In these times of dressing up our dogs, doggie massage and spa days, it’s no surprise that more people than ever are considering air travel with man’s best friend, but if the fur’s gonna fly, there are many things you should consider before take-off. Knowledge, planning, and caution will help ensure a safe and happy flight for Fido on his way to your destination.
First, plan far ahead for air travel with your dog.
- Research airline policies, fees and requirements.
- Determine whether your dog is small enough to fly with you in the cabin. Usually dogs under 12 lbs.,18″ from nose to base of the tail and 15″ high or less will be able to fit into a carrier and fly under your seat. Check with your airline for specific size requirements.
- Book your tickets and your dog’s! Be sure to let the airlines know you’ll be bringing Fido. Expect to pay extra fees, usually about $80 for in-cabin flight and $50-$500 as baggage or cargo.
- Book flights at the most comfortable times of day, such as mid-day in colder weather and morning or evening in warm weather. Most airlines will not fly pets during months of extreme weather conditions.
- Book direct flights without connections or layovers, and avoid the day’s busiest travel times.
- Have an airline-approved crate or carrier and be sure your dog is familiar with it and comfortable inside. Be sure it’s big enough for him. He should be able to stand, turn around, and lie down in it comfortably.
- Pups under 8 weeks old are not generally allowed to fly.
- Have your dog microchipped and tagged if he’s not already. Very important. Read more here.
- Research any paperwork you will need, especially if flying out of the country. Dr. Kristy Lund of Lund Animal Hospital in Boca Raton advises, “Plan ahead! I’ve had clients stuck in countries not able to board connecting flights due to lack of proper paperwork.” Also find out if your dog will be quarantined at your destination, and for how long.
- Have a recent photo of your dog that you can bring with you, as well as all his veterinary records. Update his vaccinations.
- Laws require airlines to verify a health certificate from your vet, which will require Fido to be seen by the vet within 10-14 days of your flight. Make an appointment for this.
- With your veterinarian, decide if you will sedate your pet. This is not recommended for short- nosed breeds like Bulldogs, Pekingese, and Pugs because high altitude can make it harder for them to breathe. If general, do not tranquillize your pet unless necessary. Dr. Lund says, “I have had many clients whose pets tried to claw out of the carrier the whole trip. If that’s the case, consult your veterinarian for sedation options that are best for your particular dog.” There are also natural products to calm your pet, which may be a good option to ask your veterinarian about.
- Do not fly with pets who have medical conditions such as kidney or heart disease.
- Mark your dog’s crate clearly with your contact information and destination. Write his name and add colorful touches to draw attention, make it clear it contains a live animal, and make it stand out from other baggage.
- Pack all of your dog’s medications, food, vitamins, etc. as well as a dog first aid kit and a leash.
On your travel day:
- Do not feed your dog within 6 hours of flight time.
- Arrive extra-early to the airport and take Fido for a long walk. Give him as much water as he wants to drink.
- Placing frozen water in his crate is a good idea. Hopefully it won’t spill as it defrosts and he’ll be able to lap some up.
- Have a folder of all your information, health certificate, photo, veterinary history, etc.
- Be sure there is nothing in your dog’s crate that can harm him … no toys he can chew up and choke on, nothing his collar and tag can snag on. Check his crate carefully and see that it’s strong, sturdy, well-ventilated, and intact.
- Do not lock the crate door but do make sure it closes securely and stays firmly closed.
- Keep your dog out until the last minute possible, then once he’s in his crate try to follow his journey to being placed on the plane if he’s not traveling in the cabin with you. Try to visually see his crate loaded on the baggage conveyor, truck, and plane. Ask airline personnel to check for you that his crate is safely boarded. Be a pain, it’s OK! You can even ask the pilot to check that Fido’s on board as you pass the cockpit when you board. Tip those who handle his crate or check on him for you.
- If your dog is in the cabin with you, do your best to see that he does not disturb others. Do not remove him from his crate unless you first ask those around you and the airline personnel.
There is much to consider if your dog is too large to travel under your airline seat in a carrier. Cabin flying is by far the safest way to bring your dog along with you. If your dog needs to fly as baggage or cargo, know that although dogs are doing so every day without incident, accidents do happen and you can’t control situations when the dog is out of your sight.
One risk is of escape, and just this month a dog named Paco was lost on a flight from Mexico to Detroit. His owners had rescued him from the streets during their trip to Mexico and given him medical care and decided to bring him home with them, but Paco was somehow lost by the airline. He is thought to have escaped his crate in Mexico City before boarding.
Temperature changes and extremes are also a concern for dogs flying in baggage areas. In 1983, seven racing greyhounds died due to extreme heat during a flight delay.
Other options for flying your furry best friend include companies like Pet Airways, Air Animal, and IPATA. Pet Airways will fly your pet in cabin, with many of the comforts we enjoy on regular airlines. Visit their website for information and more tips on pet travel.
There is much you can do to help your dog fly safely with you, and more and more people are including their four-legged family members in all aspects of their lives. It’s possible to bring your dog on a dream vacation, or maybe even bring home that wonderful stray you met and fell in love with while there ... if the fur flies!
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