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Is Air Travel Safe For My Snub-Nosed Dog?

Published on: April 27, 2022  |  Author: Starwood Animal Transport

french bulldog in shirtThere are several dog breeds that have short, or snub noses - also known as brachycephalic breeds. These include: Affenpinscher, American Staffordshire Terrier, Boston Terrier, Boxer, Brussels Griffon, Bulldog (all breeds), Cane Corso, Chow Chow, Dogue De Bordeaux, English Toy Spaniel, Japanese Chin, Lhasa Apso, Mastiff, Pekingese, Pit Bull, Presa Canario, Pug, Shar Pei, Shih Tzu, Staffordshire Bull Terrier & Tibetan Spaniel. Their faces give them character and a special kind of charm. But those snub noses can also cause concerns for pet air travel. Should you be worried?

The American Veterinary Medical Association says understanding your dog’s special needs will enable you to help him or her fly with minimal risk.

A short snout can cause shortness of breath.

As an owner of a snub-nosed dog, you already know that your pet is more susceptible to respiratory problems than dogs with longer noses. It’s simply a matter of space – or lack of space. Every dog’s nose is made up of a hard palate, nasal passages and sinuses, but in brachycephalic (short-nosed) dogs, all those parts are crowded together.

As a result, these dogs can wind up with unusually small nostrils, an abnormally long soft palate or a windpipe that is overly narrow. Those problems can make it difficult to breathe at any time, even more so when your dog is exercising. Dogs can have trouble cooling themselves if they get overheated or if they’re under stress. In fact stress can actually cause a snub-nosed dog’s airway to collapse, cutting off their oxygen supply.

Veterinarians say that pet air travel can be riskier for short-nosed dogs than those with normal muzzles. Even though temperature and air pressure are controlled in a plane’s cargo hold, air quality and circulation may be less than optimal, thereby putting more strain on your snub-nosed dog’s already labored respiration. Bulldogs are the most sensitive, especially the English Bulldog. It's best that you avoid air travel with your Bulldog in summer seasons.

Your dog can still fly.

It just takes preparation and precautions, many of which make good sense no matter what breed of dog you have if you’re getting ready for pet air travel. Your goal is to reduce your dog’s stress level. Knowing your pet is as safe and comfortable as possible will reduce your stress level, too.

Dogs who are overweight or obese have even more difficulty breathing, so it’s important to ensure your pet maintains a healthy, appropriate weight. Older dogs or those with chronic medical conditions can also be more vulnerable to stressful conditions, including air travel.

Since pet air travel requires an IATA-approved travel kennel, purchase it early so your dog has time to get used to his or her new travel carrier. They will feel more at home when they’re used to spending time in the kennel, and that sense of familiarity will help them deal with the strangeness of takeoffs and landings, engine noise, turbulence and so on. It's important to note that most airlines require snub-nosed breeds to travel in the next size larger travel kennel. Make sure you measure your dog accurately to determine the appropriate size and then buy the next size bigger. This allows for more space and air circulation to ensure they are safe and comfortable.

Your pup’s travel kennel may feel even more like home (and it will be more comfortable) if you add a soft lining that smells familiar to them. Vets warn, however, that you should use only flat newspaper or a very thin blanket – nothing fluffy – so there’s no chance your dog can accidentally cover up his nose in a way that restricts breathing.

Consider giving your dog an in-cabin experience.

If your dog is small enough to fit under the seat in front of you (in a hard or soft carrier), you might want to forego shipping them in the cargo hold and take them on board with you instead. Being able to see and hear you might help calm your dog. However, not every airline or destination country will allow pets in-cabin, so you will need to double check if this is even possible for your dog.

Know the airline’s rules about pet air travel.

Some airlines allow small pets to travel in the cabin, but you’ll want to check in advance to learn what rules apply. If you’re traveling with more than one pet, be sure to ask about that specifically, because most airlines limit the number you can carry with you. Some carriers limit the number of pets you can ship at one time in the cargo hold, too.

Some airlines do not allow certain breeds to travel as cargo. They may also restrict when snub-nosed dogs can fly in the hold, based on weather conditions. Even the size of the plane can affect your pet’s travel plans. If your dog is large and your starting point or destination is a smaller airport, it may not accommodate planes large enough to carry your pet. In this case, you (or someone) will have to drive your pet to another city.

In general, air travel can be safe for snub-nosed breeds with precautions.

Here's a story with a happy ending about a French Bulldog flying on Air Canada.

Traveling with a snub-nosed dog can be safe, but due to the complexities, you may feel much more confident if you let a professional pet air travel service plan your dog’s trip and handle the details. All you’ll have to worry about is giving them a big smooch and some pets when you reach your destination. Depending on your destination country and capabilities, you can try to move your pet on your own.

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