Bill Neumann, DVM • Broad Ripple Animal Clinic • BRACpet.com
Q. My family will be traveling over the holidays, and we would like to take our 4-year-old Boston Terrier, Delilah, with us. She is typically good in the car, but we are considering flying for the approximately 400-mile journey. Do you think flying would be quicker and less stressful for her than driving would be, and, if so, can you recommend any non-narcotic ways of calming her for the duration of the flight?
A. There are many options to make a trip more enjoyable for everyone, pets included. Usually, if a dog rides well on short trips around town in a car, she will do well on longer trips as well. And, if they ride well in a car, chances are a plane ride will also be a good experience. While the actual travel time on a 400-mile plane trip is shorter than a car ride, you must take into account all the commotion and extra time in the airport. The hustle and bustle of the airport are new experiences for most dogs and can change their normal behavior.
There is also added stress for you; if she acts up on the plane you are stuck in a full cabin at 30,000 feet with nowhere to go. In a car, you have options, and can always pull over to settle her down. If you do chose to go on the plane, be sure that Delilah’s weight and height are OK for traveling in the cabin of the plane. Putting a dog through the stress of flying cargo should be considered a last resort.
Regardless of which mode of transportation you choose, there are some steps that you can take to make travel more calming. First, keep meals light in the hours leading up to the travel to avoid stomach or intestinal upset. Go for a long walk or run to tire her out, so she will appreciate a rest during the trip. I prefer not to use sedatives, and encourage alternative methods that have a calming effect. Flower essences, such as Rescue Remedy, can be sprayed in the car or the carrier before travel. You may also try a Dog Appeasing Pheromone (D.A.P.) collar, or a tight-fitting vest, like the Thundershirt, that calm dogs similar to a baby being swaddled.
Best of luck on your travels!
ABOUT the Vet
Dr. Neumann graduated from Purdue Veterinary School in 1999. He has been a veterinarian at The Broad Ripple Animal Clinic ever since, and is currently their medical director. Dr. Neumann has a special interest in non-invasive procedures and treatments such as endoscopy, laparoscopy, and ultrasound.