The question of whether or not to sedate or tranquilize your dog during travel or relocation is something that many pet owners have to consider at one point or another, especially if you plan on flying with your fuzzy buddy. The short answer is generally a hard no. The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) has stated that sedating your pets during travel can increase the risk of respiratory and heart problems, especially if you take them on a flight. As a result of this, sedation for animals during travel is not usually recommended. However, there are times where vets may recommend minor tranquilizers for air travel, though this is not a common occurrence.  

Do Not Sedate Your Pets Unless Recommended By Your Veterinarian    

You should not choose to sedate your pet unless doing so has been recommended or at least approved by your veterinarian. More than likely, they will recommend minor tranquilizers or anti anxiety meds rather than sedatives. However, you must be careful to follow the vet’s dosing recommendations very closely. The drugs used in tranquilizers can easily result in sedating your dog if you give them too high a dosage. Additionally, you need to keep in mind that some airlines prohibit animals’ sedation on their flights. There may be paperwork you are required to fill out stating that you haven’t sedated your pet before flying with them. 

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

Side Effects of Tranquilizing Pets for Air Travel  

Relatively little is actually known about the potential side effects that sedatives and tranquilizers can have on animals that are taken onto airplanes. There have been several known instances where pets have reacted abnormally to sedatives, and later required veterinarian care to recover from the effects of sedation after flying. In the worst of these cases, the pets were unable to be revived. Additionally, many pets have exhibited adverse reactions to even small, single doses of sedatives when they are traveling by air. Sedation can even result in pets becoming more excited during travel in some cases.

Balance and Equilibrium Problems

One particular issue that pets face with sedation is inhibition of their natural ability to balance and retain their equilibrium. In the case of travel- especially air travel- this means that sedated animals may not be able to brace themselves and prevent injury when their kennel is suddenly jarred by turbulence.

Respiratory And Cardiovascular Problems

Sedation increases the potential for heart and breathing issues in pets, especially if traveling on a plane. Sedated pets can have a tough time acclimating to the sudden changes in pressure, temperature, and altitude that come with flying. Snub or short-nosed dogs like bulldogs, pugs, and Shih Tzus are especially vulnerable to these issues during air travel and should never be sedated.

Risk of Injury

Due to their dizziness and inability to balance or think clearly, pets who are sedated on flights are much more prone to injury than non-sedated animals. Not to mention the fact that some dogs may respond negatively to the sedatives themselves, leading to more potential injuries and the need for a vet’s intervention.

Do you want to learn more about the do’s and don’ts of traveling with your pet? Reach out to All Paws Express or call them toll-free at +1 (800) 626-5023 to find out more.

Discuss with Your Veterinarian Sedation Alternatives for Travel

A dog in the driver’s seat of a car.

There are several alternatives to sedatives and tranquilizers that responsible pet owners can make use of to help ensure that their precious fur baby will be safe, calm, and cared for throughout the flight. There are several different tactics that pet owners can use that don’t involve sedatives, but these are the top three ways many people find success in keeping their dogs passified during flights.

Aromas and Calming Sprays

Natural aromas and calming sprays or oils can help keep your dog calm during transport, and there are plenty of different ones available for you to choose from on the market. These sprays are typically either oil or plant-based, and some of them even mimic pheromones to help keep your pet relaxed. Valerian, lavender, and chamomile are all known to have a calming effect on dogs.

Related: What You Need To Know When Shipping A Pet Internationally

Prescription Anxiety Medication

While sedation is off the table for keeping your pets calm during flights, your veterinarian may prescribe some medication that can reduce your dog’s anxiety. These medications should be tested at home first so that you can know how your pet will respond to the medication. Alprazolam, trazodone, and gabapentin are common examples of these kinds of prescribed meds.

Crate Training

Working with your pet for a few weeks before your trip on crate training is another way to help keep your pet calm during the flight. You’ll need to acquire a crate approved by the International Air Transport Association (IATA). The crate should be the proper size to accommodate your animal, and you should try to make it as comfortable for your fuzzy friend as possible to help keep them calm. If your dog isn’t already crate trained, you’ll need to get them acclimated to sleeping and resting in the crate before your trip.

