Fri, Sep 06, 2019 - Page 4 News List

Dogs with heart conditions should not travel by airplane: veterinary experts

By Hsiao Chiao-yun and Sherry Hsiao  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

As a rule of thumb, dogs with heart conditions should not travel by air, experts in Taoyuan said.

As most dogs are transported as checked baggage, separated from their owners for the duration of a flight, turbulence and other unexpected situations could make a dog too anxious, said Taiwan Pawprint K9 Rescue secretary-general Lo Ya-ling (羅雅齡), who has helped more than 2,000 dogs travel by airplane.

Dogs — even healthy ones without chronic conditions — should undergo a health evaluation one month before air travel, Millet Animal Hospital director Huang Ssu-hao (黃思豪) said, adding that some airlines require owners to present a health certificate.

The evaluation should include a basic blood test and chest X-ray, which is crucial because a majority of incidents that occur mid-flight are related to heart or lung function, he said.

While air travel is riskier for dogs with heart disease, there is no way to quantitatively assess which dogs with heart disease can travel by airplane, he added.

Even dogs whose conditions are under control and that are taking medication regularly could experience acute heart failure under normal circumstances, let alone on an airplane, where the situation is less predictable, Huang said.

Dogs who are on heart medication should avoid air travel, he said.

If it cannot be avoided, as in the case of dogs that are traveling abroad for heart surgery, owners should consult their pets’ veterinarians, as well as personally evaluate the risk, he added.

Instead of giving their dogs anti-anxiety medication for flights, the effectiveness of which varies from one dog to another, owners could leave some of their own clothing inside their pets’ crates to make them feel more secure, Huang said.

Owners should begin preparations for traveling with a dog early, as the process of obtaining the necessary documents — including a permit from the local animal inspection agency and a health certificate — as well as vaccination and microchipping, could take at least six months, he said.

One week before travel, owners are required to report to the Bureau of Animal and Plant Health Inspection and Quarantine with their pets to submit their documents and fill out an application form for exporting animals and/or animal products, he added.

Once owners have booked their flights and completed the necessary procedures, they should confirm with the airline whether they would be able to bring their pet, as there is a limit to the number of pets that can travel on each flight, Lo said.

In addition to the animal’s physical condition, owners should not underestimate the importance of the carrier in which their dogs will be traveling, Lo said.

Most in-flight incidents involving dogs occur because their carriers are not strong enough, allowing them to escape when they are scared, she said.

Taiwan’s two largest airlines recommend using a solid, hard-plastic carrier that meets the standards of the International Air Transport Association, Lo said.

All four sides of the carrier need to be secured by straps and there can only be one door, she said.

The bottom of the crate needs to be lined with a material that absorbs water in case the dog needs to urinate, she added.

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