Does flying traumatize dogs?

Answered by Jarrod Smith

Flying can indeed be traumatizing for dogs, especially for those who are not accustomed to traveling. The experience of being confined in a crate and exposed to loud noises, unfamiliar smells, and the sensation of being in the air can be highly stressful for our canine companions.

One of the main sources of stress during air travel for dogs is the separation from their owners. Dogs are highly social animals and being separated from their human family members can cause them anxiety and distress. Additionally, the noise and vibrations of the aircraft can further contribute to their stress levels.

There have been studies conducted to assess the stress levels of dogs during air travel. One such study found that dogs exhibited increased heart rate and panting, which are indicators of stress, during air transport. These physiological changes suggest that flying can indeed be traumatizing for dogs.

In terms of sedation, some dog owners may opt to use medication such as acepromazine to help calm their dogs during air travel. However, research suggests that sedation with acepromazine, at the dosage typically used, does not significantly affect the stress reaction in dogs during air transport. This means that even with sedation, dogs may still experience high levels of stress and anxiety during the flight.

It is important to note that every dog is different and may react differently to flying. Some dogs may be more resilient and adaptable to the experience, while others may struggle with fear and anxiety. It is crucial for dog owners to assess their pet’s individual needs and consult with a veterinarian before deciding on air travel.

If you are planning to fly with your dog, there are several steps you can take to help minimize their stress and make the experience as comfortable as possible. Some tips include:

1. Gradual acclimation: If your dog is not used to traveling or being in a crate, it is important to gradually acclimate them to these experiences before the flight. Start by introducing them to the travel crate in a positive and rewarding manner, and gradually increase the duration of time they spend in it.

2. Familiarize with the crate: Make sure your dog’s travel crate is spacious, well-ventilated, and secure. Familiarize your dog with the crate by allowing them to spend time in it at home before the flight. Place familiar bedding and toys inside the crate to create a sense of comfort and familiarity.

3. Positive associations: Associate the crate and the overall travel experience with positive things for your dog. Offer treats, praise, and rewards when your dog enters the crate or shows calm behavior during travel preparations.

4. Exercise before the flight: Prior to the flight, ensure that your dog gets plenty of exercise to help reduce their energy levels and anxiety. A tired dog is more likely to be calmer during the flight.

5. Calming aids: Consider using natural calming aids such as pheromone sprays or anxiety wraps to help reduce your dog’s stress levels during the flight. These can help create a sense of security and relaxation for your dog.

6. Familiar scents: Place an item with your scent, such as a T-shirt you have worn, inside the crate to provide a sense of familiarity and comfort for your dog.

7. Stay calm and reassuring: Dogs are highly attuned to their owner’s emotions, so it is important to remain calm and reassuring throughout the travel process. Your calm demeanor can help alleviate your dog’s anxiety.

Flying can be traumatizing for dogs, particularly for those who are not accustomed to travel. The stress of being separated from their owners, the loud noises, and the unfamiliar environment can all contribute to their anxiety. Sedation with acepromazine, while commonly used, may not significantly reduce the stress reaction in dogs during air transport. It is essential for dog owners to carefully consider their pet’s individual needs and consult with a veterinarian when planning to fly with their dog. Taking steps to gradually acclimate your dog to travel and providing a calm and comforting environment can help minimize their stress and make the experience as positive as possible.