Should You Sedate Your Dog When Traveling By Plane?

Dog Traveling 1

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There are many preparations to make when it comes to traveling by air. From purchasing tickets to figuring how many bags you need to pack, it’s all a lot to think about, especially if it’s a big move or a long vacation. For us pet parents, there is even more to consider if our furry family members are coming along for the ride.

We have to find out which airlines are pet-friendly, pick the right pet carriers, prepare our pooches for travel, and so on. But one of the biggest challenges we might come across when traveling with our pets is thinking about whether they need to be sedated while traveling by air.

After all, one of our primary concerns is their safety and comfort, especially if they might fly in the cargo area of the plane.

So should you sedate your dog if you’re traveling with them by plane? The quick answer is no, and there are many reasons why.

Why You Shouldn’t Sedate Your Dog While Traveling By Air

Traveling by air is a stressful and anxiety-filled experience for dogs, and even more so when they ride in the cargo area of the plane.

We try to make them as comfortable as possible while still adhering to the rules and regulations of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) who govern air transportation for pets. This is why many pet parents consider sedation to keep their pets calm on the journey.

But according to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), in most cases, dogs should not be given sedatives or tranquilizers prior to flying, as they might cause respiratory and cardiovascular problems due to the increase in altitude pressure. This type of condition can greatly affect all breeds but, more specifically, short-nosed dog breeds like Pugs and Chow Chows.

Another major reason sedation and tranquilizers are not good for your dog while traveling by plane is they can seriously affect your pet’s equilibrium. According to Dr. Patricia Olson, a director at the American Humane Association (AHA), “An animal’s natural ability to balance and maintain equilibrium is altered under sedation.”

Sedation can also make your pooch woozy, which will put even more stress on them and might even cause them to panic while in their carriers. And when there are sudden movements with the plane and inside the cargo area, a sedated dog will not be able to react, as their instincts and movements are hampered by the medication.

What Are The Alternatives?

Dog Traveling 2

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Two things you need to consider first when traveling with your dog by plane are their health and age.

Always consult your veterinarian before traveling by plane with your dog. If your pets are past ten years old, travel in a plane’s cargo area might not be the best idea.

Also, if they have health issues, the airline you fly with might not let them aboard due to health risks. In that case, leaving them with family or friends while you’re away might be an option.

If possible, traveling by automobile is a better choice than leaving them stuck in the cargo area of the plane. Knowing they can see and be near you will lower their anxiety level. There also probably won’t be any altitude or pressurization issues.

However, if you must travel by air, simple things like letting them get comfortable with their carrier can do wonders. Being comfortable with their carrier will ease stress while traveling.

Some veterinarians also recommend herbal stress relievers like lavender and chamomile. These natural alternatives can ease anxiety without affecting the brain. But make sure to check with your veterinarian to make sure it’s safe for your dog.

If your pet is small enough—under 20 pounds–your airline might let them sit with you in the cabin area. There you can monitor them while traveling in the air.

And look into the different animal-friendly travel programs airlines might have. From JetBlue’s JetPaw’s to United Airlines’s PetSafe, you can find something suitable for your dog to travel with you.

What do you think about sedating your dog while traveling by air? How do you bring your dog safely on a plane? Let us know in the comments below!