Bringing your dog along when you travel can be fun for both you and your pet, but when the travel is by air it can also be stressful and bewildering for your dog. Flying with a dog who is small enough to ride with you in the passenger area of an aircraft is easier and safer than flying with a dog who must ride in the cargo hold. The chance of a successful flight for a dog of any size is increased if you prepare carefully. You can make the experience easier for your dog by surrounding him with some favorite items from home and keeping to his normal schedule as much as possible.
Contact airlines to learn what requirements and regulations affect flying with your dog, and the costs. Each airline has its own rules regarding pet travel. Many will let you bring a small dog into the passenger area with you if the carrier is small enough to slide under the seat. Some airlines refuse pets, and most will not let an animal fly in the cargo hold in extremely hot or cold weather. It is important to learn these restrictions and plan around them.
Visit your veterinarian for a health certificate and to make sure your dog's vaccinations are up to date. All airlines require a health certification dated within 10 days of travel, along with shot records. Some destinations, such as Hawaii, have special regulations you must meet. Hawaii will place your dog in quarantine for 120 days if you have not met specific requirements to avoid it.
Provide your dog with a sturdy crate, large enough for him to lie down, stand up and turn around. Make sure it has sturdy hand grips, a solid bottom, and ventilation on opposite sides to allow the best possible air flow. Place an absorbent pad in the bottom of the crate, and top it with his favorite blanket or pad. Include a water bottle and chew toy.
Attach "Live Animal" labels to the crate with lettering at least an inch tall and arrows pointing up to show which side is up. Write your name, address and phone number on the label.
Attach a recent photo of your dog to the crate and carry a similar photo with you. These photos will help identify your dog if he should escape from his crate.
Pack a bag for your dog that includes his regular food, water from home, and his medications.
Provide your dog with a secure collar. Attach his rabies tag and an identification tag that includes your name, address and phone number.
Book a direct flight, if possible. A direct flight means that your dog won't be handled as much to change planes, and he won't be left sitting on the tarmac in extreme conditions while he's waiting to be loaded onto the next plane. It also means that once your dog is loaded on your plane you know he will arrive with you at your destination.
Arrive at the airport as late as the airline allows to reduce the length of separation from your pet. Discuss with the airline in advance the fact that you are bringing a pet, and ask how much in advance of the flight you should check the pet in. Go to the check-in counter with your dog and his paperwork, including the health certification and vaccination record. You will be asked to pay a fee when you check him in.
Go the baggage claim area immediately upon arrival at your destination. Take a moment to reassure your pet, and allow him an opportunity to relieve himself as soon as possible.
Both the Humane Society of the United States and the ASCPA recommend against placing dogs in the cargo hold of planes, and suggest that you find another method of transportation if your dog can't fly with you in the passenger area.
Keep lists of the things you want to discuss with the airline and your veterinarian in the weeks leading up to your trip.
If your dog doesn't have a microchip for identification, consider having it done before you leave on your trip. A microchip is required if your trip is to Europe. A microchip provides an alternative method of identification if your pet should escape his crate and lose his collar, and it can carry more information than a tag.
Every time you encounter an airline employee, let him know that you have a dog in the cargo hold. Don't hesitate to ask someone to check on your pet when possible during long stopovers or when you encounter delays.
Items You Will Need
- Shot records
- Health certification
- Absorbent pad
- Water bottle
- "Live Animal" label
- Photos of your dog
- Water from home
- Collar and tags
- American Kennel Club: Traveling With Your Dog
- ASCPA: Air Travel Tips
- The Humane Society of the United States: Pets and Air Travel
- The Complete Dog Owner's Manual; Amy Marder, V.M.D.
- dachshund in suitcase image by J. Nunnelly from Fotolia.com