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Car Seats

When a Chihuahua Dislikes the Car

Helping with Motion Sickness | The Importance of a Car Seat


One of the great aspects about owning a Chihuahua is that it's quite easy to take this tiny dog along with you. 

Having a toy sized breed gives you a lot more options to keep your puppy or dog alongside you when you head out of the house, as opposed to larger breeds.

Not only is the Chihuahua easy to pick up and carry, but with the right carry method, this breed can be taken to all sorts of places, including stores and even locals with lots of walking. 

However, in order to reach your destinations, more than likely this will involve driving in the car. And that is where two important elements come in: helping your Chihuahua avoid car sickness, and a factor far too many owners overlook, safety via a car seat.

This section will cover both of these vital issues; your Chihuahua's comfort level is dependent on one and his life is dependent on the other. 
Tiny Chihuahua in toy car
Does your Chi handle the car okay and you're just looking for a great car seat? Jump to right to: The Best Car Seats for Chihuahuas.

Helping a Chihuahua with Car Sickness


It's not always easy for a Chihuahua to be a passenger in a car; it can be a really uncomfortable event and motion sickness is not uncommon.

When a dog develops motion sickness, this can make car rides extremely distressing for the dog and frustrating for the owner. In addition, bad experiences in a vehicle only serve to make a Chihuahua more reluctant the next time. 

Signs of car sickness include:
  • Excessive drooling
  • Panting
  • Lip smacking
  • Excessive yawning
  • Uneasiness
  • Whining
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Listlessness
  • Panicked behavior
  • Experience of car sickness leading to fear of cars
What causes this:
Chihuahuas get motion sickness due to a few factors.  

1) The brain is receiving conflicting input. If a dog is not looking directly out the window, his eyes are telling him that there is no movement. After all, the inside of the car is not moving. But his body and the inner ears are sensing movement. This can make a dog very queasy.

2) In addition, involuntary movements of a dog's body (swaying and so forth during breaking and turns) add to this stomach-churning feeling. 

3) Finally, with Chihuahua puppies, the inner ear is not fully developed, which throws off their sense of balance, further compounding the problem. 
Chihuahuas that feel uneasy in the car can quickly come to hate being in it. Fortunately, there are some effective methods you can use to reverse this. 

Keep in mind that in most cases, it will take a combination of all of these remedies for a puppy or dog to feel just fine during a drive. And many Chihuahuas can learn to enjoy car rides. 

1. Have your Chihuahua in a raised booster seat, connected by a harness (not a collar). This is the #1 method to stop car sickness and additionally can save your Chihuahua's life (details on car seats ahead).

This works because:

1- It keeps a Chihuahua raised up high, where the puppy or dog has a clear line-of-sight out of the windows. Once able to see the road, it fixes the disconnect of his body/inner ear/ brain that was previously there. 

2- It keeps a Chihuahua physically stabilized. With the right car seat, and using a harness that goes over his shoulders, chest, and back, a puppy or dog will stay securely in place. This helps stop his body from lurching forward, backwards, and side-to-side as the car is making turns, decelerating and accelerating, and stopping. 
2. Have proper air flow.

Dogs need to feel air flow when in the car; but, for this tiny breed, too much wind can be just as bad. Most Chihuahuas do well with windows (one in the front, and one in the back for a cross-breeze) down about 1 to 2 inches. 

Ideally, this should be done even on hot days that call out for AC, and cold days that call out for heat. While you will need to increase the AC or heat output to keep the car at the right temperature (next point), feeling fresh air is important. 

3. Keep the temperature slightly cool. 

Feeling either hot to cold adds another layer of discomfort to a dog that hates the car. And if it's too hot this adds to motion sickness. Aim to keep the car about 70 F, and be sure to cool the car off in the summer before putting your Chihuahua inside. 
4. Offer a tiny bit of sugar.

A small amount of real sugar (sugar substitutes are toxic to canines) can help prevent and cure a queasy stomach. About 10 minutes before a car ride, you can offer one jelly bean. 
5. The timing of meals and treats.

Do not feed your Chihuahua a full meal within one hour of heading off in the car; this is more easily vomited out. 

However, a few small dry dog treats given 15 to 20 minutes beforehand can help prevent a vomiting episode by adding a cushion to an otherwise empty stomach. A treat like Old Mother Hubbard Classic Crunchy Mini Biscuits is oven-baked, just the right size, and is easy on the stomach due to being all-natural with no unhealthy additives. 
6. The timing of breaks.

If your Chihuahua does not do well in the car, it'll be common to want to get from Point A to Point B as quickly as possible. 

And alternatively, if a dog that previously did poorly is now doing much better, they'll be an urge to keep going while things are good.

However, dogs that feel nauseous need to have breaks. And for the dogs that handle the car better by implementing the previous methods, there may still be a 'breaking point'.

Therefore, if your Chihuahua is getting car sick, take a break every 20 minutes.
And if your Chihuahua is handling the ride without issues, still take a break every 30 to 45 minutes. 

Note: If your puppy or dog has fallen asleep, allow them to stay napping; but, do take a break as soon as they wake up. 

