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Should I Tranquilize my Pet for an International Move?

Published on: May 4, 2022  |  Author: Starwood Pet Travel

corgi sleeping

Tranquilizing your much-loved dog or cat before they take flight on an international move sounds like a great idea - in theory. You want them to be as calm as possible rather than feeling frightened or worried. However, it is NOT recommended to tranquilize or sedate your pet when moving internationally-especially for plane travel.

Tranquilizers cause more problems than they solve.

If your pet has ever been anesthetized by your vet for some medical procedure, you know how groggy they still are when you pick them up. They’re woozy – unfocused and unsteady on their feet. While sedatives aren’t as strong as full anesthetics, the effect is essentially the same, just less pronounced. Your pet would be woozy.

Animals who are disoriented or feel out of control can be more stressed and upset. They can’t readily understand what’s happening as they’re being moved around during their trip, and you can’t explain it to them. So they are already uncomfortable and confused. Adding sedatives or tranquilizers worsens that in three ways:

  • Lack of alertness that results in increased mental confusion.
  • Physical instability. Tranquilized animals are unable to control their muscles so they can’t maintain balance as their carrier is being moved around. They could inadvertently injure themselves trying to stand up or turn around.
  • Sedatives can cause respiratory or cardiac issues when pets are up in the air at high altitudes.

Besides, sedatives wear off at some point, and then your pet would be on their own anyway, at some point during their travels. Having them “come to” and find themselves suddenly in a vastly unfamiliar environment would surely add to their stress. Instead, you want your pets to be able to respond appropriately given their confined space and strange surroundings.

There are other things you can do to alleviate your pet’s stress.

  • Consider in-cabin travel, if it’s an option. Discuss the pros and cons with your pet transport company to be sure you understand how this works and what you’ll have to do along the way. It may be more convenient, and it may be your only option if you have a snub-nosed dog or cat not approved to travel as cargo. This will, however, depend on where you're moving and which airlines are available.
  • Minimize chaos. Plan stress-inducing move preparations to avoid interfering with pet routines such as feeding times. Try to maintain other family-pet routines – play time, time for petting and cuddling, walks, dog park visits, etc. The more normalcy you can maintain, the less worried your pets will be.
  • Familiarize them with their travel kennel. Both dogs are cats are territorial and they’re happiest when they’re on home ground. Giving them time to acclimate to their carrier before the trip will go a long way toward helping them be less stressed. Make it more comfortable by adding a crate pad and thin blanket, t-shirt or towel that smells like home. Make sure you don't add any thick beds or comforters as the airlines won't allow anything more than 3 inches thick.
  • Try to maintain your own stress to stay calm. You know how “psychic” your four-legged family is. They will pick up on and emulate your demeanor. The easiest way to remain calm and confident is to leave all the pet travel arrangements to the pros. You can’t beat the peace of mind that comes from knowing everything possible is being done to assure your pets’ safe, efficient travel and that all necessary documentation will be in order. With that off your plate, you can focus on spending personal time with your pets so they don’t feel left out and become worried about the moving process.

With the inherent complexities of an international move, you may want to take advantage of full door-to-door pet transport services rather than adding to everyone’s stress by trying to manage everything yourself. Cargo terminals are located off-site and check-in timing differs for pets than for humans - you can’t be in two places at once.

You would do anything to protect your cherished pets, and you certainly want to their international move to be as stress-free as possible. But tranquilizers or sedatives are not the answer. Focus on preparation and positive reinforcement instead, and be prepared for an abundance of wagging and purring when it’s all over. Your cat or dog may take a few days to forgive you, but they will.

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