Traveling with a snub-nosed pet, whether in the car or in an airplane, can bring added risks that owners of these breeds should know about. These risks have brought on restrictions from many commercial airlines due to the number of snub-nosed dogs involved in incidents when flying in the cargo hold.
Which breeds are affected?
All snub-nosed or flat-faced breeds suffer with some degree of Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome (BOAS). This is a condition that results from the foreshortening of the facial skeleton which is a mutation that is present in and required for the selective breeding of many dog breeds. The American Kennel Club identified the following breeds as being snub-nosed early on: Bulldogs, French Bulldogs, Pekingese, Pugs, Griffon Bruxellois, Japanese Chin, Boston Terrier and Shih Tzu. Further, the following breeds have been classified by many airlines to be at risk of flying in the cargo hold: Affenpinscher, American Staffordshire Terrier, Boxer, Cane Corso, Chow Chow, Dogue de Bordeaux, English Toy Spaniel, Japanese Chin, Lhasa Apso, Mastiff, Pekinese, Pitbulls, Shar Pei, Staffordshire Bull Terrier, and Tibetian Spaniel.
Of these breeds, Pugs, French Bulldogs and Bulldogs have been found to be most at risk from BOAS.
Affected cat breeds are Persian, Himalayan and Exotic Shorthair, as well as Netherlands Dwarf and Lionhead rabbits.
Restrictions get a bit gray with regard to mixes of these breeds. If you are considering flying with a dog or cat what is mixed with one the breeds listed above, then the length of your pet’s nose is important. If your pet has not inherited brachycephalic characteristics from its parents, then it is safer to fly them in the cargo hold. If you are in doubt, contact your airline and arrange to send an image of your pet for their approval. Get the approval in writing if you can as a written approval will help should any issues arise during check in.
Why do we love them?
Why are these breeds so attractive to pet owners? Perhaps the flattened face takes on more human-like appearance? The bulging eyes that some breeds exhibit are more expressive? The snores remind us of our sleeping habits? Whatever the reason, snub-nosed breeds are in high demand, especially the French Bulldog which just took the place of the Labrador and the most popular breed.
Why is traveling risky for snub-nosed breeds and their crosses?
Because the length of the muzzle is so short in snub-nosed breeds, soft tissue blocks the airways in the nose and throat impeding airflow in dogs or cats at a young age and progressively worsens as the pet ages. Additionally, the condition is aggravated when the dog or cat is exercising or under stress as is the case when traveling. Increased respiratory efforts can lead to a collapse of the airway which is why owners of these breeds must take great care when transporting them.
A snub-nosed dog or cat will have a muzzle length less than half of its cranial length. This measurement is defined as the length from the occipital protuberance (crown of the head) to the stop (base, not tip, of the nose).
Generally, this condition is commonly but not exclusively accompanied by a thicker neck girth, nasal fold, wide chest, extended elbows, snorting, snoring and sleep apnea.
Studies have found that obesity will increase the degree that these breeds will suffer from BOAS. This is why it is really important to keep your pup at its ideal weight if it is to travel.
Crosses of these breeds can be similarly affected. Remember, it is not necessarily whether your pet is a purebred member of these breeds; it is the length of the muzzle and the presence of other snub-nosed characteristics that count.
What can owners of snub-nosed breeds do to travel safely with their snub-nosed dogs and cats?
Obviously, ground transport is much safer than air transport for these breeds. If this is not possible, then consider the Queen Mary 2 if you need to get to Europe. If flying is the only alternative, then in-cabin is much preferred to cargo transport. If your snub-nosed dog or cat is too large to fly in the cabin and must fly in the cargo hold, then avoid summer months at all cost as higher temperatures increase the amount of breathing that your dog or cat must do to keep cool.
Hydration is incredibly important and can’t be stressed enough. Whether your snub-nosed dog or cat is traveling by car or in the air, it must have adequate water available.
If you are driving, keep the air conditioning running and the windows up so that the air in the vehicle is cool. Stop often and make sure to offer your pet water every time you stop.
If you are flying with your pet in the cabin, be sure and get a bottle of water after passing security and use a packable water bowl or ask for a glass of ice from the flight attendant. Try offering it to your pet by extending your hand in the carrier being sure not to let your pet escape.
If your pet is flying as air cargo, get the largest water bowl you can find to attach to the crate door, fill it with water the night before you leave and freeze it. You can find large pet crate water bowls by clicking here. You can also consider training your dog or cat to use a water bottle as well. Confirm that your airline will check your pet’s water bowl during layovers.
Owners of snub-nosed breeds can also consider an herbal pet calmer to ease stress which causes excessive breathing.
Be sure and plan ahead when traveling with a snub-nosed dog or cat. Acclimating it to its carrier or crate will cause less stress on travel day and make it easier for both of you to enjoy your trip.
You can find more information about snub-nosed pet studies here.