Your dog is your best friend, so naturally you want to take him along for the adventure of a lifetime. It's not the simplest undertaking, but many people do fly with their pets, whether for necessity or for fun.
Traveling with a dog requires a bit of research and planning ahead to make sure your pooch has the most comfortable travel experience possible. Here are some tips to help you navigate the sometimes-confusing world of flying with your dog.
Each airline has its own rules and restrictions when it comes to canine travel (and a few don't allow it at all), so be sure to check with your preferred airline before you book. Here are a few things to enquire about:
Fees and Availability: Some airlines allow small dogs to fly in cabin while other airlines only offer cargo space. Most airlines cap the amount of dogs allowed on a single flight, so make sure you check that there is space available before you book and reserve both of your travel at the same time. Call again 24 hours before boarding to reconfirm your pet's spot. Almost all airlines charge some sort of fee to travel with your dog. This can range from $30-$500.
Breed and Weight Restrictions: Most airlines only allow dogs under 20 pounds to fly in-cabin. Larger dogs will have to fly in kennels underneath the plane, which means they may require a different kind of carrier.
Additionally, some airlines have restrictions regarding certain breeds of dogs, specifically brachycephalic (short nosed) dog breeds like bulldogs, pugs and Boston terriers. These breeds are more prone to respiratory problems and may have health issues when flying. Other breeds, like American Staffordshires, may require special reinforced crates. Check with your airline for details.
Veterinary Certification: Many airlines will require a health certificate from your veterinarian, completed within 7 days of departure (you will not need a separate certificate for your return journey unless you trip is exceptionally long). If you are traveling internationally you may need to bring along immunization records as well.
Time of Year: If your pet will be traveling in the cargo hold, there may be additional temperature restrictions depending on your destination. Many airlines will not allow pets to fly in extremely hot or cold temperatures.
If your dog has never traveled on a plane before, it can be a scary experience. There are a few things you can do to make them more comfortable on their flight.
Choose a nice carrier: It should be big enough for them to turn around comfortably and should have ventilated sides to prevent overheating. Soft-sided carriers are better for in-cabin travel and hard-sided carriers are usually required for cargo hold travel. Spend some time getting your dog used to their carrier, especially while it's being carried or in motion (a car ride is good for this). Their carrier should feel like a safe, comfortable place for them.
Possible sedation: There are pros and cons to consider, taking into account the situation and your dog's health and temperament. If you do decide to sedate your pet many vets will suggest doing a trial run ahead of time to test their reaction to new medication.
On the day of travel, feed your dog a good 4 hours before departure, so they have time to digest their food. You can keep giving them water up until departure. Make sure they've had some exercise and play time before flying.
Arrive early for check-in and remember to bring your pet's vet certificate, as well as anything they might need to be comfortable during the flight. Most terminals have a designated pet relief area that you can (and should) use before boarding.
If your pet is traveling in the cabin, secure them safely under the seat in front of you. You will not be allowed to take your pet out of the carrier during the flight, but you should be able to reach down and comfort them as necessary.
Once you arrive take your pet for a nice walk outside the airport and breathe a sigh of relief - you made it!
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Stephanie Yoder is a girl who can't sit still! Since graduating college in 2007 she has either been traveling or planning to travel. She's lived on four continents and visited everywhere from the Great Wall of China to the Great Barrier Reef. She now writes and travels full time, blogging about her adventures on Why Wait To See The World? (formerly Twenty-Something Travel). Follow Stephanie on Twitter or visit her on Facebook.
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