Tips for Crate Training Your Dog

You should start crate training your pet at least a few weeks before your departure, and be sure to go slow at first. Some dogs may take to crates right away, while others will be more skeptical about them and may take more time to become comfortable with everything. If they have trouble, consider taking the crate apart and introducing it piece by piece. Start with the bottom half and encourage them to lay and rest in it. You can add the top half and the door as they start to get more comfortable. Additionally, you can encourage crate exploration with treats and toys, and you can even begin feeding your pet in their crate to help them acclimate. This will likely take patience, a few trial runs, and some positive reinforcement, but your best buddy should come around eventually.

Related: Pet Transport Costs and The Benefits Of Using A Pet Transporting Company

Frequently Asked Questions About Pet Travel

Here are a few of the most commonly asked questions about pet travel and sedation.

Can I give my dog Benadryl before a flight?

You should talk to your veterinarian before giving your dog any medication. Benadryl for dogs is an allergy medicine that has a calming side effect for anxious dogs. Because of this mild effect, some vets may approve of ‘the use of Benadryl for your dog, but this will depend on your dog’s breed, personality, and other factors. 

What can I give my dog to keep him calm while flying?

Before the flight you can help reduce your dog’s stress by offering:

  • A swaddling shirt, like the Thundershirt, can help reduce anxiety.
  • A pheromone-calming collar may be able to reduce stress.
  • Prescription anxiety medicine from your veterinarian can calm your dog’s nerves.
  • A favorite toy or blanket to provide added comfort.

Do dogs’ ears hurt when flying?

Just like humans, a dog’s ears are vulnerable to high altitudes. Flying can cause mild pain for your dog if it has trouble equalizing its ears. Luckily, the dog’s outer ear canal equalizes pressure in the dog’s ear naturally, so if your dog’s ears hurt during the flight, it will pass within a few minutes. 

Where do dogs pee on long flights?

Most dogs are not allowed to leave their carrier during the flight, so it is very important to take your dog for a bathroom break before the trip. You’ll also want to line their carrier with a pee pad that can absorb any urine during the flight. It’s important to stop giving your dog water about two hours before the flight to reduce their need to urinate. 

Can my dog sit on my lap during a flight?

No. Your dog is required to stay in its carrier at all times. If the dog is accompanying you in the cabin, you may have the carrier ride on your lap or under the seat in front of you. But you are not allowed to bring your dog out of the carrier until you arrive at the airport. 

How stressful is flying for dogs?

According to a recent clinical study, flying can be very stressful for dogs. The most stressful part of the journey is the loading and unloading process. While flying might be stressful for your dog, it is the safest way for your animal to travel

To minimize your dog’s stress during a flight, there are several things you can do to prepare your dog for the trip. 

A pet shipping company can reduce the stress of flying for your pet because they have strategies and solutions to improve your pet’s environment and experience during the journey. All Paws Express pairs your pet with one of their travel specialists to ensure a safe and pleasant trip.

How do I make my dog comfortable on a plane?

There are several things you can do to help your dog feel more comfortable on a plane:

  • Make sure your dog carrier is the right size for your dog and meets plane requirements. 
  • Train your dog to travel well in a crate. 
  • Desensitize your dog to loud noises and crowds by socializing them and exposing them to airplane sounds. 
  • Exercise your dog before putting it in its carrier. By getting your dog’s energy out, the dog will travel better. 
  • Take them to the bathroom right before you check-in and restrict their water two hours before the flight.
  • Utilize a pet shipping company that specializes in domestic and international travel to ensure your dog has a safe and comfortable trip.

Advanced Preparation Will Help Your Pet Travel Well Without Sedation

A person sitting on a cliff, cuddling their dog.

Since sedating your pet for travel is neither a recommended or safe option, you’ll have to take the time to prepare other ways to help your pet remain calm during their trip. All of the methods mentioned above should help you with this, though some tactics may work better than others. What will and won’t work largely depends on your dog’s attitude, but given a little time and encouragement, your dog should be in tip-top travel-ready shape by the time your flight is ready for takeoff. 

Do you want to travel overseas with your pet but aren’t sure what to do? Check out All Paws Express or call them toll-free at +1 (800) 626-5023 today to learn how they can help!