Vacation travel with pets can be hugely exciting, as can moving home from American to Europe with a dog. Unfortunately, it can also be an enormously anxious time for everyone concerned.
The goods news that an increasing number of airlines now allow furry passengers, so you may well be able to bring your canine companion with you on your aviation adventure.
Be aware, however, that dogs will be impacted by airline travel in similar ways to humans – and they may not understand quite what is happening, making the whole experience a frightening one for Fido. That’s why Mutt Muffs overhead ear protectors can be so helpful.
Let’s take a look at the ins and outs of altitude, and the impact it will have on your dog.
Table of Contents:
- How are Dogs Affected by Altitude?
- What are the Symptoms of Altitude Sickness in Dogs?
- How Can Altitude Sickness Be Treated in Dogs?
- Will I Be Able to Comfort a Dog with Altitude Sickness?
- Is Altitude Sickness the Same as General Travel Sickness?
- How Can Altitude Sickness Be Prevented in Dogs?
- How to Prepare a Dog for High Altitude
- Do Dog’s Ears Pop When Flying?
- Dog Popping Ears and Anxiety Problems
- Dog Airplane Ear Protection
- Dog Scared of Airplanes
- Pet Travel Insurance and Veterinary Care
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How are Dogs Affected by Altitude?
Dog and human biology may be very different, but the bodies of both species will be impacted in the same way by high altitude. If we board a plane and find ourselves soaring anything over 5,000 feet above the sea (by the time we reach 11,500 feet it’s dubbed extreme altitude), both canine and the owner may have to deal with the unwelcome impact of altitude sickness.
Nobody is quite sure what causes altitude sickness in dogs, though a popular theory revolves around the changes in access to oxygen. When we reach a particular height and enter the rarified air, there is arguably less oxygen to go around – and what is available in an airplane is being shared and recycled by a substantial number of passengers. When we struggle to gain enough oxygen to keep our body operational, the condition is called hypoxemia.
Alternatively, the great height that airplanes travel at may lead to an increased amount of fluid collating around your dog’s lungs, a condition known as pulmonary edema. This will make it difficult for your dog to breathe, which is a frightening experience for all concerned!
What are the Symptoms of Altitude Sickness in Dogs?
There are many symptoms that denote your dog may be experiencing altitude sickness.
- Excessive Panting and Drooling
- Dry, Hacking or a Wheezing Cough
- Dizziness or Clumsiness
- Reluctance to Move and General Lethargy
- Lack of Interest in Eating or Drinking
- Swelling in the Extremities, such as the Paws or Face
- Bleeding from the Nose (this is a severe symptom!)
If you spot any of these indicators in your dog while you’re climbing to ever-greater heights, it will be time to take the necessary action to help make your canine companion more comfortable.
How Can Altitude Sickness Be Treated in Dogs?
It’s tricky to treat altitude sickness as it’s not as though you will be able to drop several feet to a more agreeable cruising height. For the most part, altitude sickness is something that needs to be managed rather than treated, and all you can hope for is to make the experience as bearable as possible for your dog.
One way of doing this may be to provide your dog with more oxygen. You probably won’t be allowed to use the human oxygen masks located upon every plane for hygiene reasons, so if you have any concerns whatsoever about your dog’s ability to breathe at altitude notify the crew of your flight immediately. They may be able to fashion something that Fido can use, or make an exception. If all else fails, a pilot may agree to drop altitude when he or she realizes that a furry passenger is in so much distress.
Perhaps the most important thing to be careful of while a dog is traveling at altitude, however, is managing the risk of dehydration. This is a common side effect for both canines and humans that are soaring through the skies, and it will only be intensified by the fact that a dog with altitude sickness will express little to no interest in food or water. This is an issue, as a dog needs more water while traveling at high altitude. Check out our guide on what you must do if your dog is dehydrated for advice on how to proceed in such as scenario.
Regarding medicinal solutions, you could also be trying providing electrolyte tablets in your dog’s water once you’ve managed to convince them to start drinking while on the flight, or use more organic and natural remedies for dehydration. As always, it’s strongly advisable to speak to a vet before you set off to ensure that you are armed with the best possible advice.
