Should I Sedate My Dog on an Airplane?

Every other week, we get a vet to answer your pressing pet questions.
Should I Sedate My Dog on an Airplane?

Have a question you’d like to ask a vet? Send your query to pets@washingtonian.com with the subject line “Vet Q.”

Q: We’re considering taking our dog on a plane (in the cabin with us) for the first time. Do you suggest giving him a sedative?

Dr. Chris Miller, AtlasVet DC: The most important question to ask when getting on a plane with a dog is “How does my pet travel in the car?” If your dog travels well in the car and in other modes of transportation, then traveling in a plane is usually fine.

When it comes to sedating patients for travel, I like to avoid it if possible. Pet owners tend to project their own fears onto their pets, and animals end up receiving medications that they do no need. If a pet vocalizes, trembles or is obviously distressed from traveling, then working with a trainer to help desensitize them of the fear is the best first step. Realistically, people don’t tend to be proactive enough for this and call the vet office just before travel for a sedative.

If this is the case, you should discuss any health conditions with your veterinarian and what medication may be ideal for the specific trip. In particular, be sure to discuss any cardiovascular issues with your vet to help make sure the most effective and safe medication is prescribed. While there are many over-the-counter medications that are available for anxiety, it is still best to check with a vet to make sure it is a good idea to give one to your dog. And something else to keep in mind if there’s ever an occasion when your pet isn’t traveling in the cabin with you and is being put under the plane—giving pets too much sedative can make them look ill and the airline staff may not allow them to fly.

Find Dr. Chris Miller on Twitter at @DCVet.

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