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Written by Grace Park
Veterinary reviewed by:
Published: 03/06/2019, edited: 08/28/2023
By Robert Cabral, a dog trainer
Pets are family members and taking them on vacation is far from unusual — but on a plane? Well, more people are doing it. The number of pets carried by U.S. airlines increased 11 percent last year to 784,000, according to Airlines for America, the industry’s lobbying organization.
While having our pets along can be fun, air travel can be tough on many dogs. You want to make sure they’re as prepared as possible for every step along the way.
Start by checking with the airline(s) you're flying to understand their pet-travel rules and regulations. Every airline can be slightly different. Before bringing your dog along, make sure you’re following proper protocol.
Here are some things to keep in mind.
Smaller dogs can travel in the plane’s cabin provided they fit in an FAA-approved carrier that fits under the seat. The size restriction for this varies by airline, so you'll want to check with your specific carrier for guidance. Travel & Leisure has some information on this topic.
Your pet is required to stay in the carrier during the entire flight, so get your best friend used to a crate before you travel. This is one of the best things you can do for your dog.
While it may be tempting to take your dog out of the crate once aboard, don't. This is in the best interest of your dog and any other pets on board. Your pet can be hurt in an airline cabin, especially if the flight encounters turbulence or any other disturbance.
Fun fact: Your crate can also be used in your hotel if you need to leave the room and can’t bring your dog. You wouldn’t want your dog to escape the room when an unwitting housekeeper stops by to turn down your bed.
When traveling — domestically or internationally — be sure to have all of your dog's medical records and vaccines up to date and carry a copy of the records with you. Some countries require proof of a rabies vaccination and other treatment. Be sure to check before you travel to make sure you have all the necessary paperwork. You’ll find great information about traveling with your pet internationally — and returning to the U.S. — at the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s website.
Always bring your dog's own food with you — or order a bag to be delivered to your final destination. This can help your dog avoid an upset stomach while traveling.
A flying vacation with your dog can be fun and rewarding as long as you prepare for the journey in advance. If you aren’t able to take your four-legged friend along, you can always use Wag! to find trusted and vetted sitting and boarding for your best buddy while you're away.
In my next post, I’ll share information about traveling with your pet by car.
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