Do pets suffer jet lag?

Pet Jet Lag
If you want you pet by your side on a global adventure, it's possible you both might end up battlin­g a case of jet lag.
If you want you pet by your side on a global adventure, it's possible you both might end up battlin­g a case of jet lag.
© iStockphoto/Victoria Soares

­You might think your endlessly dozing pet is immune to the effects of jet lag, but you could notice it acting a little out of whack after a long leg of traveling. That's because almost all life on the planet follows a daily circadian rhythm to some degree or another -- you have to travel to points like deep ocean depths before the effects of daylight don't touch the locals. While some animals may seem immune to jet lag or able to shake it off fast, there is the potential for it after a journey.

It's important to note, however, that different species react in different ways to the circadian cycle. Animals with a strong sense of smell might be prompted to an active nightlife, while those who rely heavily on sight might be up at dawn. The reaction you see when you hit your destination could depend on what's natural for your pet. For example, pets like cats and dogs have been shown to rely less heavily on a daily circadian rhythm, while other animals like hens and monkeys appear to have circadian rhythms that more closely model those of humans.

Apart from jet lag, another component to the trip that could leave your pet feeling unwell after a plane ride is the altitude during the flight. Malaise, sore muscles, dehydration, headache and fatigue are all potential symptoms you might observe in your pet's behavior.

People, and presumably some pets, often have a better time recovering from jet lag when they're headed west. This is thought to be because the adjustment to a longer day is typically easier than switching to a shorter one. Unfortunately, unless it's a one-way trip, that jet lag is just going to catch you on the flip side.

There's currently no cure-all for jet lag, although researchers are experimenting with different new medicines that may be able to take the edge off. A number of preventive steps can help ease the transition into a new time zone, including carefully planning so you're fully rested beforehand and departure and arrival times that work well with your personal habits. You can even begin the adjustment before you leave, slowly shifting your bedtime to accommodate the upcoming time switch. Most cats and dogs probably have one up on their owners on this score -- flexible sleeping patterns make the transition easier.

Another possibility is diet. It turns out animals -- people included -- have a food clock in addition to a time clock. This useful system lets animals extend their schedule if they're unable to find food. Once food's been found, it's time to crash, so people can try to use this to their advantage by fasting and then enjoying a timely meal at their destination. Different foods can also help increase your pep or get you ready for bed.

If you do have a case of jet lag on your hands, there are a few things you can do to ease those ill feelings: spend time in the sun or soak up a dose of light therapy, stay hydrated and get some exercise. These activities will be good for you, and your pet will probably enjoy them, too.

On the next page, you'll find links to lots more information about traveling with pets, taking siestas and tips for tackling jet lag.

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