Pugs On Planes (Is It Safe?): Do Pugs Travel Well?


Do you own a pug and are thinking about travelling together by plane, but you don’t know whether you are doing the right thing or not? Perhaps you’re considering a longer car journey instead or worse yet, leaving your dog at a boarding kennel. So, do pugs travel well (especially by plane)?

Yes! Pugs are good travelers in general, but there are various precautions that you’ll need to consider before setting off irregardless of the means of transport. It’s possible that you may need to condition your pug prior to flying as their health needs to come first.

Your dog’s health should be a priority, so traveling together with your pet may not be on the cards for everyone. It’s crucial to consider your pug’s weight, ability to breath, and any anxiety disorders before flying. Here are our top travel tips to keep your pug safe, happy, and stress-free.

Why Pugs Need Special Travel Considerations

Pugs are small in stature, and this makes them the perfect pet to travel with. However, pugs are a brachycephalic dog, which means they have a flat face and a short nose. This anatomical makeup can affect their ability to breathe efficiently, especially when compared to longer snouted dogs.

Brachycephalic breeds like the pug can suffer from Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome (BOAS). Along with their compressed head, they can also have narrower windpipes and an elongated soft palate. This is the excessive tissue at the roof of the mouth, which obstructs airflow, especially when everything else is considered in combination.

With that said, pugs owners are advised to pay close attention to their dogs when traveling by plane, especially if you plan on flying them in the hold. At 20,000 feet, it can get distressing for a pug as their breathing will start to be affected. Therefore, you should take all the necessary measures to ensure that your pug is safe when traveling if you are worried about their health condition.

When Canine Safety Is Not Adhered To

There have been instances where puppies flying in the cabin have died on commercial airlines. This has unfortunately prompted a lot of airlines to issue bans on many brachycephalic breeds. Puppies can find it harder to breathe and will often experience bouts of anxiety. Additionally, raised body temperatures, poor ventilation, and high altitudes will limit breathing even further.

The Department of Transportation (DoT) releases critical information regarding animal injuries and deaths across various airlines. While the released reports and statistics can be confronting, it can also help dog owners and airline officials to improve animal safety when flying.

For instance, 122 dogs that flew cargo between the years 2005 to 2010 faced an untimely demise. At least half of these dogs were brachycephalic, including pugs, English bulldogs, and French bulldogs. These incidents caused airlines to ban flat-faced dogs preventing them from flying in cargo, which significantly reduced the number of incidents.

According to the ‘US Department of Transportation’s February 2018 Air Travel Consumer Report’, there were a total of 506,994 animals flown in 2017. This unfortunately included 24 deaths, 15 injuries, and 1 lost. Most of these fatalities were from dogs traveling via United Airlines, while other airlines, including JetBlue Airways, Virgin America, Spirit, etc., had no incidents.

Although no dogs should die while commuting, we have to admit that this is a small number compared to the hundreds of thousands of animals flown yearly. Most of the animals that flew that year did so safely, which means your pug has a great chance of flying safely, much like you do. However, the most necessary precaution is to ensure that your pug doesn’t fly cargo.

Never Let Your Pug Fly Cargo

Research and statistics point to one fact: pugs (and other breeds that have breathing difficulties) should not fly cargo. A pug’s snub nose and brachycephalic characteristics make regulating body temperature less efficient. When you put them in a plane’s cargo hold for extended periods of time, it’s a disaster that’s waiting to happen.

While the cargo may be pressurized, its high temperatures and poor air quality will make it very uncomfortable for your pug to travel in. In addition, pugs require constant watching over, which is impossible if they fly in the cargo hold. Thus, the best option you can take is to fly with your pug or have them flown with other canine passengers.

Temperature Limit

Ensure that your pug travels in a well-ventilated and air-conditioned space regardless of the means of transportation you decide to use. Pugs do not handle temperatures that exceed 85ºF (30ºC ) due to having an extremely short snout that makes it hard to regulate body temperature. In these conditions, panting may not be enough to cool a pug down from heat exhaustion.

You’ve probably heard of this more than a few times when researching or conversing with breeders, shelters, and vets. All the warnings you received are accurate – we will not sugar coat it. Dogs use their long snout and tongue to regulate their body temperature, a feat that’s quite difficult for pugs to accomplish because of their flat-faced nature.

With this in mind, it’s best to avoid the outdoors on extremely hot days. Road trips during hot summer days can be dangerous, especially if you don’t have proper air conditioning. It’s best to plan ahead and have all the necessary means to travel safely with your pug, or not at all.

Motion Sickness

There have been incidents where pugs overheat and throw up in cars due to motion sickness. Thus, please watch out for your pug regardless of your preferred means of transportation, especially if you are in a tight, crowded space. It can apply to traveling by air, car, or sea.

