How to Ship a Puppy in a Plane

Get your puppy used to his carrier before a flight.
puppy image by SKYDIVECOP from

When you're shipping a puppy by plane you may not always be available to travel with the dog in the cabin. In these cases, you must ship the puppy by cargo or on a pet-specific airline. To ensure your puppy's safe arrival at his destination, have your veterinary paperwork in order and make all arrangements ahead of time with the party that is going to pick up the dog.

Step 1

Schedule an appointment for your puppy with your veterinarian no more than 10 days before the flight. The dog will need to get a rabies vaccination if he is more than 3 months old and will need to be administered other vaccines recommended by your veterinarian. The doctor must fill out a health certificate for the puppy; it's required by most airlines for a pet to travel.

Avoid having your puppy vaccinated or wormed less than three days before the flight, United Air Lines recommends.

Step 2

Purchase an airline-approved crate/carrier for your puppy, one that is made of hard plastic with metal mesh panels at the sides and a metal mesh door at the front of the carrier. The carrier should have ventilation holes on all four sides and should be big enough for the dog to sit, stand, turn around and lay down in comfortably.

Some airlines, like the pets-only Pet Airways, provide the crate/carrier for your puppy based on his size.

Step 3

Label the sides of the carrier with 1-inch letters that spell out "live animal" on the top and at least one of the sides, with arrows pointing upward along the side, indicating the correct orientation for the carrier. For identification purposes, tape a photograph of the puppy to the top of the carrier, along with your name, address and phone number. Include the information of the person you are shipping the puppy too as well.

Step 4

Make a reservation with the airline you plan to use to ship your puppy. Some airlines, such as American Airlines, require a reservation no less than 72 hours prior to the day of departure -- for a last-minute reservation, contact the airline to determine if it will be able to ship your puppy. Be prepared to tell the airline representative the name, age, breed, size and weight of the puppy, along with the weight and dimensions of your crate/carrier. You may need to fill out a separate animal shipping request form online or by fax.

Step 5

Freeze your puppy's water in the water dish so it has a chance to melt during the flight and won't spill prior to takeoff. Attach a bag of dry kibble to the top of the container so an airline attendant can feed the dog if the flight is delayed; list on the top of the carrier the last time and date the puppy has been fed and given fresh water.

Step 6

Line your puppy's carrier with newspaper or towels to absorb any potential accidents the pup may have, and place him inside. Securely close the door to the carrier.

Step 7

Arrive at the airport no less than two hours prior to takeoff and no more than four hours before the flight; most airlines, such as American Airlines, will not accept a dog more than four hours prior to departure.

Step 8

Check your puppy in with the airline and provide his health certificate, your contact information and the contact information for the person picking the puppy up when he arrives at the destination.

Step 9

Contact the person picking your puppy up at the animal's destination to let her know the flight number, arrival time, air bill number or shipment confirmation number, and procedures involved with picking the dog up. The puppy will usually either arrive in the baggage claim or cargo pickup area of the airport within 15 to 30 minutes of landing. Tell the person picking up the puppy that she may need to show identification when claiming the puppy.

Step 10

Check with the airline at the scheduled time of arrival that the flight has arrived on time. Contact the person picking up the puppy to see if she and the pup have arrived safely.


  • Most airline carriers require puppies to be at least 8 weeks old and weaned from their mother to travel by plane.

  • Certain snub-nosed or potentially aggressive breeds are prohibited from flying on many airline carriers. Before making a reservation, ask the airline you wish to use if it accepts your breed of puppy.

  • Most airlines prohibit shipping dogs of any age as cargo during extremely cold or warm temperatures, below 45 degrees or above 85 degrees Fahrenheit; call your airline the day of your flight to ask if that day's temperatures will allow for safe pet travel. Call all airports involved if your puppy's flight has any layovers.

  • Don't sedate your puppy for a flight; some airlines will not accept a sedated dog. Sedatives can lead to inhibited breathing, lower body temperature and injuries during travel.


  • Keep track of flight delays that may occur during your pet's voyage and of layovers that occur. Call the airline to have the airline personnel check on the puppy's welfare and ensure that the dog makes any connecting flights.

  • If your dog's flying internationally, a period of quarantine may be required when the puppy reaches his destination, and additional paperwork may be required. Contact the consulate of the country you will be shipping to, ahead of time, as it can help you determine the requirements for shipping a pet.

  • Ask the airline you will be using whether it has specific health requirements in terms of vaccines other than rabies. Pet Airways requires distemper, hepatitis, parainfluenza, parvovirus and bordatella vaccinations, along with a negative fecal test listed on the health certificate.

  • Administer a teaspoon of honey or a high-calorie gel supplement to the puppy's diet the day before the flight. This will help regulate his blood sugar during the flight.

Items You Will Need

  • Airline-approved carrier
  • Newspaper or towels



About the Author

Based in Las Vegas, Susan Paretts has been writing since 1998. She writes about many subjects including pets, finances, crafts, food, home improvement, shopping and going green. Her articles, short stories and reviews have appeared on City National Bank's website and on The Noseprint. Paretts holds a Master of Professional Writing from the University of Southern California.

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