Tips and Tricks for Airplane Travel with Your Dog
Flying is stressful enough for human passengers, but it can be dangerous and even deadly for canines if something goes wrong during or after the flight. How can you better the chances of a stress-free trip for you and your dog?
Here are some favorite tips and tricks to make your next flight with your four-legged companion as smooth as possible.
#1. Book your flight early.
Many flights have limits for animal passengers; some airlines only allow one or two dogs per plane flight. Before you purchase your ticket, call ahead and make sure that there is a spot available on the flight for your pup. Once availability is confirmed for your dog, reserve the two seats right there and then.
#2. Take your dog to the vet.
Although some airlines don’t require health documents for your dog, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Take your dog to the vet before your trip for a check-up and to update any necessary vaccinations. Bring a copy of your dog’s health certificate and any other pertinent paperwork with you to the airport. Carry a first-aid kit with you as well. Your veterinarian can help you determine what you should have in that kit (tape, gauze, etc.) before you take off.
#3. Purchase and prepare a carrier.
The right carrier will have enough room for your dog to turn around in, to lie down in, and to stand up in without hitting his head on the top of the crate. Carriers are available in both soft and hard sides. If your dog is traveling in the cargo hold, you will need a hard-sided carrier with plenty of ventilation holes. Also, be aware of the USDA’s universal requirements for animal transportation via air:
Food and water dishes
Bedding and other necessities
“Live Animal” stickers
All airlines have dimension requirements for animal carriers, so contact your airline to make sure that your dog’s carrier fits the bill.
#4. Get your dog proper ID.
You’re not the only one who has to be ID’d to get on a plane--the same goes for your dog. First, write your dog’s name clearly on the carrier along with your address, contact information, and flight number. Put the same information on your dog’s collar. It’s helpful to include a secondary phone number in case you cannot be reached with the primary.
Carry a current photograph of your dog. If he is lost during the trip, the photo will make it easier to relocate him. Also, consider getting a microchip implant for your dog which will increase the odds of recovery should he be separated from you.
#5. Exercise the day before you leave.
Take some meaningful time the day before you leave to engage your dog in some quality exercise, such as a vigorous hike or a longer walk. The goal is to wear him out so that the flight the next day won’t be so stressful on him.
#6. Pack water and food for the trip.
Dogs can get dehydrated during flights. Freeze some water before your leave for the airport, so your pup has water in his dish before you board the plane. Some airlines require that pets be offered water and food within four hours of check-in and the owner’s signature affirming this fact.
#7. Practice for the flight.
Especially for first-time four-legged fliers, the plane’s ascent to 35,000 feet can be quite alarming. Practice taking your dog in his carrier frequently while you run errands so he can become accustomed to it. If you live in a busier city, try practicing with your dog via other modes of public transportation, like the subway, so he can get used to the crowds and sounds similar to what he will see in an airport.
#8. Limit food intake before takeoff.
It’s fine to pack food and water for the trip, but try to avoid feeding your dog in the four hours leading up to the flight. An upset stomach is not a pleasant condition for anyone embarking on a journey.
#9. Don’t give your dog tranquilizers.
Even if it seems like knocking out your pup for the duration of the trip is an easy solution to traveling woes, it’s not. The American Veterinary Medical Association discourages giving dogs tranquilizers, like valium, before a flight because these drugs can cause cardiovascular and respiratory problems as the altitude pressure within the plane changes.
Dogs can also have their equilibrium affected by sedatives, which can make their time in the carrier uncomfortable and overwhelming.
If your dog must have a sedative to fly, discuss what and how much he needs with your veterinarian.
#10. Arrive at the airport early.
Most airlines encourage travelers with dogs to arrive at least two hours before their flight. Have your dog’s health certificate in hand. You will need to check-in at the airline’s counter as self-service and curbside check-ins are not allowed when traveling with an animal.
Bringing a dog with you on a flight can seem frightening and fraught with worry, but by following these tips you and your pup will be off the plane and relaxing on the beach in no time at all!