Ask the Vet: Driving Versus Flying for Holiday Travels

Arthur Freedman, DVM
Hawthorne Animal Health Care

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: I’ve flown with small dogs a number of times without an issue, but it’s hard to say with absolute certainty that a short flight would be less stressful than a long drive for Delilah. Some of the airport issues occurring these days are as stressful for animals as they are for us. I do think that since Delilah usually travels well in the car, she’d likely do well aboard a plane. If you decide to fly, I recommend that you have a comfortable carrier for her, small enough to fit under the seat in front of you, while allowing her to get up and turn around. I don’t recommend flying her in the cargo area since extreme temperature variations and unfamiliar noises and conditions can be stressful.

Checking with the airline in advance about size and weight restrictions for pets traveling in the cabin will determine your answer. If she can ride in the cabin, be sure to check what documentation you’ll need—many airlines require a health certificate issued within ten days of departure.

Whatever mode of transportation you choose, be sure to prepare Delilah for any potential travel-related stress. I recommend that you give her “Rescue Remedy,” a Bach flower essence, twice daily, starting a few days before your trip. The day of your trip, give her a few drops in the morning, and a few more drops before you leave. Do not feed Delilah too much that morning, either. Have fun!

BBT1111VetFreedmanABOUT the Vet
Dr. Freedman graduated from Purdue University School of Veterinary Medicine. In 1986 he opened Hawthorne Animal Health Care in Salem, MA. A few years later he trained in basic and advanced veterinary homeopathy. Dr. Freedman volunteers at bi-monthly feral cat spay/neuter clinics, and travels to the Dominican Republic for an annual spay/neuter trip with the Massachusetts Veterinary Medical Association’s Project Samana.


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