4 Things to Remember When Taking Your Dog on a Flight

Flying is a convenient way of traveling because it enables passengers to get to their destinations faster compared to traveling by land or sea. Even pet owners who are traveling with their pets can expect to enjoy this level of convenience, as airline companies typically allow dog owners to travel with their fur babies on the same flight.

If it’s your first time boarding a flight with your furry friend, it’s perfectly normal to have some questions about the process. To help you better understand and prepare for your trip, here’s a list of things to remember when taking your dog on a flight:

There’s a Big Difference Between Flying Your Dog in Cabin and In Cargo

The general rule on where your dog should stay while on the flight depends on their size. If your pup and their carrier can fit under the seat in front of you, then they can stay in the cabin with you. Typically, this means your dog should weigh about 20 pounds. Keep in mind that traveling with your dog this way means they’ll count as your carry-on luggage, and they’ll be exposed to the cold temperature of the cabin.

As such, it’s a good idea to let them wear custom winter dog coats, especially if your pup is small or a short-hair breed. These types of canines have challenges retaining body heat, so having them wear a winter dog coat ensures they can stay warm and comfy during the flight.

If you have a larger dog, your only option is to fly them as cargo in a pressurized, temperature-controlled cabin. Essentially, you’ll fly your dog as checked baggage on the same flight that you’re taking. But instead of being with you in the cabin, your pet will stay in their crate unaccompanied and as cargo.

You’ll Need to Bring the Appropriate Pet Carrier or Crate

Whether your pet will spend the flight in a cabin or cargo hold, make sure to have them in the appropriate carrier or crate. Many airlines have lengthy guides that detail what they deem to be a suitable crate or kennel. In general, the crate must be large enough to allow your pet to lie down, stand, and turn around comfortably. The carrier must also be durable, allow proper ventilation, have strong handles, and have a leak-proof bottom.

Remember that bringing your dog as cargo requires putting a label on the crate saying it’s a “live animal.” There should also be labels on both sides of the crate featuring an upward arrow with the text “this side up” to indicate how the crate must be positioned at all times. Don’t forget to place one last label on the kennel containing your name, contact number, address, and your contact information at the destination.

You’ll Need to Take Your Pup to the Vet for a Health Check Before Each Flight

Photo by Tima Miroshnichenko

Before traveling with your pet, make sure to bring them to the veterinarian to ensure they’re healthy enough for air travel. Some canines, particularly brachycephalic breeds or short-nosed breeds like pugs, Shih Tzus, and pit bulls, aren’t allowed to fly on most airlines because it can be difficult for them to breathe at high altitudes.

Additionally, you’ll need to get not only a health certificate from the vet verifying that your pet is fit to fly but also a record of your fur baby’s up-to-date immunization. Take note that the certificate is only valid for up to 30 days and you’ll need it both for your departure and return.

Also, many airlines require the health certificate to be no more than 10 days old. So, if your trip will be longer than the validity of your pet’s health certificates, you’ll need to visit a vet while on your trip to get your pet another certificate as part of the requirements of your return flight.

You’ll Need to Carefully Select the Best Travel Dates for Your Pup’s Safety

Apart from airline policies and your pet’s condition, you must consider the best time to travel with your pet given their specific needs. That said, it’s recommended to book non-stop flights without any transfers to lessen the chances of your pet being left on the tarmac or mishandled by baggage personnel during a layover. It’s also best to avoid flying during the holiday season because this is when airlines and airports are busiest and when mishaps are more likely to happen.

If your dog will fly in cargo, be mindful of the weather during your travel hours. Airlines don’t allow pets to fly in cargo when the ambient air temperature is above 80 degrees Fahrenheit and below 20 degrees Fahrenheit. In such cases, you’ll likely need to book a different flight when the conditions are safer for your pup. For example, you can travel in the early morning, in the evening during warm weather, or midday during cold weather.

Like any trip with your precious pup, traveling via air will require some ample preparation on your part. Make sure to understand the travel options available to you and your pet, and always do everything you can to keep your fur baby healthy and comfortable during your flight.

If you aren’t sure about certain pet travel policies and requirements, it’s a good idea to check with your chosen airline if you understood them correctly. This way, you and your furred friend can have a smooth boarding experience and a stress-free vacation.

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Simone Ribeiro
Hi! I'm Simone, a citizen of Britain, where I live for over a decade, and of Brazil, where I was born. Midlands Traveller is where I combine my passion for travelling, business and an Eco-friendly lifestyle.

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