Do Dog’s Ears Pop on Airplanes Due to Altitude Change?

By John Martin - May 3, 2021

Dog at airport waiting for airplane

If you are a pet owner, going on vacations or even traveling for work can mean taking care of several logistical things so you can ensure your pet is taken care of. You may find a pet sitter or a kennel and even set up a pet cam so you can keep an eye on your beloved pooch. However, it is not unheard of that people bring their pets with them even on their trips overseas.

How do people manage that and should you try traveling with your pet dog as well? After all, there’s nothing like involving your canine friend in all the fun and festivities of a holiday.

But if you are considering taking your dog on pets, you may wonder about the logistics of flying with them. Do their ears pop on airplanes as it does for humans? The answer is yes and it can be quite uncomfortable for them.

Even human beings experience the ears popping sensation on airplanes but for most adults, the feeling is manageable. If you are a frequent flier, you may not even notice the discomfort.

But much like the crying baby on a flight, it can also be difficult to make your pet understand that the feeling will go away. After all, this is a new sensation for them and can be quite stress inducing.

What Does Ear Popping Mean?

But what exactly does one mean when they say ‘ear popping’? Surely, your ears do not actually pop! The descriptive phrase, however, refers to the ‘pop’ sound when air is released from the inner ear.

Dog ears and human ears are not too different when it comes to construction and mechanism. In both cases, the inner ear has air trapped in it which is gradually released when the air pressure and elevation change in the environment.

However, when a plane ascends, the elevation and air pressure change too drastically which does not have the inner ear the chance to adjust the amount of air trapped inside.

When the plane ascends, air pressure in the cabin decreases as the aircraft is moving away from the earth’s surface. This change in pressure causes the air that is trapped in the inner ear to suddenly try to escape, which pushes the ear drums towards the outside.

This pressure can feel like muffled hearing for some and a sharp pain for others. One may even feel lethargic or tired when the ear cannot equalize. If this happens to human beings who understand what is happening, the same cannot be said of dogs.

Even mild discomfort can feel overwhelming and panic-inducing to your dog as they do not understand what is happening to them.

When the ear equalizes and the air trapped in the inner ear is able to find a passage to escape, it makes a ‘pop’ sound. At times, the ear may not equalize even after you have gotten off from the flight and the feeling of muffled hearing can persist for some time.

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What Can You Do to Prevent It?

If you have flown with your pooch before, you probably already have a routine in place. Even for your dog, a second or third time on a plane may be less stressful as the sensation of air trapped in the inner ear will not be as shocking to them.

But for those not in the know, what are the ways to make a first-time flier more comfortable. Even more importantly, how do you keep a dog who is already prone to anxiety or nerves calm on a plane when their ears pop? The following are some tricks that may work:

Chew Toys

Whether your pet is on your lap during the flight or in the cargo section, be sure to get them a chew toy that they can be occupied with when the flight ascends. They should become acquainted with the toy a few days before the flight so they do not reject it once they are onboard the plane.

Continually chewing when the plane takes off or descends will keep the jaw engaged, which can, in turn, make it easier on the ear since it is, after all, a muscle.

This is the same reason cabin crew may hand out toffees or lozenges at the beginning of some flights. Chew toys are better than giving your dog treats on a plane as they can also experience motion sickness and you certainly do not want them to throw up mid-air.


You can speak to your veterinarian before the flight and see if a mild sedative may work to calm your dog’s nerves. Nothing so strong that it may knock your pet out for a whole day, but just enough to take the edge off.

Be sure to consult the vet as a sedative may even have some side effects when the body is in a higher altitude and can also make your pet feel a bit disoriented for a few hours after.

If not a sedative, you can try anti-anxiety medication. Do not give this to your dog preemptively, but it can be a useful thing to have at hand in case you need it.

Noise-Cancelling Earmuffs

While this will not actually help with the ear popping, it can be a useful tool to have in case your dog is feeling antsy because of all that aircraft noise. It may be your dog’s first time flying or they could be a nervous flyer in general.

The noise-cancelling earmuffs can at least make the takeoff and landing process quieter, which can help with a nervous pooch’s anxiety. If you are flying on a smaller private plane, noise cancelling earmuffs can be even more useful as the engine is a lot louder for a smaller plane.

In fact, you too could benefit from a pair of noise cancelling earmuffs.

Related: Why Does My Dog Have Black Spots on His Gums?

Risks to Be Aware Of

It would be inaccurate to say that flying is not without its risks for dogs. If your dog has a history of heart disease or respiratory problems, it would be advisable to avoid high-altitude flights. Their bodies may not be able to withstand altitudes above 5,000 feet so this is certainly something you should be careful about.

If you have any concerns about your pooch traveling with you on a flight and how they may adjust to it, you should consult with your vet to ascertain your pooch’s individual risk. If you have a senior dog, it would be best to let them sit a strenuous flight out.

Another concern about flying with your pet is when airlines insist on placing the animal in the rest of the cargo load. While this may not always be the case, there have been instances of pets getting injured because luggage may shift during takeoff and landing.

There may even be stark changes in temperature in the cargo section that may upset your pet. Keep all these things in mind before planning that itinerary.

Related: Why Is My Dog Drooling and Acting Strange?

Wrapping Up

Being a pet owner comes with delights and wonderful experiences, but it also comes with the constant worry of keeping your beloved pet happy and comfortable. Flying is a stressful activity even for human beings.

The sudden shift in air pressure is not something the human body is naturally accustomed to. These are practices that have become normalized over time because air travel is one of the easiest and quickest ways to get around the world. However, no matter how experienced one may be at flying, it is shocking for the body each time.

After only a few hours of flying time, one may experience dehydration, fatigue and as mentioned above, you may find your ears have not popped even after you have deboarded!

If it takes human beings so much work to adjust to a flight, it is only understandable that flying will be stressful for your little furball. Sure, at times you cannot avoid that journey by air for your pet, but the key is to always be ready and even to over prepare if you need to!