The Complete Guide to a Pet-Friendly Summer Trip: Traveling By Airplane
Though a practice run on an airplane may be out of the question, you can make sure your pet is comfortable in their carrier. Airlines may even refuse service if your pet is too aggressive or stressed, so if your pet is unfamiliar with their crate, you'll need to work on training. Start by making the crate a comfortable and inviting place with bedding and their favorite toys.
Drop treats in throughout the day to entice their curiosity and create a positive association with their crate. Do not force them inside. Allow your dog to enter on their own and praise them when they do.
Once they are comfortable being inside, you can start closing the crate door, remaining in the room with them at first to avoid a negative association between your departure and the crate. The next step is to get them used to you being in another room while they are crated, and finally getting them used to you leaving for short periods of time while they are crated.
At this point, it's a good idea to take them for car trips in the crate. Allowing at least a month of crate training before travel will greatly reduce stress for both of you when the day finally comes.
Airlines will turn away pets who haven't had the necessary preparations. Avoid this by making sure you'll have everything you and your pet need before the flight:
Advanced Arrangements - Don't wait until the day of your flight to let the airline know you'll be bringing your pet. Let them know when you book your flight to ensure there will be room for your pet and to get any specific rules and regulations that airline may have. In an ideal world this should be enough, but calling a day or two before your flight to reconfirm and remind the airline you'll be traveling with a pet is also a good idea.
Plan for the Weather While you may not be able to predict the exact temperature, if you are traveling in summer, you can be fairly sure it will be hottest in the middle of the day. Airlines may turn you away if temperatures are too hot for your pet's safety, so try and plan your flight for early morning or late evening.
Paperwork You'll need:
- Documentation proving your pet is healthy enough to fly
- A valid health certificate from a licensed veterinarian issued no more than 30 days before your flight (or 10 days if your pet is flying cargo)
- Proof they have received a rabies immunization.
Approved Carrier: For the safety of your pet, there are a variety of airline regulations regarding your pet's crate:
- One adult dog per carrier. Two puppies may fly together if they are 2-6 months old, weigh less than 20 lbs each, and are fully weaned.
- Must be sized properly. Your pet must be able to stand, turn around, and lie down comfortably. No part of your pet may protrude from the carrier.
- No wire side carriers. Soft-sided carriers are acceptable only in the cabin. Hard-sided carriers are required for all animals traveling in cargo.Must be well-ventilated and have rims around the edge to prevent ventilation from being blocked by other cargo.
- The floor must be leak-proof and covered with an absorbent material like a towel, blanket or bedding.
- Carriers must have grips or handles on the outside for airline employees.
- There should be two empty containers for food and water inside, in case of delay.
- Outside the carrier should be marked with:
- LIVE ANIMAL on the top and side of carrier with arrows to show the proper position of the crate
- Your pet's name
- ID tag with home address and phone number
- Address and phone number of the hotel you'll be staying
- Feeding instructions and a signed statement that your pet was offered food and water within four hours of your flight time
Some people, worried their pet will become anxious, are interested in giving their dog a sedative medication before flight. However, the American Veterinary Medical Association is generally opposed to this, as tranquilizers may upset your pet's natural balance or even create respiratory or cardiovascular problems with the increased altitude pressure. Still, besides ensuring your pet's carrier is comfortably padded with blankets or other bedding, there are a couple simple ways to help your pet keep calm and cozy during their flight. Though the USDA requires pets be offered food and water within four hours of your flight, a full stomach may increase the chance of accidents or an upset tummy. You can reduce the likelihood of these problems by feeding and watering as close to the four hour mark as possible. A little walk before your flight will also help your dog relax.