Do Dogs Get Jet Lagged?

It's not just humans who get jet lagged after a long flight. Check out our guide to keeping your pet feeling their best when traveling far.

Do Dogs Get Jet Lagged?
*The doggy in this picture was not exposed to jet lag.

The first international flight took place in 1919, which makes jet lag not only a relatively new term but a fairly recent area of scientific study. The effects of circadian rhythm disruption in animals have been studied most recently on mice, largely observing the same unpleasant side effects that we humans tend to experience when hopping time zones.

Since "plants, animals, and even bacteria" all operate via a circadian rhythm, it should be no surprise that our dogs, too, can struggle to resynchronize their body clocks after traveling long distances. Though there is little to no scientific research on jet lag as concerns our four-legged travel companions, its temporary side effects run in parallel to that which can be observed in humans (ex. drowsiness, sleep disruption, gastrointestinal issues, appetite changes).

For both humans and dogs alike, jet lag is usually worse the further you travel. The body's 24-hour internal clock (known as circadian rhythms) affects everything from body temperature to hunger and sleep. When our internal clock is still stuck in our original time zone, the body lags while trying to accommodate the shift.

Dogs are generally quicker to adjust to this shift than humans because they are much more akin to napping throughout the day no matter their location (an ability I'm certainly jealous of). In turn, human jet lag can involve a longer adjustment period to resynchronize. However, many of the proactive measures and key strategies for acclimating to a new place and time zone apply to humans and dogs alike.

Pre-Travel Planning

Before embarking on any adventure with your pet that involves flying, it’s best, first and foremost, to consult with your veterinarian. Every dog is different and your vet is the best outlet for specific advice and recommendations on how to minimize travel-related stress for Fido. Running your questions and concerns by a professional ahead of time can help you make informed pet travel choices – ranging from the type of travel carrier used to potential supplements to give the extra-nervous flyer.

Breed-specific concerns can also help guide how your dog flies (in the cargo hold or in the cabin). For instance, short-nosed breeds like pugs and Shih Tzus have respiratory systems that may be more sensitive to "changes in air quality and temperature" in the cargo hold of a plane. Minimizing any potential risks for your pet will ensure that they travel as comfortably as possible while also saving you the extra anxiety. After all, "a successful flight with a dog begins long before the day of travel."

Though air travel can be convenient, it requires sorting out a lot of logistics ahead of time, especially if you're bringing your pup with you on board. Going the extra mile with planning and preparation can make for a smooth trip on all fronts. One of the most proactive ways you can help prep your dog for a successful plane ride is to make sure they are fully accommodated (in advance) to their travel carrier and to slowly adjust their schedule (with feeding, walking, sleeping) a few days before departure to move it closer to the destination time zone. This will make the transition much less abrupt.

Finally, it's also advantageous to plan ahead with your lodging to stay at a dog-friendly hotel where pet-friendly accommodations abound and you and your pup can get comfortable quicker at your destination. Along these lines, you can check out the Roch Dog Hotel Directory here)!

Post-Arrival Regulation Tactics

Just as consistency is key while prepping for travel, your dog will benefit from maintaining a familiar routine (ex. bringing food and treats from home) while acclimating to a new time zone. Some other regulation tactics to consider that will likely help you get grounded in your destination as well include:

  1. Natural Light Exposure: Jet lag is, after all, a disruption in the light cycle that temporarily disorients the body, so prioritizing spending some time outdoors with your pet during daylight hours is a crucial first step. Natural light exposure is a powerful regulator of circadian rhythms and can significantly expedite the adjustment process for you and your dog.
  2. Hydration: Dehydration during travel is an issue for dogs and humans alike. Make sure to monitor their fluid intake as you would your own on long-haul trips. Also, when traveling abroad, it's safest for you and your canine companion to rely on bottled water to avoid contracting water-borne illnesses like leptospirosis.
  3. Down Time: After a draining flight, rest and recovery are the name of the game. Though we humans can try to dodge jet lag with boatloads of caffeine, our dogs may require some extra time to lay low before taking on the travel itinerary. Monitor your dog's behavior in the first day or two, which is usually how long it takes to shake off the lethargy associated with jet lag.
  4. Comfort Items: A new and unfamiliar environment can be both exciting and overwhelming. Bringing comfort items from home like a favorite blanket or toy is a great way to make the travel experience, in its entirety, feel more assuring. Once again, every dog is different, and you know what brings your dog the most comfort and relaxation at the end of the day.

No doubt, traveling with your dog can be a delightful experience with the right preparation and mindset. By planning ahead, consulting with your veterinarian, and using proactive measures to manage jet lag, you can ensure a smoother, more enjoyable journey for both you and your pup. In the end, having a built-in best friend and traveling companion to share in your adventures abroad is incredibly rewarding and makes the travel experience far from lonely.

On that note, here's to happy, memorable, and safe travels! For some dog-friendly travel ideas and inspiration, check out our guides for city travel, tourist attractions, and shoreline destinations for summer.