Does Flying Hurt Dogs’ Ears? 6 General Information & Tips

Sometimes I wondered how I would travel with Benji if there was no flight. With my tight work schedule, I cannot opt for road or bus drives. Flights are my savior!

And you know Benji is only 18 pounds and as per airline rules such lightweight dogs can be seated inside the air flight.

Does Flying Hurt Dogs' Ears

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Still, I would recommend you learn the pet policies for flying with the dog under an airplane seat before booking the tickets.

In my initial days of planning to travel with Benji, I was so concerned about tickets and pet policies. Hardly had I known dog ears pop when flying and that should be my concern. 

Yes, flying dog ears at high altitudes is a serious issue that many dog parents do not know before they actually face it. 

So, this blog is all about flying dog ears, the blocked sensation of dog ears, and dog ears popping on the plane. 

It will completely enlighten you on the subject and I hope it solves all your queries on whether it is stressful for dogs to fly.

Do Dogs Ears Pop on Planes?

Yes, flying dog ears is a real issue and it is very painful. Here is the scientific reason behind dogs’ ears popping on the plane while flying. 

The air inside the plane is less dense compared to the air near the Earth’s surface which creates a change in the air pressure inside the ears. 

Inner ears have air trapped in it and as the plane climbs or descends the air pressure changes rapidly.

This causes pressure on the eardrum as it cannot balance. It is during this time the dog feels a stuffy pressure inside his head which is very uncomfortable.

In scientific terms, as the plane climbs up, air pressure decreases, and the air inside the inner ear pushes the eardrums to push it outward.

During this time, the change in sudden pressure on the eardrum means the outside sound cannot transmit properly and dogs pop their ears to equalize the pressure.

Hence, if you see dogs’ ears pop on planes, understand that it is an animal coping mechanism process to adapt to the given atmosphere. 

The air escaped from his inner ears through the Eustachian tubes making a popping sound.

Let me tell you a story.

Once, I was flying on British Airways when I saw a lady bringing his Lhasa Apso with him on the flight. She was sitting in the front row adjacent to my seat.

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After the flight took off, 8 -10 minutes later I heard a loud popping sound and her dog’s ears became all fluffy! 

Believe me; everyone around that place heard it and they all looked at her and her dog. Everyone was muffled resulting in disorientation and panic.

No one there knew what to do! The dog panicked too. 

It was then the air hostess came, hugged the dog, gave him chew dog food and made him feel comfortable. 

It was from her, I got to know why dog ears pop on planes. Chewing helps in alleviating some of the discomforts as it acts as a distraction.

Flying Hurt Dogs' Ears

Flying with Dog Internationally – Side Effects

Flying with a dog internationally at high altitude can result in many problems and immediate running to the vet.

Also, if you’re traveling with large dogs in the cabin, there is a high risk of ear infections and more earaches. Please, do not sedate them while flying. Talk to the vet before doing anything. 

The ears are the most sensitive organ of an animal’s body. 30,000 feet altitude can affect a dog’s ear temporarily or permanently resulting in certain acute pain.

Let me ask you, did your ears pop during flight take-off or landing? It happens to me, not always but sometimes. After some time it gets back to normal. It’s all the same!

However, I am not saying that dog ears would be affected by air travel. What I want to say is there are chances it can affect ears because of the change of the pressure. 

So, here are the common side effect your dog might face while flying at high altitudes – 

Ears popping

Flying dog ears pop! 97% of dogs have the tendency to pop their ears. This is nothing but a coping mechanism you naturally equalize the pressure building up in the inner eardrum.

However, yes, dogs’ ears are different from humans. Their outer ear canal can equalize the building pressure, unlike humans.

Through their tiny air tubes, the air escapes making a popping sound. The popping sound equalizes the inner ear pressure with the atmospheric pressure.

I would like to warn you that under such situations dogs tend to bark as they feel uncomfortable and do not know how to react initially. So, please be patient.

We, humans, tend to yawn or swallow or try to blow air through our ears to equalize the pressure. 

Temporary hearing loss

Traveling with a dog on a long flight is stressful. Plane’s loud noises can result in temporary hearing loss among dogs.

I want to emphasize that temporary hearing loss doesn’t mean completely deaf, it only means he can hear sounds very faintly.

Just imagine, you are inside a lake and someone is talking to you. What will you hear? For a few minutes, you will be completely deaf. That’s the exact feeling. 

For dogs, those few minutes are very difficult and once the air pressure goes out he becomes completely fine. 

Under such a situation, you can see your dog shaking his head from side to side. All these he does to reduce the discomfort he undergoes. 

However, if you find his ear canal swelling or the area is getting red, please call the air hostess because he needs to be taken to the doctor. It shows he has some form of ear infection. 

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Does Flying Hurt Dog Ears?

It is a common phenomenon among dogs to feel ear discomfort while ascending and descending the aircraft. 

Hence to reduce the risk of a dog’s ear-popping it is highly advisable to fly on small planes and increase the altitude slowly.

