Separation Anxiety and Airplanes Don't Mix Well
People often worry about traveling on airplanes with their pets. This concern is especially common when the pet cannot be carried onto the plane and must travel in the cargo hold.
The cargo holds used for pets are pressurized and heated. Several years ago there were some well-publicized incidents in which pets perished during air travel, but until a few days ago I had not heard of any bad experiences for quite some time.
Then I came across a short article in the March, 2009 Veterinary Economics.
This pooch reluctantly racked up some frequent flyer miles
A New Zealand dog apparently didn't appreciate being placed in the luggage compartment of an airplane headed for Melbourne, Australia. He showed his displeasure by doing everything he could to bring down the aircraft.
The pooch escaped from his kennel during the flight and chewed electrical wiring and interior panels. Luckily, the auxiliary engine the wires led to had been shut down after takeoff, negating the risk to the plane or its passengers [including the dog].
When ground handlers opened the cargo doors, they found an angry, distressed dog. Maybe next time his owners will upgrade his seat to first class.
Although Veterinary Economics attempted to report the incident as a comedic episode, it should serve as a cautionary tale. The dog in question was not dissatisfied with his seat assignment. He sounds like he suffers from separation anxiety.
If you are worried about flying with your pet, try this. Get the carrier out several days (or even weeks) before the trip. Put your pet in the carrier for several hours each day to test his reaction to it. This will habituate him to the carrier, and help him to view it as a safe, protected part of his territory. Feeding the pet in the carrier often helps this process.
Most animals that are comfortable in their carriers will do fine on flights. If your pet cannot get used to the carrier, talk to your vet about calming agents such as feline facial pheromone or dog appeasing pheromone. As a last resort, some animals are sedated for flights. But in my experience, sedatives usually aren't necessary.
Photo: David Monniaux