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The Danger of Air Travel and Short Nosed Dogs

air plane dogs abuquerqueDid you know that short-nosed dog breeds like pugs, Boston Terriers, boxer, mastiffs, pekingese, Lhasa Apsos, Shih tzus and bull dogs have a higher chance of dying on an airplane than dog breeds with normal length noses? Over half of the dog deaths on airlines involved breeds with short noses.

The reason why short-nosed dogs are more likely to die is because they are more prone to respiratory problems. Their short noses have all the same anatomy of longer nosed breeds, but it is just more crammed in there. This crowding is what makes them more prone to respiratory issues.  This leads to many of them having smaller than normal nostrils, a longer soft palate, and a narrow windpipe. All this means that they don’t breath as efficiently as other dogs, and they can have difficulty cooling off after exercise.

Because their windpipe is smaller it is more like breathing through a straw. If you suck through a straw to hard and fast it will collapse the straw. The same thing can happen to your dog. This can cause your dog to not get air temporarily until their windpipe opens back up.

Short-nosed breeds are more vulnerable to changes in air quality and temperatures, which even in a pressurized cabin can cause some breathing difficulty.  If your dog is in the cargo hold, as opposed to flying as a passenger with you, there will be no one there to see if there is a problem with his breathing. Even if there is not problem with the airflow, if your dog gets stressed out you could have the collapsing straw issue due to being over stressed.

We are not saying don’t fly with your short-nosed pet. Here are things you can do to help ensure a healthy flight:

  • Bring your dog to your Albuquerque vet within 10 days of travel to make sure he is healthy enough to fly.
  • Watch your dogs weight. An overweight dog has a harder time breathing.
  • If your dog has an underlying medical condition, speak with your vet about if it is safe for him to fly.
  • If your dog is elderly, speak with your Albuquerque vet about if he is safe to fly. Older dogs are more prone to experiencing higher levels of stress.
  • Practice crating your dog before traveling. If your dog is crate trained then the crate will likely be a source of comfort and not stress.
  • Do not put thick blankets, towels, or cloth that your dog can bury his nose in. This can increase the chance of restricted oxygen flow. A thin blanket or newspaper is better to line the crate.
  • If you have a small dog that can fit in a carrier that fits under the seat you can ask the airline if you can bring your dog on the plane with you. Make sure to do this in advance. Not all airlines allow this and there may be additional fee’s.
  • Try to minimize layovers where your dog might be sitting in his crate on the tarmac. When the plane is on the tarmac it is not temperature controlled. This means that the cargo area can get hotter or colder than preferred temperatures.
  • Do not tranquilize your pet. This can increase their risk of medical complication.
  • Put something that smells like lavender in their crate. Lavendar is soothing. You can add a drop of essential oil to their collar.
  • If you have used rescue remedy in the past, you may consider giving it to your dog before travel to help relax him.

It is best to ask your vet about any travel advice or precautions before putting your dog on a plane. Safe travels!


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The information provided on this website is written by Vetco staff. All information is meant to be informational and is not meant as veterinary advice. If you have a health question regarding your pet, their treatment or anything concerning their veterinary care, please call Vetco to consult with a veterinarian.