Moreover, you can carry an adapted oxygen mask for the dog if he is too sensitive. 

Additionally, aircraft noises are high-pitched sounds that affect animals and human ears. 

The noise level coming from airplane engines can really hurt dogs’ ears. However, just 3-4 minutes of sound is not much concern for the dog’s health.

Also, private aviation small planes preferably fly at an altitude where oxygen does not diminish to a huge extent resulting in no huge creation of air pressure. 

The noise level on small planes is less compared to the larger planes. But, remember that in small planes, the number of dogs traveling is limited.

When sound enters the Tympanic membrane through the oval window it vibrates. 

The noise reached the middle ear cavity to be transmitted to the cochlea where it gets interpreted as sound. 

Now, if the dog is exposed to too loud noise for long, the tympanic membrane vibrates too frequently causing flight pain in the eardrum.

The tissues are fragile and they cannot bear too long a vibration. He will hear a continuous ringing in the ears.

So, to prevent flying dog ears, you need to know how to protect them and reach your destination safely.

flying with dog

Tips: Flying Dog Ears

Vet Permission

No matter wherever you are flying with your dog – national or international, always schedule an appointment with your veterinarian to ensure your dog’s health. 

After the follow up check with the airlines and destination veterinarian to determine the documentation requirements. 

Comfort your dog

Flying is a new experience and if you fail to comfort him then there is a higher chance your dog’s ears might hurt during flying. Anxiousness can result in many bad things!

Before jumping into the plane for a cross-country flight I would recommend taking short trips to neighboring airports, just to make him comfortable. 

Cover the dog’s ears with earmuffs

A plane’s rapid acceleration and deceleration cause an uncomfortable “airplane ear” and that is seriously quite stressful. Ear protection things are very helpful while flying. 

Wearing earmuffs or cotton balls act as a protective layer from building up air pressure inside the ear. Moreover, before covering his ears, teach him at home.

Earmuffs can cancel the outside noise.  You can check the brand Mutt Muffs on Amazon. I bought a 26dB noise reduction thick foam headset for Benji.

Cover your dog ear hood

Dog ear hoods dampen loud noises reaching inside. It is soft, flexible and made up of cotton with an acrylic coating offering good protection.  

You cannot deny that dogs are very sensitive to loud noises and such types of noises can affect their oval window and tympanic membranes.

Covering the dog’s ear hood can prevent loud noises from getting inside. 

Never sedate your dog while flying

Sedating while flying can affect dog’s ability to control body heat which may only result in anxiousness and a high build-up of pressure inside his body. 

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Rather, take it easy. Make him feel comfortable, reward him, and practice with him to keep his eyes closed and sit quietly. 

I have heard a few people using a low dose of alprazolam, trazodone, and gabapentin to sedate their dogs for flying.

Without medical guidance, please do not do all these because that may result in incorrect therapy.

Talk to the vet, and let him decide. 

Keep dog hydrated while flying

One hour before getting into the flight make sure to keep your dog hydrated. Give him plenty of water and keep him full. 

However, make sure he is not holding his pee for long. Before getting in take him to the washroom so that he can empty his bladder and sit peacefully on the flight.

General Information: Flying Dog Ears

This is general information that I would like to share with you for proper guidance. If your dog is old or highly aged, it is better not to fly at high altitudes.

Their heart is not that strong to withstand the hypoxia produced at an altitude above 5,000 feet. Even the vet suggests avoiding flying. 

It can be a serious health issue in the middle of the air!

Secondly, if your dog is naturally labored breathing, then again it’s better to avoid high-altitude flying. The air pressure and thin air can make it difficult to breathe.

Breeds like Chow Chow, Bull Dog, Boston Terriers, Boxer, Shih Tzu, and Pugs normally face the problem while flying.

However, worry not, with proper tips and guidance you can fly him safely. Therefore, if you still ask, is it stressful for dogs to fly? Then you know it.  

Conclusion

Dog’s ears are not like humans, they act differently at high altitudes. For some dogs flying can be discomfort whereas to others it might not be a big deal.

You should aim for the dog’s comfort and he should never feel anxious. Carry his food and reward him for good behavior. Teach him well!

Therefore, before flying it is highly advisable to visit the vet and receive all the health certificates beforehand.

I hope this blog has given you all the information on flying with a dog and tips. Safe travel!

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FAQ:

1. Does high altitude affect dogs?

A: Yes, high altitude affects dog ears as a sudden increase in air pressure does not match with the air pressure inside their ear causing pain and study feeling.  

2. How long does it take a dog to acclimate to high altitude?

A: Acclimatizing takes time. A dog needs one whole day or 24 hours to acclimate to the high elevation. Keep him hydrated and give him light foods during this time. It is very common to feel head pain and dizziness during this time.

3. Is it stressful for dogs to fly?

A: Yes, flying is very stressful for dogs. First, the airport look, checking-in process, aircraft environment, sitting in the kettle under the seat, and then at last the ear pain. All these take a huge toll on a dog’s physical and emotional behavior. 

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