How to Travel With a Dog on a Plane

Published: 10/13/2020

Taking your dog on a plane can be stressful, whether you're flying internationally or domestically. There are lots of regulations you'll need to follow to ensure your canine compadre can travel. 

Before you book tickets for your next adventure, here's everything you need to know to make sure you can travel with a dog on a plane. 

Domestic travel

Flying domestically with a dog is much easier than flying internationally, but it can still cause plenty of headaches. Before you fly, it's a good idea to talk to your veterinarian to get advice on what vaccinations and certifications you'll need. 

Most airlines require you to provide a health certificate and proof of rabies vaccination before flying. You won't be able to fly with a dog within 30 days of the rabies vaccination, so plan ahead. If you're traveling to a region with temperatures below 45 degrees or above 75 degrees, your vet will need to confirm your dog is acclimated to the weather. Your dog will also need to be microchipped.

Some airlines have restrictions on breeds, including Pit Bulls, brachycephalic, and snub-nosed dogs, so check with your airline before flying. Airlines usually limit the number of pets you can travel with at once. For many airlines, the limit is two. Your pet will need to be a certain age to fly. This is generally around two to four months, but this differs from airline to airline. 

Each airline has different rules and regulations, so you'll need to check with the company to ensure you have everything you need. In general, the price of flying domestically with a dog costs around $125 to $150. Prices vary depending on the airline. 

If you have a small dog, they may be able to fly in-cabin under the seat in front of you. You'll have to keep your dog in their carrier during the trip and at the airport, so make sure you give them plenty of water and some food before leaving home. Avoid giving your dog a large amount of food right before flying — this could make them uncomfortable and cause bloating or stomach upset.

Large dogs will have to fly in the hold in a kennel or crate. The crate you use has to be over a certain size and approved by the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA). Check with the airline for dimensions. Checking your pet is generally more expensive than having them in-cabin. 

International travel

Pet parents looking to fly overseas with their pupper will have more trouble. The cost of flying with your pup internationally depends significantly on the size of the dog, the country you're going to, and the airline. 

As with domestic flights, your dog won't be allowed out of their crate during the flight or in the airport, so make sure you let them go to the bathroom and eat and drink before departing. Remember not to give your dog a big meal directly before a long-haul flight, as this could cause stomach upset.

Dogs can travel on international flights in-cabin, in the hold, or shipped as cargo. For small dogs on a pet-friendly airline traveling in-cabin, prices range between $200 and $500. However, if you have a large dog that needs to be held as cargo, you could spend $1,000 or more.

Different countries impose different restrictions on dogs. As a result, the US Department of State recommends you contact the embassy of your final destination to find out what you'll need to do once you arrive. Some countries — namely rabies-free ones — require you to quarantine your dog upon arrival. Quarantine periods can range from a few days to a month, depending on the country.

Dogs traveling internationally will need a range of vaccinations, certifications, and a microchip. Health certificates usually have to be less than 10 days old to be valid. Your dog will usually need a rabies vaccination and possibly other jabs depending on your destination. 

Some EU and non-EU countries require your dog to have an ISO microchip, which is not standard in the US. Ask your vet if they supply ISO microchips, or if they can order one for you. 

When traveling to the EU, you'll need to get your mutt an EU Pet Health Certificate Form within 48 hours before departure. Some countries also ask that your dog takes a rabies titer blood test to check if your dog has sufficient antibodies.

Service dogs, US government officials, and military personnel may be subject to different rules. If you are a US government official or a family member, check with the US Department of State’s Overseas Briefing Center for information.

Tips for traveling with a dog on a plane

  • Contact the airline. Each airline has different rules for flying with pets. It's always a good idea to speak with a representative from your chosen airline to ensure you have everything you need.

  • Book in advance. Not all flights allow pets, so you may have difficulty finding the right one for your pooch. Book your flight well in advance to ensure you can get the flight you need. 

  • Check and check again. Even if you've booked your flight and everything's confirmed, call the airline a week in advance and then again a day or two before you're traveling to ensure you're all set.

  • Master crate training. Your dog will undoubtedly find it distressing to stay in a crate for a long time, especially in a plane's cargo hold. Crate training is a great way to prepare your dog to fly. This will get them used to long periods in a crate, which should relieve some stress. 

  • Don't use tranquilizers. Your dog may not be allowed to travel if you give them a tranquilizer, which can cause health complications at high altitudes. If your dog does require sedatives, you'll need written approval from your vet. 

  • Board early. Make sure you get to the airport early and board early. Your pup is sure to slow you down and require lots of checks as you board the plane.

  • Find the shortest route. You won't want to keep your doggo in their crate for longer than you need to, so try to avoid connecting flights that will lengthen your trip. It can also be a hassle to transport your dog from one plane to another. 

  • Tag your dog's crate. Just in case you get separated from your woofer, put a name tag and your information on the crate so that you can be easily reunited.