October 15, 2019 4 min read

Flying with petscan be intimidating the first few times you attempt it. With some careful planning and a couple of extra packing list items, flying with a dog can be done safely and happily for all parties. Make sure you check beforehand with both your veterinarian and the airline you intend to book tickets with; they may have further information to make the trip easier or travel regulations for you to take into account. If you are not sure how to fly with a dog, they can help guide you through the often-confusing process. There are some extra vet visits involved, some extra paperwork to double-check, and some extra measurements to take, but getting to vacation with your pet is well worth the added time and expense!

Planning Your Trip

When making vacation plans with your pet, it is a wise idea to pay close attention to the requirements and regulations set by the airline you wish to fly. Most companies have some standard policies across the board, but others vary significantly. For instance, the Southwest pet policyhas no weight limit for pets, while American Airlines has a one hundred pound weight limit (for the pet and the carrier combined).

First, it is absolutely essential that you get your pet checked out by your veterinarian before taking dogs on planes. He should have a thorough physical done and be up-to-date on all of his shots, including rabies.

Your veterinarian can give you a certificate of health. It should be dated no more than 30 days before your flight, so plan accordingly. Some airlines also require an acclimation certificate, which says the dog is ready to withstand an environment that the airline can not guarantee will be held to humane animal care standards. This is often used with regards to the potentially cold temperatures in cargo holds.

You may choose to microchip your pet at this visit if you have not already done so. It could make it easier to reunite with your pet should you become separated on your trip.

Book your flight in advance. Let them know you are flying with a dog, and double-check the requirements for boarding with them (including breed restrictions if that applies to your dog). An early-morning direct flight with no layovers is probably the best choice.  Ask to board early.

The next step after buying your tickets is to acclimate your pet to the plane-ready carrier. For pets traveling in or underneath your seat, a soft carrier is fine. For pets flying in the cargo hold, a large hard-sided carrier with ventilation holes on the sides is necessary.

When buying your pets’ travel crate, make sure it is big enough that he can stand up completely, turn around in a circle, and then lay down again. The airline may check that he can do so before allowing him to fly. Make sure it also fits within the size limits of the plane.

Make sure to introduce your dog to his new kennel slowly, but in plenty of time for your flight. You want it to be familiar enough for him to not be restless and aggressive when he is uncomfortable. A final test could be keeping him in there for the same amount of time you anticipate your flight taking.

Make sure his carrier is labeled with his information, as well as yours and your veterinarians.

What To Pack

When you are flying with a dog, it may be tempting to throw a bit of food in a bag and call it done.

There are some other things you should make sure to bring along on your trip, such as:

  • Extra copies of his health certificate, medical records, local registration, and shot records. Make sure to include his microchip identification information.
  • An extra leash, extra poop bags, and an extra collar with an ID tag and rabies tag
  • His grooming supplies
  • Any medications your dog needs
  • Bottled water (local drinking water changes may upset his stomach)
  • Treats and bowls
  • Recent color pictures, in case he gets lost
  • Favorite toys and blankets

At The Airport

The day you are supposed to be flying with a dog, make sure to arrive in plenty of time. Most airlines suggest you get to the airport about two hours before your flight time.

Your dog will need to eat several hours before the flight. Digestion time can take between six and eight hours depending on how heavy the meal was! Give him water right up to boarding, but limit his food intake. Allow him as much time as he needs to go to the bathroom before going to the airport.

Do NOT sedate your pet before the flight unless directed by your veterinarian. Tranquilizers can cause life-threatening cardiovascular problems to dogs on planeswith the changing altitude and air pressure on the flight.

If you take the time to properly prepare for your trip with your pet, it will make your life (and his) so much easier. Read up on the airline’s pet policy, talk to your vet, and have all your paperwork filled out, signed, and submitted in plenty of time.

It may seem challenging as you start the process, but soon you will find there are answers to your questions and people to help around every corner.

And after this little bit of extra effort (and maybe a few more phone calls and fax cover sheets than normal), you can go and enjoy your vacation time with your dog!