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5 Things You Should Know About Shipping Your Pet By Plane

Updated on February 1, 2014

Shipping a pet by cargo is always a bad solution -- but sometimes it's the only solution.

I didn't want to ship my pets by cargo, but coming from the Hawaiian islands left me no choice. Certainly, some people would say that I shouldn't have gone to the islands to begin with -- but, having been born there, I had never been presented with any alternatives. When it came time for me to leave paradise, I learned quite a few things about having to ship animals.

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1. Pay Attention to the Weather

Don't trust the airlines to do this for you. The airlines will gleefully let you make a reservation only to let you know the next day that it is too cold to ship an animal. In general, animals shouldn't be shipped in less than 45 degree weather -- on either end. However, exceptions are made down to about 20 degree weather. This isn't healthy for the pet, however, and many vets will not allow it. When the temperatures are below 45 degrees, you'll need an "acclimation" letter from your vet.

2. Put Your Information On Your Pet's Crate

You should sharpie your information directly onto your pet's crate. Don't tape it on, as this could get lost. Pets, like luggage, can get rerouted to another place entirely, and without your contact information the airline may have difficulty getting your pet to you. The information should include both sending address and destination address, as well as a phone number through which they can quickly contact you.

3. Get the Shortest Trip Possible

Always get the shortest flight possible. Dogs shouldn't be in their crates for longer than 8 hours at a stretch, while cats can be in their crates for slightly longer. Further, do not under any circumstances take a flight that has a layover or a "comfort stop." While these comfort stops theoretically walk your dogs and feed your dogs and cats, this is purely theoretical. There have been many cases in which dogs are not fed or walked at all; they are simply crated the entire time, which can be over 12 hours.

4. Don't Get Your Vet Check Until the Last Minute

To send an animal by plane, you need to have a vet check within 10 days of the departure. Don't make my mistake. I got the vet check about a week early, which meant that when my flight was delayed until the next week due to weather issues, I had to take my pets to the vet again. Vets will charge you for a full exam every time you go. Instead, schedule your vet visit just before your pets get on the plane. This way, if anything does happen, you have at least 10 days to figure out something else. There is no charge for rescheduling your flights in the event that you can't get the vet visit done in time, but there is a charge with the vet for having to get an additional certificate.

5. Fly With Your Animals, If Possible

If possible, you should fly on the same plane that your animal is traveling as cargo on. This will reduce the amount of time they spend in the airport, give you peace of mind and allow you to watch to ensure that your animal is boarded on your plane. As you board the plane, feel free to ask the flight attendant to let the captain know that an animal is on board and ask them to keep an eye on the temperatures.

While all of the above tips may help your pet's trip, it's still not advisable to fly your pets as cargo unless absolutely necessary. In my situation, it was the only way; even boats do not travel from Hawaii to the mainland. However, in most cases you should be able to take your pets by road, and this should always be done. Animals can -- and do -- die in cargo. It's not a pleasant experience for them and is often deadly. Taking your animals in cabin is much more relaxing for them, if they are small enough.


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    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 3 years ago from Queensland Australia

      I often travel with my pets in the car, but only once had to fly with one of our dogs in cargo. First you have to buy a suitable crate that passes the airline's regulations, then as you say arrange the vet check which is required before flying, and hope that weather conditions are suitable. Also not all flights will carry pets so you have to make sure the plane you are on will allow animals as well. Good hub with helpful information.