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Tips for Traveling with Your Pet on an Airplane

Updated on December 13, 2009
Your pet may enjoy the flight as well
Your pet may enjoy the flight as well

Each year countless owners opt to bring their furry friends along on a plane flight rather than leaving them at the boarding kennel or at home in company of a pet sitter. While this practice may seem complicated for those debating on whether they should embark on this sort of adventure, seasoned travelers may attest that this often turns out to be the best option, especially when dealing with canine friends.

The real secret for a smooth flight along with Fluffy or Fido is early planning. Nothing is really worse than dealing with unexpected problems such as missing out on important vaccinations or purchasing the wrong sized crate. Being prepared in advance will ensure that owners have met all the requirements and that they may relax knowing that their pet will be safe. Following are some important tips for traveling with pets on an airplane.

Petmate Airline Travel Kit
Petmate Airline Travel Kit

Equipped with everything you need for you need if you plan on traveling with your pet on an airplane, this handy pet travel kit includes ensures less turbulence in flight and on layover. The kit includes an absorbent pad for cleaning up travel tote messes. Food and water cups that hang on cage doors let you feed the dog or cat without risking opening the cage. The kit also includes a Live Animal sticker along with identification so it'll always be easy to find Fido in hectic airports.


Tips for Traveling with Pets on an Airplane

~Cabin or Hold?

There are some flights that allow pets to travel comfortably in the cabin along with the owner. Of course, this applies only to the smallest pets such as cats or small dogs. Most airlines allow pets in the hold, which is the belly of the plane where usually luggage is stored but these are special compartments that are temperature controlled and pressurized.

~Call the Carrier

The best place to start to gather information, once a decision has been made as to where the pet will travel, is to call the carrier directly. Each carrier has different requirements when it comes to crate sizes and embargo rules. This is also a good place to call in order to find out about how recent health certificates must be and which vaccinations are required.

~Check IATA

IATA stands for International Air Transport Association.  Their website may offer many tips about purchasing the right crates and many other important general guidelines. Good carriers meant for flying are sturdy and  will be compliant with IATA's requirements.  

~Keep the Crate Handy

For pets that  have never been crated before and that are traveling for the first time, keeping the crate in the home may be a great way to get the pet accustomed to it. By placing a comfortable blanket in the crate with the door open and adding a few toys, dogs and cats may find the crate an inviting place to snooze. Once the crate becomes familiar and absorbs all the familiar smells, it will be better accepted for travel day.

~Have Records Ready

There are different requirements depending on the state or country the pet will be traveling to and the airplane carrier. Some require a pet health certificate not older than 10 days while others may need one not older than 30 days. Vaccination certificates must be up to date. Very early planning, (several months in advance) is required if the destination place has a quarantine. Some countries may require a microchip.

~Avoid Sedation

Sedating a nervous pet may seem like something that a vet would recommend however this is not a plausible option at 36,000 feet. The reasons why sedation is not recommended is because sedation makes pets drowsy and wobbly making the pet prone to being bumped around in the crate should turbulence arise and also because at several thousands of feet, sedatives may have adverse effects on pets.

~Check the Weather

If you are traveling in the summer or in the winter, some airlines may have embargo rules. What this means is that if the departing city or the destination city is affected by temperature extremes, for safety sake, they may deny your pet on the flight. This often particularly applies to snub nosed breeds such as Pekingese dogs or Persian cats traveling in the hottest months in the hold. The worse times to travel are therefore when there are heat waves or rigid winter extremes.

~Skip the Meal

The day of departure, if the flight is brief, skipping a meal may help the pet travel better if he or she is prone to motion sickness or excessive stress. The principle is that nothing in the stomach should make it more difficult for the pet to vomit. However, if the flight will be of several hours, airline personnel will want paper work filled stating that the pet was recently fed and offered water.

~Check in Early

There are some airlines that offer spots for pets on a first come first serve basis. It is imperative therefore to check in early to reserve the spot. Also an early check in will buy some extra time in case there is need to make some adjustments. For instance, a last minute trip to purchase a crate at the airport in case the one bought is not accepted or a potty trip outside before departing. 

 As more and more airlines become pet friendly, more and more owners are beginning to recognize the importance of bringing their pets along. However, early planning is the golden rule for a safe and uneventful trip, so it is really never too early to do some research and get everything figured out so to prevent those last minutes worries. 

Great options for cabin travel ( check with carrier for approval)


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    • daviddwarren22 profile image

      daviddwarren22 6 years ago

      Great information and very useful tips. Thanks for sharing. Now, I can travel my rabbit with no worries.

    • alexadry profile image

      Adrienne Janet Farricelli 8 years ago from USA

      Ocbill, I am with you, but I must also confess that it is extremely difficult to travel as well with a crying human baby that will cry relentlessly for hours making me wish I never boarded that flight. I confess at times, I unboarded the flight with circles around my eyes and wished there was a special compartment for crying babies as well!

    • Lyria profile image

      Lyria 8 years ago

      This is great info for traveling with dogs. I totally agree with you about avoiding sedation. I've heard of several dogs that were injured during flight because they were sedated.

    • ocbill profile image

      ocbill 8 years ago from hopefully somewhere peaceful and nice

      Yes, a good hub on dogs which I absolutely love.

      However, I completely disagree with bringing small dog or puppy in the cabin. Especailly, if it is untraind and yaps a lot. This is very disrepectful and annoying to other air travelers. But that is hwo the world has evolved, more of a satisfy my needs option vs. the 250 other passengers.

      This is not criticizing you. I love dogs and have had 8 of them. No, 8 was not enough, I want a pug now. Anyway, I just don't want to be kept awake on an international flight froma dog yapping. So in the hold is best. I am sure you do an anonymous poll you will find a majority don't want to sit by sparky on the plane for 13 hours. Possibly not even 2 to 5 hours inthe USA either. Some people are allergic to dog hair, cat hair, etc.

      These are animals which cannot and should not digest the sames foods as people. There is a place for everything is all I am sayingand there ae exceptions like handicap, seeing eye. I know the 150% dog lovers will dice this up like a dog bone btu that's my free speech opinion on air travel with dogs.

    • Jaspal profile image

      Jaspal 8 years ago from New Delhi, India

      Nice hub Alexadry. My son recently brought a pup (six months old) all the way from Kiev in Ukraine to Delhi in India, with a four hour halt and change of flight at Istanbul, Turkey. So, apart from all the preparation you mention, there was also documentation and permissions from quarantine authorities....

      But it all turned out very well. In the fifteen hours from check in till he was back with my son, he had not even peed in his crate. Of course, the handlers at Istanbul had been spoken to, and they had been kind enough to walk him a bit.

      As you say, it helps both the master and the pet if one is well prepared and has been in touch with everyone who would be involved.