Dear Dr. Fox:
I have a 3-year-old golden retriever. She is shy and sweet and gets along with all dogs and people. She has always had car phobia (vomits, drools, etc.) whenever we take her in the car, unless someone is sitting with her.
She has started throwing up, retching and acting frantic. This began a couple of months ago and occurs about every seven to 10 days. Otherwise, her personality is the same, as are her eating and bathroom habits.
These episodes usually happen in the middle of the night when she wakes up or is startled, after drinking water or playing rough with a toy. When this started, she had an X-ray and blood work and nothing abnormal was found.
DF: Your dog's symptoms are relatively nonspecific at this stage and could get worse, with actual epileptic seizures developing or more serious gastrointestinal or liver problems.
Sudden arousal and fear or anxiety seem to be trigger factors. I advise monitoring her and prevention.
Give her canned or raw, dairy-, corn-, soy- and wheat-free dog food. Also, give the dog one teaspoon of finely chopped ginger (from fresh root) in her food, which has many beneficial effects, including anti-nausea. Add the supplement tryptophan (500 mg daily). This can have a calming effect.
Calming herbs such as valerian, hops and chamomile tea might help. PetzLife calming support for pets, called @-Eaze, comes in a gel and contains L-theanine, chamomile and other beneficial ingredients. Lavender oil is wonderfully calming, and two or three drops on a strip of cotton around your dog's neck might calm her down, especially during car rides, along with a piece of ginger given 30 minutes before the ride. Some dogs relish crystallized ginger, which works well as a stomach calmer.
Avoid giving your dog vaccinations or anti-flea drugs until she is clear of distress and sickness.