One clear sign is when a dog starts to foam at the mouth, dry heave, and even vomit. To limit or prevent this, avoid feeding your pug right before a car trip. You can also condition them by going on shorter car rides before extending the time in transport more and more.

Exercise your pug, keep them cool, and stress-free if you want to avoid such scenarios. Note that you can’t always be too sure if your pug will get sick or not. Therefore, it’s always a good idea to be ready with some paper towels, wet wipes, and a few plastic bags if they get sick.

What Makes A Pug Eligible To Fly?

Well, we can’t say with certainty if an animal is suitable to commute by the plane based on its breed alone. Statistics show that brachycephalic breeds are more at risk, especially if they fly cargo. It’s crucial for you to know and understand your pug and how it may react when flying on planes.

Some pugs may cause trouble, while others may have no problems. No one will be able to determine this better than you can. Each individual pug will have their own personality, temperament, and experiences. Here are some questions you can ask yourself to determine if your pug will be a good flyer or not.

How Sociable Is Your Pug?

Does your pug get along with people and other dogs? Well, in most cases, pugs are generally friendly and easy to get along with. Their fun and playful nature allows them to bond quickly with people, kids, and dogs. If your pug has these qualities, then you could have an easy time flying with them.

If they don’t, then the chances are that you’ll experience some trouble during your flight. What you’ll need to do is to expose them to many social situations and experiences, so that they’re conditioned enough to fly or travel in crowded spaces.

Failure to do so can cause your pug to react negatively or become anxious when meeting other dogs, pets, or people. They may also experience some trouble staying calm in enclosed spaces for extended periods. This is a sure recipe for an accident to easily occur.

Are They Comfortable In New Spaces?

It’s good to ensure that your pug is comfortable spending time in new spaces before flying with them in a plane. You could do this by taking them on walks in varying locations, taking them on car and train rides, and taking them to the lake, sea, or ocean whenever you can. Ensure that they interact with people and other pets while staying disciplined.

Doing this makes the pug more receptive to new places and sounds. It helps make them less anxious and more excited to explore new surroundings. However, ensuring that your pug stays disciplined (such that they sit and stay calm whenever you tell them to) is immensely helpful when you find yourselves in such tight environments.

Do They Mind Spending Time In A Pet Carrier?

Various dogs have different reactions towards pet carriers. However, their response depends on the owner’s training. For instance, if the owner trained them properly, then there is a chance that they’ll react positively to spending time in pet carriers. If the owner taught them to view pet carriers as places of punishment, then they would have difficulty staying in their carriers for an extended time.

Thus, you should ensure that your pug is appropriately trained and sees its pet carrier as a place of comfort. Avoid sending your pug to the pet carrier whenever they do something wrong. Doing this will make your pug associate the pet carrier with punishment, which will make them tense and anxious whenever they have to spend time in there.

Does Your Pug Suffer From Anxiety?

Ensure that your pug isn’t nervous, anxious, or afraid. Due to previous traumatic events, such conditions can be symptomatic of PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). Thus, if a stranger hits your pug when wearing a suit, then they may be nervous and react negatively whenever they see a man in a suit.

If your pug is anxious or nervous, this behavior may escalate whenever you board a plane. Some of the signs that an anxious dog will exhibit includes rapid breathing, growling, barking, hiding, panting, trembling and other destructive behaviors. You’ll need to help your pug deal with their anxiety before taking them on a plane.

Spend time with your dog to try and learn where this behavior is stemming from. Keep an eye out for instances that could cause them to feel anxious, nervous, or frustrated. You could either try to avoid such triggers, or condition them to stay calm through training.

This can be achieved through exposure therapy. For example, you could expose your pug to a family member wearing a suit and allow them to pet it if and when it stops acting aggressively. Next, you could take it a step further and dress in a suit and pet your pug. Doing this helps them understand that not all people in suits are bad, preventing such incidents whenever you fly them.

If your pug doesn’t react well tot his kind of training, then you may need to seek help from an animal behaviorist. During this time, it would be ideal to avoid traveling on planes with your pug.

Is Your Dog Obese?

Pugs that are obese often develop problems with breathing. These problems are often multiplied in high-altitude areas with minimal air conditioning. They are also more likely to be affected by heat, especially when traveling by car. Excess weight on a pug will exacerbate a condition that already exists.

On the other hand, your pug could also be underweight, a condition that could cause various problems, including coat and skin issues, hair loss, muscle loss, a short life expectancy, and a weakened immune system. Thus, it’s good to ensure that your pug is of healthy weight before flying with them on a plane.

Are There Underlying Respiratory Problems?

If your pug has respiratory issues, then flying with them is a no-no, especially if the respiratory problems are severe (i.e. if they need soft palate surgery). As mentioned before, pugs have an obstructed airway, making it hard to efficiently get air to their lungs. Flying with such pugs places them at greater risk of heat stroke and collapse.

