Flying with a Dog: Tips to Keep Your Dog Safe While Flying the Friendly Skies

For pet owners, the stresses of worrying about their furry friends can put a damper on the excitement of travel plans. If you opt to take your dog along on your flight, a bit of research and preparation beforehand can reduce some of your concerns about flying with a dog.

Tips to Make Your Pet’s Flight Better

If at all possible, avoid flying with a dog if it will not fit in a carrier that can slip under the seat of the plane. It is not an ideal choice for your dog to fly in the cargo hold of the aircraft. Regardless of where in the aircraft your dog must fly, be sure to follow these tips in advance of your date of departure.

Flying with a Dog

Preparation Beforehand

  • Find out which airlines allow dogs to be transported on their aircraft, and ask about their policies and requirements for pet travel.
  • If your destination is outside of the United States, find out if there are any health regulations that are required for dogs that are entering the country.
  • Schedule a veterinary appointment within the timeframe in which the airline requires a signed health certificate. Check with your veterinarian for specific feeding instructions. For your pet’s comfort, it is recommend they travel on an empty stomach.
  • If your dog does not already have a microchip for identification, ask your veterinarian to implant one. Be sure to register the microchip with your contact information immediately.
  • In addition to the microchip, be sure that your dog is wearing a collar with an identification tag that states your current contact information.
  • If your dog will be flying in the cargo hold, schedule a direct flight if possible. Flying with dogs can be even more worrisome for owners when connecting flights must be made and when crates are left for long periods on the tarmac in extreme weather conditions.
  • Make sure that your dog’s carrier or crate meets with the airline’s required specifications.
  • Affix a photograph of your dog and an index card that describes your dog and states your contact information and your point of destination to your dog’s crate or carrier. Keep a second photograph and a copy of the index card with you in case you need it for proof of ownership.
  • On the Day of Travel

  • If your dog will be flying in the cargo hold, boldly label the crate on each side to indicate that a live animal is traveling within. Include arrows in this label to indicate the upright position of the crate.
  • If your dog will be flying in the cabin with you, carry a leash in your pocket so that you can quickly and securely tether him when the TSA asks you to remove him from the carrier at security checkpoints.
  • Prepare the crate by lining the bottom with absorbent pads in case of accidents, and cover the pads with a towel or a couple of t-shirts that have your scent on them. Fill a bowl that securely fastens to the inside of the crate’s door with water. Freeze the bowl of water, and on the day of travel, place the bowl in a plastic bag or cooler for the ride to the airport. Once you are at the airport, place the water bowl in the crate, and the water will thaw as your dog’s needs to hydrate kick in. For an extended flight, tape a small plastic bag of your dog’s dry kibble to the outside of the crate. Find here tips on how to crate train a puppy.
  • Check with your airline to ensure that the pet policy has not changed since you booked your ticket and re-confirm your flight arrangements the day before your departure. Airlines can rearrange your flights up to the day you travel.
  • Exercise your pet before you enter security and let it use the restroom
    On the day of travel, exercise your dog before relegating him into the crate. A tired dog is more likely to rest than one that has pent up energy to burn.
  • Arrive at the airport early and place your pet in the crate yourself. Ensure that the crate is latched correctly.
  • If your pet is traveling in the hold of the plan, make sure to notify the flight attendant that your pet is in the hold.
  • If your pet is traveling with you, arrange to check-in as late as possible to reduce the time your pet will have to be in the terminal.

While many owners fear that their dogs will be fearful or anxious during flights, sedating dogs with tranquilizers is not ideal for air travel. It is recommended that you do not give your pet a tranquilizer as that can increase their risk to heart of respiratory problems. If you are worried about your dog’s potential stress level, discuss your concerns with your veterinarian and ask about natural calming alternatives. One way to help your dog to relax is to remain calm yourself. It is a natural inclination to worry about the welfare of a beloved furry family member when flying with dogs, but if your dog picks up on your anxiety, it will have a reason to become stressed.

Once you and your dog have arrived safely at your destination, you can embark on your relaxing vacation or explore your new hometown together. Such prospects will reward you both for enduring a few hours of air travel. Find here more hints on what to do with your pet when travelling.

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