Will I Be Able to Comfort a Dog with Altitude Sickness?
Beyond reach down and attempting to offer soothing words, not really. The best scenario that you’ll be able to hope for concerning traveling with your dog will be for the pooch to be locked in their pet carrier and tucked under the seat in front of you.
You won’t be able to take your dog out of their carrier for a reassuring cuddle, for a variety of reasons. These include, but are not limited to, potential allergies for other passengers (or, even worse, the pilot!), or the possibility that they’ll scurry off and distract members of the crew.
This means that your dog may wail and cry, which is going to be distressing for you and your dog – and it may well earn you a handful of snotty looks and disapproving tuts from your fellow passengers. This is just something else to consider while you decide you’d like to bring your dog onto a flight with you.
Is Altitude Sickness the Same as General Travel Sickness?
No, altitude sickness is an entirely separate concern. If you are looking for advice on how to deal with a dog that struggles with motion, whether that’s in a plane, ship or car, then check out our complete guide to pet travel sickness.
How Can Altitude Sickness Be Prevented in Dogs?
Short of keeping all four of Fido’s paws firmly on the ground, it can’t be. If your dog is prone to suffering from altitude sickness, they will experience any or all of these symptoms when they take off. The best thing that you can hope to do is make your pooch as comfortable as possible, and take action when the sickness takes hold.
There are, however, a handful of steps that you may want to consider taking to help your dog grow accustomed to the idea of traveling at altitude for the return leg of your journey – or, at the very least, give them a fighting chance at staying healthy in the event of being afflicted once again.
How to Prepare a Dog for High Altitude
As we have already stated, dehydration is a major problem for a dog when traveling at high altitude. To this end, do what you can to encourage your dog to drink plenty before they board the plane, so they have suitable resources of water within their body.
This may come with its own challenges, as obviously a bathroom break while in mid-air will be out of the question, but provided the flight isn’t too long your dog will probably find this to be the lesser of two evils.
It may be easier to help your dog cope with high altitudes if your destination remains high above sea level. If this is the case, you can expose your dog to these conditions, in short, controlled bursts with small walks, helping Fido to build up his tolerance to the conditions gradually. Don’t push too hard, and keep an eye on how comfortable – or not – your dog appears to be.
Do Dog’s Ears Pop When Flying?
When you’re seated ahead of a flight, the chances are you’ll be offered a boiled sweet to suck upon when the airplane takes off to protect your ears from popping when the aircraft reaches new heights. The question you may be asking yourself now is whether dogs’ ears are affected by altitude in the same way.
The short answer is yes – a dog’s ears will pop when they are seated aboard a flight that takes to the skies. In fact, as canines have such an acute sense of hearing, they may even suffer even more than humans in such a situation.
The best way to help a dog deal with this is to provide them with a chew toy or snack within their carrier while they plane gains height. This will have to be something suitably tempting for Fido, as he may be otherwise distracted, but if your dog can be coerced into continually licking and swallowing they may not be quite so impacted by the popping of ears.
Dog Popping Ears and Anxiety Problems
Naturally, if a dog does find their ears popping on an airplane, it can be a very frightening experience for them. Your pet doesn’t know or understand why they are in such discomfort, and they don’t know that it’s just a temporary experience.
An anxious dog will exhibit all kinds of behaviors that may not be ideal for such an enclosed location as an airplane, including crying and howling, attempting a prison break from their pet carrier, and possibly losing control of their bladder functions. Do everything you can to keep your pooch calm in such a scenario, and be patient with them.
One way of looking at this whole process is that air travel with a dog is very similar to air travel with a baby; you’re bringing a small and helpless creature into a very stressful environment and denying them of any control over their own environment. Think long and hard about whether you’re prepared to subject your pooch to such a scenario, and if so, may sure you fully understand everything you can do to make them more comfortable,
Dog Airplane Ear Protection
Of course, another way that you could attempt to help your dog out is to offer some kind of external protection for their precious eardrums, preventing the problem from escalating any further!
