Flying With A Dog and Other Pets

It’s easier to plan travel for two legged family members than those with four legs.  Yet, this isn’t a good reason to leave our loved ones behind while we travel the world.  With preparation and a few tips, you can take the hassle out of flying with a dog.

Many of these tips apply to other pets that you’ve adopted into your family.

Large View of Flying With a Dog
Should she get to enjoy the vacation too? Credit
Options for Flying With a Dog

Airline prices vary between $100 and $500 to arrange for your pet’s arrival at your travel destination.  The method your pet travels also has a factor in the price.

If your pet is small enough and secured in a kennel, you’re permitted to carry-on your pet and stow it under your seat.  Keep in mind that the average airline seat is 17″ L x 12.5″ W x 8″ H.  Your pet will be counted as part of your carry-on baggage limit.

Another option is to check your pet, which means your furry friend is considered luggage.  You’ll pay a one-way fee for this service at the time of check-in.  Note: some airlines require you to recheck your pet at each connection.

If you’d prefer to have a more dedicated service to your pet, you’re able to ship your pet as cargo.

Don’t worry.  It’s not as bad as it sounds.

Your pet is loaded on your flight and available within hours of landing.  The shipping process is a more secure since it requires a reservation.  This prevents you from trying to check your pet and realizing that the cargo hold’s pet limit has been reached.

Preparing for Flying With a Dog

If you decide that you don’t want to carry your pet on with you, there are a few things you’ll have to prepare for.

A Month Before Your Flight

Book early to get a direct flight.  This helps alleviate the need to recheck your pet during connections.

Flying with a dog requires them to spend lots of time in a kennel.  Let your pet get used to being in the kennel when you’re not around.  Taking your pet on car rides while in the kennel will prepare them for similar movement while on an airplane.

Also, feeding your pet while inside the kennel is good practice for the flight.

If you have an airport nearby, take your pet to the airport and allow them to get a feel for crowds of strangers, loud noises, and new smells.

At bedtime, rub a soothing relaxing oil (e.g. chamomile, jasmine or lavender) inside the kennel.  On the day of the flight, this familiar fragrance will help soothe and relax your pet.  Alternatively, you can put a recently worn shirt in the kennel to give our pet a familiar scent while they fly.

Make sure your kennel is up to airline standards by ensuring the kennel:

  • Is large enough for your pet to sit upright without its body touching the top.  It must also allow your pet to turn in a full circle and lie down comfortably.
  • The material isn’t collapsible or designed to collapse.
  • Has a metal door.  Plastic doors and locks aren’t allowed.  Generally, it’s not a good idea to lock the kennel in case your pet needs to be removed in an emergency.
  • Has ventilation slits on all sides.
  • Wheels are removed or taped in place.
  • Has something absorbent on the bottom, like a newspaper or a towel.  Don’t bother with the organic stuff like hay or wood chips.  They aren’t allowed.
  • Has two separate feeding dishes.  One for food and one for water.  The dished should be securely attached to the kennel and personnel should be able to access them without opening the door.

Two Weeks Before Your Flight

If you’re shipping your pet as cargo, make your reservations up to two weeks before the flight.

Make sure your pet has identification tags with updated information.

One Week Before Your Flight

Have your veterinarian examine and issue your pet with a health certificate within 10 days of flying.  These certificates last for 10 days, so if your trip is lengthy, you’ll need to have your pet re-examined before the return flight.  Ask your vet for a recommendation in your destination area and book this appointment in advance.

The Day of Your Flight

Add two hours to the time you’ll need to arrive at the airport to make sure you have enough time to complete the pet check-in process.  Check the weather of your departure and arrival locations.  Pets aren’t allowed to fly in the cargo hold during extreme hot and cold weather (usually under 10 degrees F and over 85 degrees F).

Feed your pet at least four hours before the flight, and avoid feeding them after this.  Some airlines will require you to certify that you’ve fed your pet.

Exercise your pet before the flight so they’re tired and can rest during travel.  Bring along a few of your pets toys to make time in the kennel more comforting.  Don’t make a fuss when you have to leave your pet.  They’ll sense a difference and may feel anxiety over your departure.

Use this checklist for final things before you leave home:

  • Have a recent picture of your pet in the event that he’s lost and needs to be identified.
  • Depending on the length of your flight, you’ll need to provide airport personnel with feeding instructions and food.
  • Mark contact information and backup contact information on the inside of your kennel.  Label the outside of your kennel with the word “Live Animal” and an arrow showing which side is up.  Also, indicate if the animal is poisonous.  All letters should be over an inch tall.  Although sedation/tranquilization isn’t recommended at high altitudes, you have to indicate any medication and time administered on the kennel.
  • Avoid feeding your dog any food that could be potentially dangerous, especially certain human foods such as garlic or chives. The last thing you would want is for your pooch to fall really ill in the middle of the flight. Here’s a great guide compiled by TheGoodyPet on what these foods are.
 A Few Other Things On Flying With A Dog

If you’ve served our Country, thank you.  Be sure to ask about the U.S. Military discounts offered by most airlines.

Many varieties of snub-nosed animals aren’t permitted to fly on some airlines because their noses make it difficult to breathe.  These include Persian, Himalayan, Bulldog and Pug breeds.

Pets should be old enough to fly.  Airlines require a pet be between 8-10 weeks old and able to eat alone.  Mothers animals are usually prevented from flying with their children.

Dogs aren’t allowed to travel with cats – no matter how well they get along at home!

Exact requirements vary by airline, so be sure to contact them for specifics.

Do you have any more recommendations for keeping pets happy while flying?

  • InsideJourneys

    Thanks for sharing these great tips, Michaela. I didn’t realize that traveling with a pet could be this involved. Then again, I keep forgetting pets are like small kids — they need a lot of attention.

    • I agree; pets do need a lot of attention. Airlines can’t get off with a voucher if they lose your pet, like they lose your luggage.

      I wonder who’s going to come up with a luxury airline carrier just for pets. There’s probably good money in it. LOL!