When faced with such conditions, the best thing to do is to ensure that your pug’s breathing issues are addressed by a veterinarian and treated appropriately. You should also ensure that your pug has enough airflow, humidity levels that range from 35-45%, low exposure to cold air, and that they exercise regularly.

How Does Your Pug Handle Claustrophobia?

Claustrophobic dogs are afraid of tight or enclosed spaces that they can’t get out of. This fear can be highly intense, and your pug’s first instinct is triggered by anxiety (they seek to run away). However, being in a tight and enclosed space (an aircraft cabin) makes it hard for them to run away.

Your pug may then begin to exhibit various signs of anxiety and stress. They may try to escape from the plane by running up and down the aisle, tearing at the seats, whining, barking, or even urinating. This behavior is sure to disturb you and other passengers. Therefore, please look to address it prior to booking a flight.

Tips For Flying With A Pug

  • Toilet – Ensure that you give your pug enough time to do their business before you take off.
  • Travel bag – You should have and use a travel bag. Ensure that the pug is acclimated to using the travel bag. They should do this on their own accord.
  • Open air vents – You should keep the air vent open and adjust it to point towards your pug. Doing this will help your pug breathe easier by redirecting the airflow towards them.
  • Canine vest – Purchase and carry a cool vest to help cool your pug down if it gets warm in the plane. You’ll need some cold water to add to the cool vest, and you’re good to go.
  • Pet carrier – You’ll also have to carry your pet in a pet carrier that has a top zip. Your pug may need to pop their head out of the carrier once or twice, and providing them with this opportunity helps make them breathe easier and makes their flight even more comfortable.
  • Exercise – Tire your pug the night before you travel. Doing this will force your pug to spend their time in the air napping, causing you less hassle.
  • Zip-lock bags – You could also carry some zip-lock bags and ask your flight attendant to fill them with ice. You can use the zip-lock bags whenever your pug feels too hot and needs to cool off.
  • Oxygen masks – Flight attendants should inform you about where the oxygen masks are if something happens and you need them. Be ready to use them in case of an emergency.
  • Blankets – You should avoid adding thick blankets to your pug’s pet carrier. As mentioned earlier, pugs have difficulties regulating their temperature. Thus, adding thicker blankets makes their situation even more difficult.
  • First Aid Kit – Carry your pet’s first aid kit in case of an emergency. The kit should include some essential items like antiseptic cream, wound dressings, bandages, antihistamines, and painkillers. Doing so can help deal with emergencies quickly when you’re 40,000ft in the sky.
  • Plan ahead – Discuss your plans with your veterinarian and allow them to examine your pug to determine if any conditions could be triggered when you fly. Also, call your airline carrier in advance and discuss where your pug will sit and any limitations on height and weight.
  • Avoid flying your pug in the cargo hold or in the overhead compartment as much as possible. Ensure that there is sufficient ventilation when flying.

Alternative Options To Consider

You could consider other options if you can’t fly with your pug in the cabin. One of the options you can take is by using multiple companies to fly your pug to various destinations. These companies will have charters that flies or allows you to fly with your pug.

They have on-board handlers that monitor the dogs and ensure that they are healthy and happy during the trip. Most clients that use these services own brachycephalic breeds. Thus, you could fly your pug with such companies, since they have relevant experience with brachycephalic breeds and will ensure that your pug arrives safely.

You could also join Facebook groups where you’ll find organized monthly flights from the US to various locations in Europe, meant explicitly for pet travelers. The chartered flights are costlier per seat; however, they are better for dog owners with flexible schedules and budgets.

Airlines That Ban Pugs

While most airlines ban dogs from flying in the plane’s cargo hold, other airlines ban dogs from flying in the plane’s cabin either. Here are some popular airlines that you may want to avoid booking with when flying with your pug.

  • Volaris Airline- Doesn’t allow pugs in their cabin.
  • Emirates- Doesn’t allow pets in their cabin.
  • EasyJet- Doesn’t allow pets in their cabin.

Do pugs like road trips? Yes, road trips by car will usually be safer and more comfortable compared to flying. However, dog owners should provide many breaks to avoid motion sickness. Air conditioning needs to be on when it’s hot, and always avoid keeping your pug inside the car when the windows are up.

Can pugs fly in cabin with passengers? Yes, as long as the pug is properly socialized. They need to be obedient around other people and dogs. Some training may be necessary if this isn’t the case.

References

Elliott, P., 2014. The Problem With Pugs: Brachycephalic Syndrome.

Gray, S., 2018. Why More Animals Died on United Airlines Than Any Other Airline in 2017.

Huffpost, 2011. Airlines Ban Bulldogs, Snub-Nosed Breeds From Flying Because Of Health Risks To Dogs.

Mitek, A., 2018. Pugs (and Other Pups) on Planes.

U.S. Department of Transportation, n.d. Canine Deaths by Breed, 2005-2010.

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