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What Travel Conditions are Stressful for my Flat-Faced Dog?

Published on: September 27, 2019  |  Author: Starwood Pet Travel

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For dogs, travel can be a stressful experience, especially under certain conditions. While most pups enjoy an exciting adventure, a long plane ride with unfamiliar sights, sounds, and smells can overwhelm even the most relaxed pooch. It's a far cry from a cross-country hike or a playful romp in the surf. However, it's important to note that not all dogs handle air travel the same way.

For flat-faced breeds, air travel poses additional challenges that put them at a higher risk. These risks still apply even if they are traveling by car. Various factors can make travel more stressful, both psychologically and physically, for your brachycephalic dog.

Health Problems

Breathing problems are perhaps the most obvious issue. Pet parents of dogs with shortened or flat faces are well aware of their furry friend's difficulty in breathing. Their nasal anatomy is cramped and convoluted, hindering the flow of air. This automatically increases the potential for problems during air travel. While pet spaces in the cargo hold are pressurized and temperature-controlled, they can still be stuffy. Just like humans who have experienced stuffy "airplane air" in the passenger cabin, dogs face similar challenges.

Even with the use of an oversized crate that provides additional ventilation (which is required for flat-faced dogs), your furry companion may still struggle to breathe. This increased difficulty can further amplify their existing anxiety, making it even harder for them to catch their breath.

This is the primary reason why many airlines either no longer accept brachycephalic pets or impose significant limitations on accepted breeds and travel conditions.

Flat-faced dogs are also highly susceptible to a range of health problems that can affect their eyes, skin, mouth, and digestive system. In addition to issues directly related to having a short snout, these dogs can suffer from various chronic health conditions such as diabetes. If your pet is affected by any of these health issues, especially if they require medication, their risk during air travel increases.


While the plane's interior may be temperature-controlled, pets traveling by air still need to be transported to and from the plane. Although they are loaded last and off-loaded first, they inevitably spend some time waiting on the ground. When outdoor temperatures are high, the tarmac can become scorching hot. This poses a risk for all pets, which is why airlines do not allow dogs to fly when the ambient temperature exceeds 85° F. This rule applies to the entire travel itinerary, including the departure point, any ground stops during transit, and the final destination.

For flat-faced dogs, the situation becomes even more challenging as heat and humidity significantly worsen their breathing difficulties. At Starwood, we recommend that flat-faced dogs do not travel when ambient temperatures exceed 75° F. This can make summer travel even more complicated, especially considering the increased number of people and pets taking to the skies during this season. We advise against brachycephalic breeds traveling between May through September.

Age and Weight

Additionally, older dogs are more vulnerable to stress, and their aging bodies may find it harder to handle existing health problems. Older pets often suffer from arthritis or various types of organ failure, which further increases their travel risks. Furthermore, the issue of weight comes into play. Many American pets are overweight or obese, which exacerbates a range of health problems for all pets, regardless of snout configuration. For brachycephalic dogs and cats, obesity further increases the risks associated with travel.


To make matters worse, sedatives should never be used to tranquilize dogs or cats for travel. Sedation can lower blood pressure and slow breathing, interfering with balance and cognition. This can lead to confusion and an inability to control movements properly, putting your beloved pet in danger instead of helping them. Airlines, as well as our team at Starwood, do not accept any pets that have been sedated.

While all of this information may sound concerning, it's important not to assume that your beloved flat-faced pooch cannot travel with you. We are well-versed in the intricacies of air travel for various animals and can provide you with answers to all your questions. We can help you determine if and how your furry friend can travel safely and comfortably.

Photo by Richard Horne on Unsplash

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