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Airline Travel with Your Dog

Airline Travel with Your Dog

I’m planning to travel and would like to take my dog with me. What are some of the factors I need to consider before taking him/her on an airplane?
 
Having your dog along for the ride may add enjoyment to your trip, but it's important to keep your dog’s health and safety in mind, so be sure to call the airline well in advance. Familiarize yourself with the airline’s pet requirements so that you can avoid any last minute problems.
 
Here are some basic tips for airline travel with your dog:
  • Take direct flights and try to avoid connections and layovers. This eliminates missed baggage connections and the chance that your dog will be left in extreme weather.
  • Many airlines will allow one pet in coach and one in first class, with some provisions. Some airlines limit the number of pets traveling within the cabin area, so be sure to notify the airline that your dog will be traveling with you. Your dog must be in a standard cage that will fit under the seat and must not disturb your fellow travelers. Obviously, only small dogs qualify for this type of accommodation.
  • Seek the advice of your veterinarian before traveling. Update all vaccinations and take all necessary health papers with you. A health certificate for your dog will be required for all interstate, and many intrastate, flights. If you are traveling to a foreign country, be aware that many countries require a specific health certificate. It may take several days or even weeks for your veterinarian to acquire the appropriate forms, so plan well in advance. You might also inquire about possible requirements to quarantine your dog should you be traveling to a foreign country or an island.
  • If possible, use airlines that hand-carry your dog (inside the carrier) to and from the aircraft. Otherwise, the carrier could simply be placed on a conveyor belt.
  • Do not feed your dog for six hours before the flight, but allow water until flight time. Water should also be available in the carrier. Give the dog fresh water as soon as you arrive at your destination.
  • Avoid the busiest travel times so airline personnel will have extra time to handle your dog.
  • Do not tranquilize your dog without first discussing it with your veterinarian.
  • Make sure the carrier has specific feeding and identification labels permanently attached.
  • Baggage liability limitations may apply to your dog. Check your ticket for liability limits or, better yet, speak directly with the airline. If you are traveling with an economically valuable pet, you may want to purchase additional liability insurance.
  • Be aware that airline travel may pose a risk for dogs with a pre-existing medical problem. For example, you should give serious thought to traveling by plane with a dog who has kidney or heart disease. Also, studies have shown that short-faced breeds of dogs (English Bulldogs, Boston Terriers, Pekinese) do not travel well in certain situations. Discuss these issues with your veterinarian prior to travel.
 
What do I need to consider when buying a travel carrier?
 
Your dog's travel carrier will be his/her "home" for much of your trip. It's important to choose the right one. Here are some helpful guidelines:
  • The carrier should be large enough for your dog to stand up and turn around freely.
  • The walls of the carrier should be strong and waterproof. This will prevent crushing and urine leakage.
  • There must be adequate ventilation on at least three sides of the carrier.
  • The carrier must have sturdy handles for baggage personnel to use.
  • The carrier should have a water tray that is accessible from the outside so that water can be added if needed.
  • Cover the bottom of the carrier with an absorbant covering or underpad. You can purchase these at many pharmacies.
Pet stores, breeders and kennels usually sell carriers that meet these requirements. Some airlines also sell carriers that they prefer to use. Check with the airline to see if they have other requirements.
 
Try to familiarize your dog with the travel carrier before you leave for your trip. Let your dog play inside with the door both open and closed. This will help eliminate some of your dog's stress during the trip.
 
Is there any other advice that might be useful as I prepare for my trip?
 
By applying a few common sense rules, you can keep your traveling dog safe and sound.
  • Arrange ahead of time to stay in a hotel that allows pets. Many bookstores carry travel guidebooks with this type of information. 
  • Make sure that your dog wears a collar with an identification tag securely fastened. It should have your name, address and telephone number on it.
  • Always travel with a leash-harness for your dog. This is more secure than a collar. Familiarize your dog with the harness before the trip. Attach your dog's leash while it is still inside the cage. Outside the cage, a frightened dog can easily run away before you have a chance to secure it.
  • If you leave your dog unattended in lodging rooms, make sure that there is no opportunity for escape. Leave the dog in the cage or in the bathroom. Be sure to inform housekeeping personnel of your dog and ask that they wait until you return before entering the room.
  • Should your pet get lost, contact a local animal control officer.
 
Remember, advance planning is vital to making the trip an enjoyable experience for both you and your dog.
 
See Airline Travel with Your Cat
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