Tranquilizing your pet to prepare them for a flight is not recommended by airlines or veterinarians due to the various risks and complications that they can result in for your pet. You may have heard otherwise and maybe even found a few online sites that seem reputable and still recommend pet sedation. But make no mistake, sedating or tranquilizing your pet in the hopes of keeping them calm during a flight can not only be ineffective but dangerous for your pet.

Related: Relocating Your Pet: Help Them Deal With The Stress

Sedation Risks For Dogs And Cats

Sedating dogs and cats for air travel comes with several risks that pet owners will want to avoid. These risks range in type and severity, but it is critical to keep all of them in mind before even considering sedating your animal. There have been many instances of pets having abnormal reactions to sedatives, and many of them required urgent veterinary care to recover from the effects. There have also been some cases where pets became unresponsive and were unable to be revived after being sedated.

Risk of Injury

Sedation causes pets to become dizzy, disoriented and makes it very difficult for them to maintain their balance and overall equilibrium. This is especially the case when animals are put onto planes, which rise and fall rapidly in elevation and pressure. As a result, sedated animals may not be able to brace themselves and prevent an injury if their crate is moved suddenly because of turbulence. This issue makes them much more prone to sustaining a potential injury when compared to non-sedated pets. 

Breathing And Heart Issues

Sedation can also result in several cardiovascular and respiratory issues in pets, especially during air travel. The effects of sedatives can make it extremely difficult for animals to appropriately adapt and adjust their bodies to the sudden changes in temperature, altitude, and pressure that come with being on an airplane. This is especially dangerous for particular breeds of pets, such as snub-nosed dogs like Pugs, Shih Tzus, different types of bulldogs, and Boston terriers. Snub-nosed dogs are much more vulnerable to these types of complications and shouldn’t ever be sedated, especially for a flight.

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Alternatives To Sedatives

 A dog lying in its bed.

There are several different strategies that responsible pet owners can use to ensure their animals’ health, safety, and comfort during flights that don’t require sedatives. Here are some of the top four methods that you can use to help your precious pup or kitty prepare for air travel. 

Natural Aromas and Calming Sprays

Calming sprays and natural aromas that are oil or plant-based can be exceedingly helpful in getting your pet to relax and remain calm during a trip. Scents such as lavender, chamomile, and valerian have a calming effect on many pets, especially dogs. Additionally, some of these sprays can mimic the properties and effects of natural pheromones, which can also comfort animals. You can find a wide selection of these sprays and aromas to choose from at various online retailers. 

Related: How to Bring Your Cat When You’re Moving Overseas

Crate Training 

For at least a few weeks prior to your trip, you should begin conducting crate training with your pet. If your pet is already crate trained, it’s probably still a good idea to go over some refresher lessons to help your pet get even more comfortable with them. Before you fly, you’ll need to purchase a crate that follows the International Air Transport Association (IATA) guidelines. The crate must also be the proper size for your animal, and you should work to make the experience as comfortable as possible for them. Adding in a soft blanket or towel, a few toys, and treats can help pets acclimate more quickly to their crate and allows them to create positive associations with it.

Practice Traveling With Your Pet 

To help your pet get used to traveling in a crate, you should consider doing some practice traveling before leaving for your actual trip. Put your pet into the crate in your car, and go on a little trip with them around town.  Doing this will let them get used to the feeling of being in the crate while in motion. Giving your dog some practice experience before your actual trip will help them to remain much calmer than if you were to pack them up and put them on a plane right out of the gate. Practice makes perfect, after all.

Keep Calm And Carry On

Traveling with your pet on a plane, especially during a long and grueling international flight, can be a stressful, time-consuming, and exhausting experience for you both. It’s only natural for you to be at least a little anxious about this process, but you need to remain calm. Pets can sense when you are worried or stressed, which tends to increase their stress levels. Do what you can to stay positive and support your fuzzy buddy as much as possible through the experience.

Related: Relocating Your Pet: This is the Paperwork You Need


A person sitting on a hill with their arm around a dog.

Choosing to travel with your pet can be a stressful experience for both you and your animal, especially if you’ve never done it before. But you don’t need to go relying on potentially dangerous sedatives and tranquilizers to keep them calm during the trip. By planning and making preparations prior to your departure date, you can help to make the experience as safe and calming as possible for your precious fur baby without the need for medication. Taking the time and initiative to help your pet crate train and get used to crate-travel can be exceedingly helpful in mitigating their stress and discomfort during your trip.

Do you need to find out more about how to take care of your pet’s needs during travel? Call toll-free at +1 (800) 626-5023 or check out All Paws Express to find everything you need to know.