You'll want to pull over to a safe area, and with your Chihuahua on leash and harness (and remember, he should be on the harness while in his seat - more ahead), allow your dog to stretch his legs, go to the bathroom, and have some water and a few more of the dry treats (previous point #5). 

The Importance of a Car Seat

As mentioned earlier, the right car seat is the #1 method to stop a Chihuahua from developing motion sickness, which can be very brutal on a dog and lead to a dislike of cars. 

However, another vital aspect is that not using a car seat is the same as not buckling up a child: It's downright dangerous. 

It's easy to say that you're a good driver, so an accident won't happen. Or to think 'what can go wrong?' if you're just taking a short drive. However, not buckling up your Chihuahua is - without exaggeration - literally putting his life at risk. 

Here's some facts & stats to keep in mind:
  • There are over 16,000 car accidents each day in the US.
  • Globally, there are over 3,000 vehicle related deaths per day.
  • A large portion of accidents are caused by distracted driving, and in a Kurgo/AAA study of pet owners, 65% of pet owners admitted to being distracted by their unrestrained dogs.
52% of owners petted their dogs while driving, 23% had to use their arms/hands to keep a dog in place while braking, 19% had to hold their dog to stop them from moving around too much during the drive, 18% tried to reach into the backseat, 17% allowed their dog to sit in their lap, and 13% gave treats while driving.
  • Even if you are a great driver, you have no control over others on the road or weather conditions.The top 5 reasons for car accidents are distracted driving, speeding, drunk driving, reckless driving, and rain.
  • Unrestrained dogs can be terribly injured, even in slow-moving accidents. Without a car seat, in a 25 MPH accident, a 5 lb. Chihuahua will be thrown with the force of a 125 lb. object. If the accident occurs going 45 MPH, a 5 lb. Chihuahua will be thrown with the force of a 225 lb. object.
Not only can this be fatal for your dog, it also makes a dog a deadly projectile for other passengers, and particularly for children.

The Best Car Seats for Chihuahuas

To prevent your Chihuahua from getting motion sickness and to keep your puppy or dog safe in the event of an accident, there are a few elements that you'll want the car seat to have:

1. Easy to install. While many owners keep their dog's car seat in place, if you need to move it in and out of the car, it should not be an inconvenience. 

2. Raised. These are also referred to as dog booster seats, and this is an important element to look for. The seat should be raised high enough that it gives your Chihuahua good line-of-sight. 

3. Properly sized. With the Chihuahua being the smallest toy dog that exists, you'll want the seat to be sized to his body. If it is too large, there will not be proper supporting structures around the dog. 

4. Inner harness buckle. Do not overlook this. The only way to keep a Chihuahua safe in the seat is to have him wearing a harness (more ahead) and then clip the inner buckle to the attachment on the harness. Never do a seat-to-collar connection; this can cause grave neck injury. 
The harness & car seat combination: 

If you don't have a harness for your Chihuahua, it may be time to strongly consider this. Not only is this needed in cars to secure a dog into the car seat, but a harness also helps prevent the terrible and devastating condition of collapsed trachea (common with toy breeds) that can occur when a dog is on leash and collar. 

There are a few excellent harnesses that fit even the smallest Chihuahua puppies and dogs, are comfortable, and are very easy to put on. 

A good one is Funpet's Soft Mesh Dog Harness, which is designed for small dogs, puppies, and cats. It is made of breathable mesh and comes in 6 different colors.
And other great option is the EcoBark Comfort Harness Vest. The extra-small fits dogs as little as 4 lbs. and comes in 8 colors. 
Recommended car seats for Chihuahua puppies and dogs are below. If you do not see the images, try a refresh. And on mobile, you may need to turn your screen horizontal to see all 4. 

More Car Tips

1. The safest place for your Chihuahua's car seat is the middle of the back seat. This can work well since it'll be easy to see your dog in the rear view mirror and your Chihuahua will still be able to see out of the front window.

However, if you want to have your Chihuahua in the front passenger seat, be sure to slide the passenger seat as far back as it can go, and disable your passenger air bag, since deployment can cause serious injury. 

2. Bring water, and more than you think you'll need. Not only should you have water for when you take breaks during a long car ride, it's also a good idea to have water with you when you're out and about with your Chihuahua. 

Use a stainless steel container. The H2O4K9, Dog Water Bottle and Travel Bowl not only has a clever name, the handy bottle and bowl combination makes touting along water very easy. 
3. Once you've taken steps to decrease car sickness and you have a fun, safe car seat for your Chihuahua, make use of it. If you can bring your Chi with you instead of leaving your dog home, do it. This will cut down on separation anxiety, and make running errands more fun. 
There's lots of stores that allow small dogs. While it is often up to a store's local manager, Lowe's, Home Depot, Barnes and Noble, Foot Locker, Bebe, Gap, and Old Navy are just some of the places that usually allow pets.

In addition, if you keep your Chihuahua in a sling bag like the i'Pet Hands-free Reversible Small Dog Sling, this keeps your hands free, with your Chi right by your hip. 
Chihuahua up high on pole
What you should be doing for your Chi's health, happiness, safety, and comfort.
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