternatively, you can drop the same amount of pellets into a bit of filtered water, stir with a metal spoon and give a half dropper full to your pet. Make sure to give remedies away from food.