Flying High? Drugs for Pets on Planes

May 14, 2018

Flying somewhere with Fuzzy? Read on to get the lowdown on drugs and training before your big trip!


No Drugs In The Cargo Hold


If your pet is traveling in the cargo hold, then steer clear of drugs.


Why not sedate in the cargo hold?


1. Loss of balance could lead to injury during turbulence.


2. Abnormal postures could cause suffocation.


3. Over-sedation could lead to cardiac or respiratory arrest.


Not fun! Because of previous issues, many airlines forbid sedating animals in the cargo hold, so you may not even have the option. While stress isn’t fun, it could be the lesser of two evils (the other being death).


When Experimenting With Drugs Is Encouraged


If your pet is going to be with you during the flight, then a tranquilizer/anti-anxiety medication could be helpful. However, just like people, some pets do better with drugs than others.


While a particular sedative may calm one pet, the same medication at the same dose in another pet could actually cause excitement or agitation. It’s impossible to know how an individual animal will react to a particular medication, so performing a trial before travel is important.


Consider giving the medication as prescribed prior to your trip. Monitor for freak-out.


Um...I think we better try something else. 


Picking A Drug


While this decision will ultimately be up to your vet, I have found that trazodone is an excellent choice. This is an anti-anxiety med that takes the edge off without knocking your pet out.


Historically, many pets have been given acepromazine for sedation. The trouble with acepromazine is that it is a dissociative drug (like some hallucinogens), so it makes your pet feel really weird. This can lead to a bad experience. It also has a tendency to drop blood pressure quite low.


Prepare For Travel With Crate Training


Training your pet for air travel may be even more useful than using drugs. (Ideally, they are used in combination.) The most important aspect of training is getting your pet comfortable in a crate.


Make sure your crate is the right size. Your pet should be able to stand without ducking.


Some pets feel trapped in a crate if they aren’t used to it, so start by keeping the door open. Give treats and feed meals in the crate. If your pet is too scared to even go in, then start giving rewards around the crate and eventually work further and further into the space.


Work on short times of confinement in the crate, always stopping training sessions before your pet becomes anxious. Eventually, work up to long periods of crate time with the door closed.

When your pet is comfortable in the crate at home, then take the crate into the car for a short ride, slowly working up to longer trips. Car rides are a good step towards flying in an airplane.


Fuzzy. Age 3. Aviator in training. 


Training Takes Time


Ideally, start crate training at least one month in advance of air travel. More time may be needed for very anxious animals.


If you don’t think that you can crate train your pet, then watch this video. If that dog can be the pilot of an airplane, then chances are good that you can train your dog to be a good passenger, even if drugs aren’t an option.


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