About a month ago, I planned a trip home. This trip was two weeks long. Due to the length of the trip, I knew I would be bringing my dog, Eliza, with me. I was stressed about this idea from the beginning, because air travel can be tricky with pets in general and my pet can be tricky in general.
She is the sweetest dog and a great companion, but she can be a diva sometimes. She is a shih-tzu and her breed has a tendency to whine (it can be quite annoying). The trip to Memphis wasn't terrible. When we landed, I thought, "Okay, that wasn't terrible. I can do it again, but I don't really want to do it unless it is absolutely necessary."
The trip back to DC was AWFUL. I thought I might strangle Eliza. She cried for the entire two hour duration and cried very loudly at one point, causing everyone in a 3-row radius to turn and stare at me. She did not lay down for longer than a 20-second period and the only thing that made her "hush" was me petting her- meaning for the entire trip I had to contort my body so that I could lean over and pet her (which was made more difficult by the kid in front of me who had his seat reclined).
I think a few things led to her discomfort, so I thought I would share some tips here that might help other people have an easier time of it with their pets and flying.
1. Bring LOTS of bite-sized treats/ food.
Treats were one of the only ways I could keep Eliza quiet. I had some with me for both trips, but I did not realize how vital they would be to my sanity for that second trip. I ended up having to ration the treats and break them into the smallest bites humanly possible to placate Eliza. I wish I had brought bread or crackers or some other thing that I could've broken up and handed down to her to make her quiet. And I wish I'd had more treats.
2. Bring an empty vessel & a bottle of water.
I think a lot of Eliza's problem on the way back to DC was that she was thirsty. But, of course, I didn't anticipate this because on the way to Memphis, she refused any water I tried to give her (she usually does when we are traveling) so I thought it would be fine without a way to give her water. WRONG. My second issue was that I was literally in the last row on the plane to be offered a beverage. It was pretty frustrating, but mostly I was frustrated with myself.
3. Medicate. With caution.
On the way to Memphis, I gave Eliza half a benadryl. This usually makes her very sleepy. It kind of worked, but it didn't work that well. So, on the way home, I gave her an entire benadryl. And it had no effect at all. Next time (if there is one) I am going to the vet and getting her a sedative. And I might go to the doctor and get some kind of anti-anxiety medication for myself.
That said, I don't know if I would've done things any differently than I did because dogs can have very strange reactions to medication, especially in a strange environment and especially at a high altitude. I would not want to risk Eliza's health just so that I would have an easier day, but considering the benadryl had no adverse effects, I'm not really worried about this for the future.
4. Carriers are important.
I think the main issue Eliza was having all day is that her carrier is not really big enough for her- meaning she cannot comfortably turn around in it. I wish it were bigger, but I don't think a bigger one would have fit under the seat, so we kind of had to deal with it. I would advise anyone to make sure their pet has PLENTY of room, though.
Good luck to anyone flying with a pet! Please feel free to ask any questions.