For dog owners, booking a vacation involves the crisis of conscience wherein you feel guilty if you choose to leave him/her with a caretaker while you’re away, but you also feel guilty at the prospect of dragging your dog through the ordeal of air travel. Will he have to fly in the cargo hold of the plane? Will he be scared? Will he be safe?
Before making your decision, read on for everything you need to know about traveling by plane with your dog.
To Bring or Not to Bring
Many airlines allow pets to travel (although the specific rules vary by carrier), but does that mean you should take your dog along?
The Humane Society recommends against flying with your dog if your dog is too large to travel in the cabin. There have been cases of pets traveling in the cargo hold of planes being lost, injured, and killed. In particular, brachycephalic dogs with pushed in muzzles are not recommended for travel in the cargo hold because they don’t do as well in extreme temperatures or when there is less oxygen available. Very high-strung dogs are also not recommended to travel in the cargo hold because they may be uncomfortable with the movement and unfamiliar surroundings.
However, most airlines allow pets that weigh less than 20 pounds (including the weight of their carriers) to travel with you in the cabin of the plane. But no matter what area of the plane your dog is eligible to travel in, you should gauge whether your dog has the right temperament for air travel. For example, if he/she hops around nervously while in the car, air travel may not be a good idea.
For each individual carrier’s rules, PetTravel.com is a good resource.
How to Prepare Your Dog For Air Travel
Here are the Humane Society’s tips for ensuring your pet’s air travel is as safe as possible:
- Use direct flights. You will avoid the mistakes that occur during airline transfers and possible delays in getting your pet off the plane.
- Always travel on the same flight as your pet. Ask the airline if you can watch your pet being loaded and unloaded into the cargo hold.
- When you board the plane, notify the captain and at least one flight attendant that your pet is traveling in the cargo hold. If the captain knows that pets are on board, he or she may take special precautions.
- Don’t ever ship brachycephalic animals such as Pekingese, Bulldogs, or Persian cats in the cargo holds. These breeds have short nasal passages that leave them especially vulnerable to oxygen deprivation and heat stroke.
- If traveling during the summer or winter months, choose flights that will accommodate the temperature extremes. Early morning or late evening flights are better in the summer; afternoon flights are better in the winter.
- Fit your pet with a collar that can’t get caught in carrier doors. Affix two pieces of identification on the collar—a permanent ID with your name and home address and telephone number, and a temporary travel ID with the address and telephone number where you or a contact person can be reached.
- Affix a travel label to the carrier with your name, permanent address and telephone number, final destination, and where you or a contact person can be reached as soon as the flight arrives.
- Make sure that your pet’s nails have been clipped to protect against their hooking in the carrier’s door, holes, and other crevices.
- Give your pet at least a month before your flight to become familiar with the travel carrier. This will minimize his or her stress during travel.
- Do not give your pet tranquilizers unless they are prescribed by your veterinarian. Make sure your veterinarian understands that the prescription is for air travel.
- Do not feed your pet for four to six hours prior to air travel. Small amounts of water can be given before the trip. If possible, put ice cubes in the water tray attached to the inside of your pet’s kennel. A full water bowl will only spill and cause discomfort.
- Try not to fly with your pet during busy travel times such as holidays and the summer. Your pet is more likely to undergo rough handling during hectic travel periods.
- Carry a current photograph of your pet. If your pet is lost during the trip, a photograph will make it much easier for airline employees to search effectively.
- When you arrive at your destination, open the carrier as soon as you are in a safe place and examine your pet. If anything seems wrong, take your pet to a veterinarian immediately. Get the results of the examination in writing, including the date and time.
So, whether you decide your dog is better off with a caretaker at home or accompanying you, relax and enjoy your trip knowing that your pet will be safe and happy!
Sources: www.pawnation.com and humanesociety.org