When you buckle up for a road trip or brace for takeoff, the deep connection you’ve formed with your furry sidekick can stay intact as they accompany you for adventures. But what happens when some modes of transportation pose a health risk for your four-legged friend?
Certain dog and cat breeds are at greater health risks during air travel. Breeds with snubbed noses tend to have short nasal passages, which makes breathing more difficult and increases their likelihood of heat stroke and oxygen deprivation.
When it comes to cats, brachycephalic breeds include Persians, British shorthairs and Himalayans, while brachycephalic dog breeds include French and American bulldogs, Japanese Chins, pugs and boxers.
While it may not be common knowledge, the last place a bulldog should be is on the back of an airplane. Air travel is hazardous for all animals with a “pushed-in” flat-face appearance, according to the Humane Society of the United States. (The medical term for short-faced breeds of dog and cat is “brachycephalic.”)
Travel anxiety in pets, whether during car or air travel, can often stem from fear and negative associations, such as visits to the vet, motion sickness and loud noises. The anxiety can affect both cats and dogs in various ways.
“I will just say that travel anxiety is very common amongst pets, whether it is car or air travel,” says Rachel Malamed, a board-certified veterinary behaviorist. “Fear and anxiety can also be secondary to associations with travel to the vet, or it can be related to motion or noise.”
Some cats and dogs can negatively associate car rides with vet visits, leading them to be a source of stress for both cats and dogs. Cats can fare worse in vehicles as they are more susceptible to motion sickness and car anxiety than their canine counterparts — generally socialized to look forward to car rides.
Signs of feline motion sickness include excessive drooling, vomiting, howling or excessive vocalization, and restlessness, according to VCA Animal Hospitals. If you believe your cat may have anxiety around car rides, telltale signs of feline anxiety include hair loss, excessive grooming or lip licking, aggression or irritability, hiding or avoiding social interaction and changes in activity level.
In the same vein, some dogs don’t like car rides. One of the most common causes of dog anxiety is fear and aversion to specific circumstances like car rides. Inappropriate elimination is a shared symptom of anxiety between cats and dogs. Both species also share the same anxiety symptom profile of aggression, drooling, pacing and restlessness. Anxious dogs, in particular, may also have their ears pinned back and have fits of panting.
(Credit: Jaromir Chalabala/Shutterstock)
When traveling with restricted dog breeds or oversized dogs, it’s crucial to be aware that on most airlines, placement could pose greater health risks.
With most airlines, if your dog is a restricted breed – or considered too oversized to take into the cabin – they fly in an unmonitored cargo area where temperature and air quality can drastically vary, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association.
This is significant because if your animal is brachycephalic and experiences breathing or health difficulties mid-flight, they will not receive timely care because of the isolated nature of the cargo area. In addition, when a dog must fly in the cargo hold and experience separation from their owner and familiar surroundings, the environment can be frightening. An alternative to the various complications of air travel is a good old-fashioned road trip.
When it comes to knowing how to travel with pets safely, it is always best to turn to the experts. A veterinarian will use their personal discernment when prescribing selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and antidepressants for both dogs and cats. In recurring anxiety-inducing circumstances such as thunderstorms and car trips, a medication like benzodiazepine along with an antidepressant could aid in mellowing out your pet.
“Pet parents should speak to their veterinarians or veterinary behaviorists,” Malamed says. “Depending on the individual pet and the circumstances, situational anti-anxiety medications, nutraceuticals or pheromones in conjunction with behavior modification and other tools can be helpful.”
Read More: Which Animals Can Be Service Animals?