Dear Dr. Forsythe: I’m really worried about traveling with my dog, Ambrosia, this Christmas. I’m scheduled to fly home to Boston with her for a week, but I’m really worried that she could die on the flight since she is much too big to go under my seat and must be sent as cargo. I’ve heard so many horror stories of people’s dogs and cats not surviving a flight, and I would never forgive myself if something bad happened to her all because my family and l prefer to have her with us for the holidays. What do you think about transporting a 50-pound Bulldog across the country to celebrate Christmas and New Years? Would you do it? – Issie, San Rafael
Dear Issie: Whether or not to transport Ambrosia would depend on her general health and also her temperament. In addition, some airlines offer premium pet service where the pet is boarded last and taken off first to ensure their safety and comfort If your girl is in excellent health and is a calm dog, I believe that it would probably be very safe to transport her with little to no worry that she would arrive in good condition and ready to soak up the family’s kisses while she sits under the mistletoe.
However, if she is one of the rare bulldogs that is on the “hyper” side, easily agitated, restless and generally amped up, air travel for her might be rather stressful, and not in her best interest. Likewise, if she is one of those bulldogs that suffers from upper-airway-respiratory-syndrome, the condition comprised of up to four congenital problems that can contribute to difficulty breathing for many English Bulldogs, you may want to consider leaving her home for the holidays with a loving pet-sitter or at a dog camp, where she can be doted upon and worshiped in your absence.
If you do choose to take her, remember that while some dogs can benefit from a very low dose tranquilizer for travel, Bulldogs should NEVER receive sedatives or tranquilizers prior to travel in the cargo area of an airplane. Tranquilizers lower blood pressure and slow down breathing to calm the pet, but this can be dangerous or even lethal for a roly-poly bulldog that is cooped up in a crate in the cargo area of a plane for a prolonged period.
A quick checkup by your veterinarian (who will also supply you with the necessary travel certificate required by the airline) can allay your fears and offer you the reassurance you need so that your wrinkled up, swivel-hipped pet is able to jet east with you for the celebrations. My personal opinion is that Ambrosia sounds like a full-fledged member of the family and no doubt brings joy and delight to one and all; I would make every effort to bring her along-provided your veterinarian gives you the green light. After all, what gift could you possibly bring home to Boston that would be more magical than the huge lumpy sack of coal you’ve exquisitely named Ambrosia?
Happy Christmas to you and your family. - Dr. F