How Stressful is Flying for Dogs?

If you are planning to take your dog on holiday with you or bring it with you when you relocate, organising the travel arrangements for them will be almost as high on the agenda as arranging them for yourself.

Dog travel doesn’t have to be difficult to arrange though and thankfully the variety of companies that can help facilitate pets travelling abroad means that your canine companion can get to move with you easily.

The question is though, how stressful can it be? Will your dog be able to handle the stress of a flight halfway across the globe? Will they even notice they are on a plane? What if your dog is incredibly anxious?

The simple answer though is, flying can be quite stressful for dogs but with the correct preparation, that stress level can be greatly reduced. And let’s not forget, different dogs handle situations differently. Some will hunker down and sleep for the duration, others might be excited, and some will be nervous.

At PBS Pet Travel we have been helping organise the safe transportation of pets for years and guarantee your dog is in the best possible hands when it travels abroad. So, to add some further background and insight, in this month’s blog, we explain all about how stressful a flight for a dog can be and hopefully put your mind at rest.

Is flying stressful for dogs?

Yes, it can be. Some dogs just do not like it, others may not mind it at all. Some will find it a nervy experience but settle as the journey progresses.  It isn’t just the flight though; the pre-flight aspects can also unsettle a dog. Checking in at the desk, surrounded by people and noise, being loaded and unloaded into a cargo hold and then spending time away from the people that give them the most care and attention when nervous can all help increase stress levels.

A fully fit and healthy dog travels much happier than a dog that is old or not particularly healthy. Dogs with pre-existing medical conditions or are prone to bouts of anxiety may struggle with flights and it will be down to you whether you believe the flight is necessary or not.

However, there are ways you can help any nerves or anxiety subside and have your dog travel comfortably and free from worry.

For the most part, flying in the cabin is seen as the best way to transport your dog should you need to take it on a flight with you, but many airlines forbid this, so it is always worth doing your research before committing to booking a flight. Just be aware that the cabin will also contain passengers that are not travelling with animals and can get noisy both from the plane itself and the passengers.

Where cabin flights are allowed, this tends to be for smaller dogs only with larger dogs committed to the cargo hold.

Is it safe for dogs to fly?

Having a dog go on a flight, on the whole, is safe but it is wise to take certain precautions, especially if your dog is old or not in the best of health.

By liaising with a pet travel specialist such as PBS Pet Travel, you can find out exactly how your dog will fly to your destination and from there, you will be able to determine whether it is something your dog can handle.

Training your dog in the use of dog travel crates can make for a much safer flight where your dog feels much less stressed, worried, or anxious.  Should you be allowed to have your dog in the cabin, the airline-approved dog carrier can provide it with a nice place to rest while being close to its owner. You can also fit in a toy to help it stay entertained whilst you fly. Whichever method of containment you use, we suggest getting the dog fully accustomed to it in the weeks leading up to the flight.

The cargo hold can be noisy and with other pets can provide a slightly intimidating environment for your dog but with an expert flight team on hand to monitor your pet, you should be able to remain confident that your canine companion will be expertly looked after and entertained on their journey.

But what precautions can we take to make sure the flight is less stressful for your dog?

How can I make my dog less stressed when flying?

The whole process of flying can be stressful for a dog, but those levels of stress can be greatly reduced with a few simple home comforts and reassurances. Ensuring your flight is a non-stop flight rather than one with changeovers can be a huge benefit to your dog, as can looking to travel at a suitable time. Whilst a dog may not wear a watch or be able to understand a clock, it can understand temperature changes. If you are travelling to a destination that is significantly warmer than home, look to travel in the early morning or later evening, likewise, if travelling to someone cooler, depart closer to the middle of the day.

Adding toys to their dog crate as well as some snacks may also be handy as well as a favourite blanket or pet bed. You can speak to PBS Pet Travel about such items to see what can be added to the dog travel crate.

Should your dog be able to travel with you in the cabin, your reassuring petting and the occasional treat can go some way to helping reduce the stress. If though you were to see your dog struggling physically it would be best to remove it from harm by taking it out of the pet carrier. This can be against airline rules but removing it from the carrier for a cuddle could be the easiest way to remedy the situation and then once he or she is calm, you can carefully put them back in and reward them with a treat.

Can my dog be sedated to make it less stressed on a flight?

The rules and thoughts around sedation for dogs on flights are a little mixed. Many airlines and vets advise against it due to the possible reaction that medication may have with changing air pressures. It has been known to cause respiratory problems as well as cardiovascular issues. Whilst for some dogs this is often not a problem at all, for others it can be very risky. Pugs and Chow Chows for example are more prone than others. We have created a great insight into the risks around whether dogs can be sedated for flights, check it out for additional information and some handy tips.

Is my dog healthy enough to fly?

This is a question often asked and the simplest answer is to have your vet assess your dog. If it has been prone to illness or is a particularly anxious dog, a flight may not be the best idea. However, a thorough assessment from a vet should give you a definitive answer to your question. You should also check what the requirements are for the country you are travelling to. Your dog may be fit and healthy in the UK and safe to fly but may not be classed as fit and healthy in the country you are heading to. Secure an animal health certificate at the earliest opportunity from your vet to ensure that your pet is safe to travel.

Is it safe for dogs to fly long distances?

Dogs can fly long distances, but they can find it a little stressful. A 12-hour flight with them in a cargo hold is going to be much more unnerving for them than a 1-hour flight in a pet carrier on the seat next to you. Ensure they are given comfortable surroundings so that sleep is possible and ensure that they have opportunities to eat and drink. Many pet travel specialists will be fully versed in the correct handling of your dog and will be making sure it is treated just like it is their own pet during the journey.  At PBS Per Travel, we only work with airlines that are among the most reliable in the world for safe pet travel.

Will my dog’s ears pop on a plane?

They can do! Just like humans, they will encounter a change in air pressure which can lead to painful ear popping which can make the flight a little more stressful. Unfortunately, there is not a great deal you can do but a chew toy can act as a great assistance to pain relief and distraction as can some gentle petting. Luckily, it is thought to be more uncommon in dogs than it is in humans and if the dog is n the cabin with you it may be hard to detect if they are struggling with it. Fortunately, dogs can be great communicators either through barking or body language and if you notice a sudden change in either, they may be looking for some assistance.

Altitude sickness for dogs

As well as ears popping, dogs may also experience altitude sickness, whilst not always likely to happen it can and just like with the painful ears, check for signs from your dog that something isn’t right.

Key indicators of a stressed or upset dog can include but are not limited to:

  • Shaking
  • Whining
  • Barking
  • Yawning
  • Drooling
  • Growling
  • Flattened ears
  • Licking lips when no food is present


So, yes, in conclusion, flying can be stressful for dogs but it can also be relatively stress-free. Each dog is different and as with many situations, the more you become exposed to something, the more you get adjusted to it. This rings true for dogs going on a flight too! Should you be looking to travel with your dog, contact our team today. With a free dog travel quote, we can show you how easy, cost-effective and safe your pet transportation can be.  We will even help with all the paperwork to ensure you and your pet are fully compliant!