Thinking about taking your dog along on a flight? It is a common occurrence, but advanced planning will save your sanity, as well as your dog’s stress level. It’s all in the details, and there are a number of them to consider.
First, seriously contemplate whether taking your dog is absolutely necessary. Transport kennels and airplane cargo holds are not comfortable, and for some dogs they are not safe. Brachycephalic animals, such as Pekingese, Bulldogs, Pugs, Shih Tzus, or Boston Terriers (those with the “smashed in faces”) should never travel in the cargo hold of a plane because the structure of their faces can inhibit their breathing. In addition, unweaned puppies, elderly dogs, or females in heat or pregnant should never travel by plane.
Many airlines do allow small dogs to accompany passengers in the cabin, as long as they are 20 lbs. or less and fit into a pet carrier with a waterproof bottom that will stow easily beneath the seat in front of you. Again, this requires pre-planning as airlines will only allow a handful of dogs on a flight. Fees range from $75 to $100 each way for this benefit.
The cargo hold is pressurized and somewhat heated or cooled to accommodate traveling pets, but to ensure the animals’ safety, many airlines will not allow them to fly in overly hot or cold weather. As a rule, pets are not allowed on flights to Hawaii, or most international flights due to their length. The size of the transport carrier should be big enough for your dog to stand up, turn around, and lie down, and it should not have wheels. Pet stores sell airline compliant travel crates that include the required labeling, and be sure to affix a tag indicating your name, home address, and phone number. Including this identification on your dog’s collar is also a good idea.
Tips to Prevent Major Headaches to Prepare Flying with your Dog
- Book your flight directly with the airline. They know the specific pet transport requirements and can answer your questions. Third party booking agencies or online sites may not be up-to-date, or may not account for pet travel.
- Book direct flights. Dealing with airline transfers or delays is not a scenario you want to experience traveling with your dog. In addition, avoid traveling with your pet during busy holidays as he could experience rough handling.
- Acclimate your dog to the transport carrier before the flight. Familiarity will then cut down on stress during travel. Airlines recommend allowing your dog a month before traveling to get accustomed to the carrier.
- Clip your dog’s nails before the flight. This is to ensure they don’t get caught in the pet carrier’s openings.
- Be sure your dog’s shots are up-to-date. You will need to provide documentation of vaccines.
- Carry a current picture of your dog with you and tape one to his carrier. If your dog becomes lost, this will make it much easier for him to be found.
- Check with your vet to see if giving your dog a sedative is a good idea. Often this is not recommended as sedation can cause nausea, and the effects of tranquilizers at high altitudes can be unpredictable.
Preparing to fly with your dog can be rather overwhelming, but advanced planning will avoid many of the problems that can arise. And once you arrive to your destination, won’t it be great to have your best friend at your side?