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April 18, 2018

Bringing your dog on a plane is sometimes a necessary hassle. Whether you’re transporting them home as a puppy, going to a dog show, moving houses, or even bringing them on vacation, you may have no choice but to bring them on a plane.

What can you do to make your plane travel as hassle-free and safe for your pups as possible?

1. Weigh your travel options.

Before bringing your pup on a plane, consider if there are other transportation options. The Humane Society warns pet owners to weigh the risks of transporting a pet by airplane, especially in the cargo area. In most cases, your dog won’t have trouble flying. However, there are some safety concerns with air travel, and some dogs can also have immense fear and trauma from flying.

Air travel can be especially dangerous for dogs and cats with brachycephalic faces, like bulldogs, Pekingese dogs, and Persian cats. These animals have a “pushed in” face, so they have shorter nasal passages. This can make them more vulnerable to oxygen deprivation, pressure changes, and heat stroke that can occur while flying.

2. Determine if your dog will be in-cabin or in cargo.

When preparing for your flight, call the airline to see their rules about dogs. You want to make your airline aware that you are bringing a dog—and the size of your dog—so they can appropriately accommodate (and charge) you. There is usually a fee for bringing a pet onboard.

Make sure you call ahead of time as airlines only allow a limited number of animals per plane. Each airline has different requirements, as you can see in this article by BarkPost

How To Bring Your Dog On A Plane jack russell wearing sunglasses waiting to board a plane in airport with bag

You should also ask the airline:

  • Do you require any health or immunizations?
  • Do you require a specific type of carrier (hard or soft)?

Some commercial airlines require all dogs to travel in the cargo area, and some allow smaller dogs to go under the seat in front of you. If you’re bringing your dog in-cabin, you may need to buy a second seat for your dog.

When possible, choose in-cabin. Although it’s slightly more of a hassle for you, it’s usually a less risky choice for pets.

3. Bring your dog to the vet.

Before getting on the flight, you should schedule an appointment to get your dog’s health checked out. You should do this at least 10 days out.

A vet can ensure your dog is in tip-top shape for flying with healthy blood pressure and no infections or diseases. He will also make sure your dog has all the necessary, up-to-date vaccinations. Your vet may also ask about your dog’s anxiety levels, as flying can be a high-stress environment.

Ask your dog for a health certificate in case. This shows the airline that your dog has all of his vaccinations and a clean bill of health. This is especially important for in-cabin dogs to show that he won’t harm the other passengers.

4. Prep your dog’s ID.

Your dog should have an appropriate collar with permanent ID tag. The ID should include your name, home address, and telephone number. You should also include a temporary travel ID with the destination location and contact person at the destination. If your dog has medical conditions, you should include a medical ID tag so handlers can take appropriate precautions.

5. Prep your dog’s carrier.

Whether going in-cabin or in-cargo, you’ll need to bring your dog in a carrier. We recommend a soft carrier for in-cabin, as these are easy to maneuver in tight spaces. For in-cargo transit, you want a hard-shell carrier or crate to protect your dog from potential hazards.

On the outside of the carrier, affix a travel label. This should include: your name, your permanent address, your telephone number, the dog’s name, your final destination, and a contact person for when the flight arrives.

You may also want to prep your dog for the carrier by getting him accustomed to it in the weeks leading up to the flight. If he gets anxious in the carrier, reward him with treats to help reverse-train his anxiety.

The inside of the carrier should have:

  • Water bowl
  • Treats (not too many)
  • Puppy pad in case of accidents
  • Your pup’s favorite toy

How To Bring Your Dog On A Plane luggage next to dog in carrier

6. Don't feed your dog.

You shouldn’t feed your pet four to six hours before the flight, especially if they are traveling in cargo. You don’t want to deal with stomach issues like throw-up or diarrhea while on the flight. This is especially true for anxious or nervous dogs.

If you have an extended flight, give your dog small amounts of food over a period of time.

7. Provide lots of water.

Your dog’s carrier or crate should have a water bowl attached inside. This will ensure your dog has access to fresh water so he doesn’t get dehydrated.

Pro-tip: Put ice cubes in the water bowl tray. This will keep the water cool and refreshing for a longer period of time.

Check out our Furbaby Carrier & Bowl to make sure your dog always has access to clean water in transit!

8. Be aware of security.

Your dog and carrier have to go through security as well. The carrier will travel through the X-ray machine, and you’ll have to hold on to your dog separately to walk through the detector. Be sure that your dog is leashed and secure. You can also request a secondary screening if you don’t want to remove your dog from her carrier.

Tips For Cargo

If your dog is going to be in the storage or cargo area, it can be a frightening experience for him. You want to make the process as painless as possible for your pup.

It’s also important to note that there is some risk involved in flying cargo. Although most pets are fine, some animals are injured, killed, or lost on commercial flights. This can be due to temperature changes, poor ventilation, rough handling, pressure changes, and over-anxious dogs.

  • Book a nonstop, direct flight when possible. This minimizes delays and loading/unloading of your pup from cargo areas.
  • Travel on the same flight as your pup. Ask the airline if you can watch your dog being loaded so you can ensure you’re on the same plane. This helps reduce the risk of your pet getting lost or delayed at your destination.
  • Don’t transport brachycephalic animals in the cargo area. This includes bulldogs, Pekingese dogs, and Persian cats.
  • When traveling in extreme climates, choose flights that best avoid temperature extremes. In the summer, fly in the early morning and late evening to avoid extreme heat. In the winter, fly in the afternoon to avoid extreme cold.
  • Do not give your dog pet tranquilizers unless prescribed by a vet specifically for travel.

How To Bring Your Dog On A Plane basset hound wearing pilot goggles

Other Pup Transport Tips

  • Avoid traveling with your pet during busy travel times, like holidays and summertime. Dogs are more likely to have rough handling during these periods.

  • Know your dog. If your dog is highly anxious with loud noises or has separation anxiety, putting him in-cargo could severely damage his mental and physical health. Don’t stress your pup.

  • Clip your pet’s toenails before traveling. This makes sure he doesn’t get stuck in his crate or other crevices.

  • Carry a current photograph of your pet with you. If your dog is lost during the trip, the photograph can help the airline find your pup easier.

  • Don’t let your dog out in the airport. Most airlines don’t allow this except when traveling through security.

  • Look for pet “relief” areas. Some airports have designated areas where pets can use the fake-grass bathroom.

  • After traveling, bring your dog for a walk. Don’t let him sit and rest. He needs exercise to stretch his legs and get rid of pent-up energy.

The Bottom Line

Bringing your dog on an airplane can be a frightful and stressful experience for both you and your pup. But with the right preparation, you can safely bring your dog with you wherever you go.

Make sure your dog is safe, comfortable, and healthy while traveling with our airline-compliant Furbaby Carrier & Bowl. Weighing less than 10 pounds, this includes an FDA-approved collapsible silicone bowl and storage pouch, so you can easily carry everything your dog needs. Safe and sturdy, your pup will be excited to travel alongside you!

Check out the Furbaby Carrier & Bowl to get flying!


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