Not all dogs will go for this, though. It’s the same theory as dressing a pooch up in a raincoat – some would rather by soaked to the skin than face what they consider to be the humiliation of wearing clothing! If you can convince your dog to wear products, however, they come recommended.
Mutt Muffs Ear Protectors for Dogs
These Mutt Muffs overhead ear protectors come in a range of sizes, from XS to XL, and slide directly over your pet’s ears to prevent their eardrums from suffering in the result of high altitude.
Mutt Muffs are designed especially with flights in mind, following consultation with airline pilots. The result is that Mutt Muffs will mask a wide variety of sounds, including those that only our canine companions will be able to hear.
Be aware that these headphones will only muffle sounds rather than plunge your dog into a world of complete silence, but they certainly do an effective job of preventing a dog from suffering too much. They could also be used during thunderstorms and firework displays.
Dog Scared of Airplanes
Your dog may well be terrified by the very idea of traveling on an airplane, and they have good reason to feel this way. They’re climbing into a tin box where they’re separated from their beloved human and forced to remain in their carrier under a seat, and they’re surrounded by strange smells and sounds. On top of this, there is all that unpleasantness with their ears popping and traveling at high altitudes to deal with. It’s enough to leave any canine at risk of sensory overload!
When it comes to helping your dog overcome a fear of airplanes, the first – and possibly most challenging – step is to resist the urge to comfort them on sight. Low-flying planes may be enough to send Fido into a tizzy due to the noise, and your dog may start to panic and seek reassurance as soon as they notice a plane in the sky. Don’t instantly scoop them up and offer cuddles and cooing reassurances in such a scenario, as that’s sending a message that your dog is right to be worried. Instead, carry on as usual.
Once you’re on-board, use a relaxing oil such as lavender to keep your dog calm. You may find this most impactful if you have introduced it to your canine in the past with other positive associations, such as just before a long walk or playtime or a favorite treat. Also ensure that their pet carrier is loaded with comforting smells such as preferred blankets, and toss plenty of anxiety-managing chew toys into the mix. You could even dress your dog in a thunder shirt to manage their anxiety, and maybe offer your dog a naturally calming substance such as Rescue Remedy.
Here’s one other important thing to remember as well – if you’re stressed about the impending air travel, your dog will be too. Our pets can smell stress pheromones when they emanate from us, and if an owner is freaking out in their seat, their dog will immediately follow suit. If you’re a nervous flyer, do whatever is necessary to keep yourself calm before you board the plane – for your dog’s sake as well as your own!
If you absolutely must, speak to your vet about the possibility of providing your dog with a sedative that will keep them calm, and possibly even asleep, throughout the journey. This should always be considered a last resort, however, as it may do more harm than good.
Pet Travel Insurance and Veterinary Care
We have established that if you’re taking your dog on a plane, they may experience altitude sickness, and that is something that seriously needs to be planned into your holiday.
Put bluntly, will a poorly pooch put a severe dent in your holiday plans? Would it be more humane to arrange a beloved babysitter to take care of your pet while you’re out of town? If not, and you’re adamant that your furry friend is coming with you, then you will at least need to tick a handful more boxes before you go.
Firstly, check your pet insurance policy and see if it covers altitude sickness. This may mean reimbursing you for the cost of any medications that are required should you dog suffer at a great height, or it could revolve around needing to make alternative travel arrangements for you or your dog on the return leg if the outbound flight proves just too traumatic.
In addition to this, you should always ensure that you know where the closest vet will be when you land. If you’re fortunate, you may be seated next to a canine health professional on your flight that happens to have his or her medical bag and a head filled with knowledge, but that’s unlikely! Just in case you need to rush your pooch into a medical facility upon landing, know precisely where you’re going.
Altitude changes can have a significant impact on any dog, and you owe it to your beloved pet to prevent them from suffering through the experience with Mutt Muffs overhead ear protectors. Whether you take the prevention or management approach with, follow this advice to ensure that high altitude doesn’t lead to high anxiety – for both you and your dog!