Transporting Snub-Nosed Pet Cats & Dogs Internationally

We will ensure that we pick the best airlines and the best routes for Snub-nosed pets

Hundreds of thousands of domestic pets and other animals are relocated by air every single year and the vast majority travel safely, well and happily. Nevertheless, there are risks and there certainly are, on a few occasions, injuries and even fatalities. It is not a nice subject to raise and to have to discuss, but indeed it is an important subject to discuss and it is very important that we make sure you are aware of the realities because when relocating snub-nosed breeds, these realities take on a heightened relevance and importance - especially during very hot times of the year.

Airlines are increasingly banning the travel of snub-nosed (brachycephalic) breeds from their planes. This has caused great inconvenience for the owners.

The breeds, which include Pugs, Bulldogs and Shih Tzu's and also include certain cat breeds, such as Persian and Himalayan, have smaller openings to their nose and have elongated soft palates on the roofs of their mouths, which make breathing more difficult for them. Those breathing problems can be magnified in stressful situations like air travel, and further exacerbated in extreme heat.

Although brachycephalic breeds are a higher risk flyer, it does not mean that they are unable to travel altogether.

Why is traveling risky for snub-nosed breeds and their crosses?

Some airlines do not permit transport of certain snub nosed (brachycephalic) breeds of dogs and cats as these animals are normally susceptible to increased risk of heat stroke when exposed to stress or temperatures above 21°C (69.8°F). Some Airlines do accept these pet breeds however with an indemnity.

  • These dogs are statistically more prone to death during air travel than are dog breeds with normal snouts. In fact, 50% of all deaths in dogs during air travel in the past five years were of dogs belonging to this short-nosed group.
  • Nevertheless, it is important to remember that airline deaths are not common and that hundreds of thousands of pets fly safely around the world every year. In other words, although it is true that the potential of a problem developing with a short-nosed breed while in transit is indeed higher than with other breeds, the majority of these animals do travel and travel safely.
  • The anatomy of snub-nosed breeds is at the root of the potential problem while travelling. These breeds have less internal anatomical space in which to pack the same amount of obviously-important anatomical respiratory structures when compared to normal-nosed breeds. Even when not travelling, not overheated and not stressed, their anatomical nature creates a rather tight fit inside them, resulting in narrowing of airways which then causes a relative restriction to airflow. Technically speaking, these breeds suffer from what is known as "brachycephalic airways syndrome" and this can vary in severity depending on the individual animal. Some bulldogs, for example, may only snore when they sleep while others may be literally unable to cope with any heat or exercise and will ultimately need surgery just to help correct some of these genetic defects causing them problems during normal life and activity. Imagine the potential additional difficulties for these breeds when they are excited, stressed, hot and/or in confined spaces. It is important to understand and remember that dogs regulate their body temperature by panting, so the overall functionality of their airways is key to this process.
  • Many short-nosed dogs also have smaller windpipes (i.e. tracheas) and these can collapse under pressure when a dog is trying hard to take in air as it overheats or exerts itself - a bit like a straw collapsing when it is sucked on too hard. This, coupled with the tight space in their nose and pharynx, can cause major issues with breathing and thermoregulation. Obesity compounds these problems even further. And always a concern, overheating is even more of a concern for these dogs, especially those with coats of darker hair because, as with all other things which are dark, they attract the heat.
  • In the most severe cases, upper airway surgery is a technique used to try and help these dogs. Surgery involves usually all, or some, of the following corrective procedures: a) Opening up small or stenotic nostrils; b) Removing everted laryngeal ventricles (small soft tissue structures that take up space in the larynx), and; c) Shortening the soft palate if it is elongated and therefore taking up airway space. Surgery is certainly not necessary for every snub-nosed dog, but there are many that struggle to breathe normally even under the best of circumstances and would there benefit from these procedures. Your veterinarian would certainly be able to advise you about this, though it is not something we suggest for the purpose of air travel only. And we want to highlight that if your snub-nosed dog is medically considered as needing surgical intervention to help breathing, then this raises a warning flag that your dog will be at higher risk during flight.
  • Short-nosed dog breeds are also not as efficient at thermoregulation as normally-snouted breeds are, for all the previously stated reasons - and they appear to be quite sensitive to changes in air-quality and temperature. Although the cargo hold of aircraft is pressure- and temperature-controlled, fluctuations can and do occur. And of course while in flight there are no personnel in the cargo hold, so if issues do arise with your pet, such as him struggling to thermoregulate, these issues will not be noticed and no one will be able to do anything about it.
  • There are steps that can be taken to reduce anxiety and stress in your pet, and to therefore reduce the risk of airway and temperature-related issues for your short-nosed pet. These are: a) Familiarize your dog with his / her travel box well in advance of flying; b) Make sure the correct size and type of travel box is used; c) Place an article of your clothing in the travel box with your dog as this may help him feel more comfortable and, therefore, calm; d) Avoid sedating your dog - this is strongly advised against as it can lead to blood pressure and thermoregulation changes; e) Choose to travel at cooler times of the year and or time of day wherever possible; f) Have your snub-nosed pet thoroughly checked by your vet prior to travel so that risk factors can be identified as well as possible and, hopefully, dealt with. If your pet is leaving Sri Lanka and you'd like some medical advice, we can arrange a check-up with our vets.
  • • Furthermore, because your pet will be inside a travel crate, there could be additional ventilation/airflow constraints, the likes of which have little-to-no impact on a pet without anatomical issues but which could be the cause of serious issues for snub-nosed breeds. Indeed, for this reason the airlines require, and DKC always ensure, that snub-nosed breeds travel in crates which are one size larger than normally required for a dog or cat of a particular size, and which have more-than-normal ventilation holes - all to maximize air circulation and general ventilation.
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