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Tips for Flying With Your Dog

By Sarah-Anne Reed
November 17, 2020 • 4 min. read
dogs loaded on a plane

If you are planning an airplane trip with your furry best friend, there are lots of considerations. For one, not all dogs are suited for the stresses of airline travel – especially if they have to ride in cargo.

And some trips – such as overseas flights or long flights with multiple stopovers are going to be extra anxiety-inducing for you and your pet. There is also an additional expense when you bring your pet – most airlines charge $100-125 per pet, each way.

While a healthy pet should be able to fly safely, it’s not entirely risk-free – there have been a few incidents of pets dying during flights.

Consider leaving your dog with a pet care provider if:

  • Your dog gets stressed easily in new situations or around other dogs, as flying may be too stressful for them.
  • Your dog is afraid of strangers, as unfamiliar people handling their crate will cause fear and anxiety.
  • Your dog is protective or possessive of you, as being in a confined space, with so many strangers close to you, could cause intense stress.
  • Your dog has separation anxiety, as they could hurt themselves trying to get out of the crate to find you.
  • Your dog gets anxious in the car or is prone to motion sickness.
  • Your dog is an older senior or ill, due to the additional stress flying can cause.
  • Your dog is a “short-nosed” breed, such as a boxer or pug. Many airlines don’t allow them in cargo because they tend to overheat or have breathing difficulties.

Dog crate loaded on a plane
What is required to travel with your pet?

Check with your airline well in advance of travel to see what their pet policies are. Some don’t allow pets at all, and others have restrictions on when they are allowed (such as not during hot weather or busy holiday periods).

If you are traveling internationally, check the rules on bringing a pet into the country. Airlines may not be willing to transfer pets from one airline to another, so be aware if you have a multi-leg trip. Plan your trip to minimize stops along the way and arrive during the coolest time of the day in hot weather.

  • Check with your airline for requirements to travel with your pet – most require at least a health certificate from your veterinarian for your pet to travel in cargo. They also have rules about the type and size of kennel needed.
  • Airlines are tightening restrictions on people who want to travel with a pet as an emotional support animal. They may require a doctor’s note or other certification.
  • Generally, only small pets are allowed to travel in the cabin (except for service animals). They must be small enough to fit and stay comfortably in a kennel under the seat.

How to prepare your pet for the plane

  • Crate training is vital to ease your dog’s anxiety. Keep in mind that it can take months to crate train your dog and may require help from a dog trainer.
  • Feed them a small meal several hours before the flight, allowing them to have plenty of time to digest the food before flying.
  • Don’t add in any new food or treats to their diet the week of travel, as they could have a bad reaction, causing diarrhea or vomiting.
  • Keep their routine as normal as possible on the day of travel. For example, if they usually go on a morning walk, take them on their usual route.
  • Be prepared with a water bowl that attaches to their crate.
  • Allow plenty of time to leave for the airport, don’t rush, as any last-minute panicking will cause additional stress for your dog.
  • Take luggage to the vehicle out of sight of your dog.
  • Any goodbyes to your dog should be completed at least an hour before you leave. If family members make a big deal of saying goodbye as you walk out the door, it can cause additional stress for your dog.
  • Make sure that you allow enough time to take your dog to the pet area to relieve themselves before they board. This may take longer than usual with the unfamiliar scents, sights, and sounds as distractions.

Dog in a crate inside a plane
What to pack for your dog

  • Pack extra bedding, like pee pads and towels, in the crate so that your dog doesn’t have to lay in urine if they do need to eliminate during the flight. Take a plastic bag for soiled bedding, wet wipes to clean up your dog, and additional bedding to replace any soiled bedding.
  • Take their familiar things; a favorite toy, something to chew on to relieve anxiety, and their bed.
  • To give additional comfort, include a t-shirt that you have worn, so they have your scent in the crate with them.

Try a natural remedy instead of drugs

To help reduce stress during travel, try flower essences formulated for travel. They are natural, with no side effects, unlike sedation, which can cause dogs to feel unsteady and more out of control, making the experience more stressful. Give your dog 3-5 drops of flower essence every 15 minutes, an hour before the flight. While not well researched, the Veterinary Centers of America says the supplement is safe for pets and appears to be effective for stress. They can’t overdose and flower essence may be beneficial even if your dog doesn’t have a problem with motion sickness because the turbulence can be stressful for dogs.

Sarah-Anne Reed is a holistic dog trainer, and owner of Pack Dynamics, LLC ®. Her practice focuses on understanding and respecting dogs as a different species and honoring them as individual beings.

Are you someone who takes your dog with you everywhere? Then you are a great candidate for pet insurance. Get a quote and make sure you’re covered for future injuries or illnesses.  

Sarah-Anne Reed
By Sarah-Anne Reed

Sarah-Anne Reed is a holistic dog trainer, animal communicator, and owner of Pack Dynamics®. She has specialized in working with dogs since 2008. Her practice focuses on helping dogs with behavioral issues and teaching people how to effectively communicate with their dogs by understanding and respecting them as a different species and honoring them as individual beings. Sarah-Anne's passion is working with and helping dogs, writing about dog behavior, and working with dog rescue organizations. Sarah-Anne has written blog posts and acted as a media contact on dog training topics for Healthy Paws Pet Insurance since 2020. She has expertise in separation anxiety, aggression, obsessive-compulsive behavior, food aggression, excessive barking, pet fears and more.

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