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When to Sedate Your Pet and When Not To

Published on: February 5, 2018  |  Author: Starwood Pet Travel

When to Sedate Your Pet and When Not To http://www.starwoodanimaltransport.com/when-to-sedate-your-pet-and-when-not-to

There are times when our pets drive us nuts. They carry on, they vocalize, they refuse to cooperate. They accidentally (or even deliberately) forget their indoor manners and obedience lessons. If only you could give them something to calm them down. But should you? Sedatives can help reduce anxiety, but they can also be dangerous. They are not a good choice in all circumstances.

So when should you consider sedating your pet? 

When handling is necessary

Some dogs and cats are naturally more relaxed than others. They patiently allow you and their vet to examine them – handling their paws and toes for nail trimming, peeking into their ears and mouths, etc. On the other hand, some pets go all wiggly and goofy under these circumstances. And a few suffer from stark fear and go stiff or snarly. But nail trims and periodic exams are important for continued good health and safety. Sedation can help calm pets so the handling can proceed. 

For certain activities

Felines like predictability, so change is often more concerning for them than it is for dogs. And almost anything can trigger anxiousness in either type of pet, including a trip to the vet or moving to a new home. Some pets ­– often newly-adopted animals unfamiliar with human-based activities – are afraid to enter the car. Or the ride itself makes them jittery or upsets their stomach. 

There are occasions when someone else’s activities or Mother Nature can upset pets – gunshots, fireworks, thunder, even the chaos of party. No one wants their beloved pet to be frightened or worried. Fortunately, there are ways to help your Dear One feel less anxious. 

NEVER for air travel

If your furry companion will be taking flight for a cross-country or international move, it is important to know that sedation is not allowed. Medications used to tranquilize animals can produce unintended side effects. However, airlines and professional pet transport companies forbid any form of sedation because it increases health and safety risks for dogs and cats. 

Sedated animals lose muscle control and cannot maintain their balance. Sedatives make them mentally woozy too, so they become confused. They don’t know what’s happening, but they know things are not right. That’s frightening. So instead of helping reduce anxiety, sedation can amplify the very things that make our pets anxious in the first place. 

How can you help your jet-setting pet? By giving her plenty of time to become familiar with her travel kennel. Dogs and cats may fly only in airline-approved carriers, which are sturdier and safer than the standard household types. It will be her home-away-from-home while she’s in transit, so the more it feels and smells like home, the more relaxed she will be. 

There are many calming products for cats and dogs

Your veterinarian may recommend one of several prescription medications for specific or severe anxiety. But there are numerous alternatives on the market that you can also try. Some can be used for both cats and dogs, whereas others are species-specific. 

Herbs and essences  

Certain natural sedatives may help your kitty or dog relax. They come in a variety of formats:

  • Chewable “treats”
  • Essential oils that can be added to food, dropped onto the tongue, or wafted into the room via a diffuser
  • Sprays
  • Collars 

Remember that natural products are still drugs, in that they are chemicals that will interact with your pet’s body. Pets come in a wide range of sizes and weights, so dosage matters for anything that is ingested. That includes herbs such as valerian or kava. 

Lavender is popular. Some sources say it is potentially dangerous to cats, especially, but most experts agree the calming properties humans love are also appropriate options for your pets. Think aromatherapy rather than allowing your pet to eat the leaves where the oil is highly concentrated. The same goes for catnip – the smell calms cats but eating it can make them sick. 


Mama dogs release pheromones to calm nursing puppies. Cats have unique facial pheromones they use to mark their property. Products that reproduce pheromones or mimic their effects may help reduce your pet’s anxiety. Feliway is a popular example. 


Wraps such as Thundershirt provide a snug, calming “hug.” And headgear such as the ThunderCap make it harder for pets to see scary distractions. 


Recordings for dogs and cats usually use slow-paced classical music to produce a stress-reducing background. 

Talk to your vet first

It’s never a good idea to administer anything to your dog or cat without first discussing the options with your veterinarian. Like people, pets differ in their tolerance and responses to things. And factors such as age, overall health, even gender can affect how our furry friends react.

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