Flying your dog on an airplane can seem worrisome, but rest assured that hundreds of thousands of pets fly every year, and the number of pet-related incidents is extremely low relative to the large amount of pets traveling in the great blue sky. Whether flying in-cabin as carry-on or flying in cargo (both safe and comfortable options), we've outlined the key steps you can take for safely and responsibly flying your dog. Follow these tips and feel good about bringing your pup on that next vacation.
Get Your Pup Accustomed To The Crate
Every pup that goes on an airplane (whether as carry-on or cargo) is required to be contained within an appropriately-sized kennel. For this reason, it's important to acclimate your dog to the crate well in advance of her trip. To ease the stress associated with being confined to a small space for a period of time, purchase the kennel as far in advance of your trip as possible and follow the rules of crate training such as leaving the door open and encouraging entry with a chew toy or treat in order to get your pup as used to the crate as possible. Also, be sure to pay attention to your airline's specific rules for kennels (each varies slightly). For example, United has a page dedicated to kennel guidelines. You don't want any surprises at check-in!
Do Not Sedate Your Pup Under Any Circumstance
Even the pet owner with the best intentions may think giving their pup something to "take the edge off" is a good idea. Please stand corrected. Under no circumstance is it advised to sedate or tranquilize your pup for air travel. In fact, the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) states that sedating pets for air travel can be fatal. Sedation is the most frequent cause of animal incidents during transport as many animals react negatively/abnormally to sedation and not much is known about the side effects of sedatives combined with high altitude and/or higher stress levels.
Make Sure Your Dog is Healthy Enough To Fly
A dog with known health issues or of senior age is more likely to respond negatively to the stress induced by flying and is at greater risk for injury. In fact, many airlines such as Delta require a health certificate within 10 days of departure before agreeing to ship a pet as cargo and have age limitations on flying pets. Not only is it often required, but it's wise as a responsible pet owner to get your dog checked out by a licensed veterinarian and current on all vaccinations prior to travel. That's why at PuppySpot, before any puppy ships home, we require our breeders to have a vet perform a comprehensive, nose-to-tail health exam.
Feed and Exercise Appropriately Prior To Travel
Experts advise to feed your dog approximately 4-6 hours prior to flight time, so he has enough time to digest properly and is full enough for the duration of the flight. Feeding too much and too close to the flight could cause an upset stomach while in-flight. That said, you should continue to keep your dog well-hydrated and provide water right up to the time of travel. Just be sure to empty the dish before checking the dog. A full water bowl will spill or cause unnecessary messes and excessive urination during flight. Before heading to the airport, be sure to exercise your dog with a long walk and allow her plenty of pees and poops before takeoff. Plenty of exercise will afford your dog the opportunity to burn off excess energy and therefore, rest easier during the flight.
Stay Calm and Give Your Pup The Comforts of Home
Remember, your dog feeds off of your energy. So, if you're positive and carefree about the experience, those feelings will rub off on him and put him more at ease. To give him some extra comfort during the flight, as long as rules allow, include a familiar toy or blanket with the smells from home inside his carrier. Before he knows it, he'll have arrived safely at his destination and be reunited with (or meet) his loving owner.
Avoid Travel in Summer and Winter Seasons
All major airlines have strict weather restrictions when it comes to flying pets, as animals can be extra sensitive to extreme heat or cold. So, to avoid any surprises, use your best judgement when booking and do not arrange travel in the dead of summer or winter to or from places that experience extreme weather conditions, as your dog will be unable to fly in very high or very low temperatures.
Be Aware of Breed Restrictions
If you own a snub-nosed breed such as a Pug, Bulldog or Boxer, you may not be able to fly your pooch on certain airlines. Due to the respiratory difficulties that some of these breeds experience due to the anatomy of their noses, some airlines such as Delta do not allow these breeds on their planes. Do your research ahead of time and make sure your chosen airline is the right fit for your dog.
The Early Pooch Gets The Worm
You know the old standard of arriving at the airport two hours ahead of your flight to leave enough time for security, checking baggage, etc.? Well the same, if not more of a conservative estimate applies to doggie travel. You don't want to add to what can already be an anxiety-inducing experience by being late. Give you and your pup plenty of time to get situated and address any issues with TSA well ahead of departure.
With these guidelines, we hope you feel comfortable and confident in flying your pet. Plus, all major airlines offer additional measures to give you that extra peace of mind. For example, United's PetSafe Program provides the ability to track your pets from origin to destination. And Delta's Variation Live Program offers temperature-controlled vans and holding areas as well as specially trained ground handlers for personalized care on the go.
And if you need someone to walk you through the pet travel process, PuppySpot prides itself on its best-in-class travel team, who will assist you with any questions or concerns you may have about your puppy flying home safe and sound.