Travel can be stressful for any dog, under the right conditions. Most pups love an interesting adventure, but a long plane ride and all the strange sights, sounds, and smells of the journey can tax even the most relaxed pooch. It’s hardly the same as a cross-country hike or romp in the surf. Nonetheless, most dogs take air travel in stride, emotionally and physically. But not all dogs.
For flat-faced breeds, air travel presents additional challenges that put them at elevated risk. Risks are greater for these dogs even if they’re traveling by car. Any or all of the following conditions can make travel more stressful – psychologically as well as physically -- for your brachycephalic dog.
This is the most obvious issue. Every pet parent whose dog has a shortened or flat face knows their dear pup has difficulty breathing. His nasal anatomy is cramped and convoluted, so air doesn’t flow well. That automatically increases the potential for problems with air travel. Pet space in the cargo hold is pressurized and temperature-controlled, but it can still be stuffy. (Any human who has ever spent time in the passenger cabin knows about stuffy “airplane air.”)
Even with the added ventilation of an over-sized crate (something we recommend for flat-faced dogs), your guy may still have increased difficulty breathing. That will increase whatever anxiety he is already feeling, and that can make it even harder for him to breathe.
This is the primary reason that many airlines no longer accept brachycephalic pets, or place significant limitations on accepted breeds and travel parameters.
Related Health problems
Flat-faced dogs are highly susceptible to a range of medical problems that can affect their eyes, skin, mouth, and digestive system. Aside from issues directly related to having a short snout, dogs can suffer from any number of chronic health conditions such as diabetes. If your pet is affected by any of these health issues, especially if he takes medications, that increases his air travel risk.
Heat and humidity
It may be temperature-controlled inside the plane, but pets traveling by air must be transported to and from the plane. They are loaded last and off-loaded first, but inevitably they must spend some time on the ground waiting. The tarmac gets very hot when outdoor temperatures are high. This adds risk for all pets, so airlines don’t allow dogs to fly when ambient temperatures exceed 85o F. This applies to the entire itinerary – point of departure, any ground stops in transit, and destination.
For flat-faced dogs, the situation is worse, because heat and humidity significantly aggravate their breathing troubles. At Starwood Animal Transport, we recommend your flat-faced dog not travel when ambient temperatures are above 75o. This can make summer travel even more complicated. (Summer adds its own challenges, because there are so many more people and pets taking to the skies.)
Older dogs are more vulnerable to stress, and the aging body can make it harder to handle existing health problems. In addition, older pets often suffer from arthritis or various types of organ failure. So if your brachycephalic pet is also an elder, his travel risks are more pronounced.
Many American pets are overweight to the point of obesity. This exacerbates virtually all pet health problems, regardless of snout configuration. For brachycephalic dogs and cats, obesity increases travel risks.
What could make conditions even worse?
Sedatives. Never tranquilize your dog or cat for travel, because sedation can lowers blood pressure and slow breathing. It also interferes with balance and cognition, making pets confused and unable to control their movements properly. All of these issues put your beloved pet in danger rather than helping him. Airlines (and our team here at Starwood Animal Transport) will not accept any pet that has been sedated.
While all this may sound dire, don’t assume your beloved flat-faced pooch cannot travel with you. Give us a call! We know all the ins and outs of air travel for all sorts of animals. We can answer all your questions and help you decide if and how your furry friend can travel safely.