Travelling the world with your best friend can be an incredible experience. But even the most stable dogs will find flying stressful. If it’s your first time taking a dog on flight, you might be a little anxious, too. Here’s everything you need to know to have a successful trip with your dog.
Should You Even Take Your Dog?
Before you book your trip, check your airline’s pet policy. Most prohibit flat-faced dogs like Bulldogs that may be prone to breathing issues, which can be exacerbated by the high altitude and extreme temperatures. Some allow small dogs to fly in-cabin, while others only allow animals to fly in cargo hold, if at all.
You may decide not to bring your dog if they suffer from severe anxiety, if they’ve never been crated, if they’re recovering from an illness or surgical procedure, or if they’re prone to aggression.
Documents Before Boarding
You’ll need to go to your vet within 30 days of travelling to ensure your dog is cleared to travel and to make necessary preparations. Your dog will need an up-to-date rabies shot, head to tail check-up, an updated microchip and possibly a tapeworm treatment. Your vet will issue a pet passport that you will need to enter certain EU countries, and to return to the UK. Depending on where you are going, you may also need a Certificate of Veterinary Inspection CVI, which is required to bring your pets to most states in the US. You may need to get an additional health certificate to return to the UK if you’ll be going for an extended trip.
Some people register their dogs as emotional support animals to avoid fees and travel restrictions. Though this may seem like a convenient loophole, it’s illegal to do this unless you truly have a medical condition. With so many people abusing this policy, it can become more difficult for people with legitimate disabilities to travel with their necessary support animal.
Other Items To Bring On Your Flight:
- Sample of food in your carry-on bag to give after landing; good to have in case your checked bag is lost
- Portable water bowl
- Toy and blankets that smell like home to provide comfort
- An absorbent towel or puppy pad to line carrier in case your pet has an accident
- Medications your pet takes – airline employees will not be able to administer medication if your dog is in cargo, so plan accordingly
- Natural soothers – feed a calming treat and use calming spray before travelling. Do NOT sedate your pet unless under the guidance of your veterinarian.
Flying With Your Dog In-Cabin
Some airlines allow you to take your dog as one of your two allowed carry-on items. Your dog will need to fit in an airline approved carrier that fits under the seat, so they need to be under 15 pounds in weight and 12 inches in height. When booking your ticket, you will have to create a pet reservation in advance, which typically costs extra. Airlines tend to have limits on how many animals they can have on each flight, so they may not be able to accomodate animals without a reservation.
If you’re taking your dog in-cabin, they will be with you for the entire trip. You will take them through security to the gate. Your dog will have to stay in their carrier for the entire trip, and will have to remain in their carrier under the seat in front of you during the trip. If you have layover, you may be able to take your dog for a pee break, but you may have to go through security again.
If your dog is a registered service animal or emotional support animal, they can fly in-cabin at no additional cost, regardless of their size.
Flying Your Dog In Cargo
If your dog is too large to fly in-cabin with you, they will have to fly in the cargo area of the plane. This will also require a paid reservation, and some airlines do not fly animals at all during the coldest and hottest times of year. Though the cargo area of the plane is temperature controlled, the tarmac is not, so your pet might be exposed to varying temperatures while they are waiting to be loaded onto the plane. Use an airline approved carrier with a clip-on water bowl. You should not feed your dog the day of the trip, though they should have access to fresh water.
You may have heard stories of dogs dying when being transported via cargo. These deaths are typically due to extreme stress and very hot or cold temperatures. There’s also rare cases like the French Bulldog that died after being stuffed in an overhead bin by a flight attendant. However, thousands of dogs are transported each year without incident.
Contact AIA Pets for assistance for assistance with flying your dog. They can make arrangements to ensure your dog’s safety throughout the trip, including accommodating your dog in case of flight delays.
Alternatives To Flying With Your Dog
If you won’t be going too far, you might consider driving to your destination instead. That way, you can ensure frequent breaks, and you’ll be with your dog the entire time. Make sure you drive safely, keeping your dog restrained in a car seatbelt harness or secured carrier.
Travelling with your dog can be expensive and stressful for both you and your pet. In a new location, your dog may struggle with their training. They may have accidents in your hotel room, or run away in attempts to find their way home. Though they’ll miss you, your dog might be better off at a boarding facility or at home with visits from a family member or professional pet sitter.