Dog Travels, Part I: Leaving on a Jetplane

Dog Air TravelThere’s no denying the fact that air travel is a scary experience for some people.  Remember your first flight?  Did you grasp your parent’s or your partner’s hand tightly?  Did you breathe faster?  Did your forehead sweat, and did you fidget nervously in your seat?

Chances are that you experienced these first flight jitters (and maybe some second or third flight jitters too).  Imagine, then, what your dog is feeling before his or her first flight.  He or she will most likely be anxious, confused and vocal.  It is your job to make sure that your dog is capable of and prepared for air travel.

DogWatch Hidden Fences wants to help.  This summer, Dog Tails will offer a series of posts with pet travel tips and information.  For our first installment, we’ll start big with airplane travel.  We’ve broken down the preparation process into three steps: 1) Know your options, 2) Schedule a Vet Appointment and 3) Pack Wisely.

1) Know your options

Commercial airlines generally offer two options for pet travel: checked or cabin.  Cabin travel on a non-stop flight is the method that most vets recommend, as it is the fastest and allows you to keep your dog with you throughout the flight.  Yet the cabin carry-on option is limited to small dogs that are able to fit in carriers small enough to be stowed under a seat in the cabin.

Larger dogs still have the checked option, meaning that they would travel in the luggage area of the plane.  While the airlines do provide temperature- and pressure-controlled areas for the animals in cargo for their safety and comfort, this is a stressful, noisy and potentially dangerous method of travel for pets. Consult your vet before pursuing this option.

Other important facts to note: the airlines typically charge $100-$200 for round-trip travel with your dog. Also, many airlines have a strict limit as to how many pets are allowed in the cabin per flight.  Delta, for example, limits the cabin animals to 8 maximum.  Therefore, it is important to call ahead to make sure that there is space for your dog. The spots are given out on a first-come, first-serve basis.

2) Schedule a Vet Appointment

Once you’ve decided on air travel for your dog, schedule an appointment with your vet for the week before your departure.  All airlines require documentation stating that your dog is healthy and up-to-date on all vaccines.  Your vet can provide you with this documentation, as well as administer any necessary shots.

While you are there, you can also ask your vet any questions you might have about air travel with your pet.  They can advise you as to the suitably of cabin or checked travel for your dogs, and give you tips about how to keep the dog calm during the flight.  Remember, certain dog breeds like Pugs, Bulldogs, Lhasa Apsos and Boston Terriers are not recommended for airline travel due to potential breathing difficulty at high altitudes. Check with your vet to confirm.

3) Pack Wisely

When packing for your dog, the proper travel carrier should be first on your list.  If your dog is traveling in the cabin, make sure the carrier is small enough to fit under the seat but also have enough room and ventilation for the dog to be comfortable in it throughout the flight.  This is important because the dog will not be allowed to leave the crate during the duration of the flight.

Make sure you bring a leash and harness to the airport, as you will need to walk (or carry) your dog through the x-ray machine.  You may also want to walk the dog around the airport terminal for exercise prior to the flight.  The dog will need to be back in the carrier for boarding.

Identification is also key, especially for dogs traveling in cargo.  Make sure your animal has an up-to-date ID tag on its collar, and also include information about your destination, should you be separated for any reason.  Microchips are also recommended.  As a further precaution, the ASPCA recommends you carry a photo of your pet with you, and affix a photo to your pet’s carrier for identification purposes.  (Read more ASPCA recommendations here.)

Finally, if you are bringing your dog in the cabin, be sure to bring water and a water bowl with you on board.  You can also bring treats, but a full meal is not recommended, for the comfort of your dog and your fellow passengers.  As for pets traveling in cargo, freeze a small dish of water for them the night before.  The water will melt by the time the flight takes off, but will stay solid during boarding.

Air travel requires the most preparation for dog owners, yet at the same time, it’s also the shortest trip.  That means, you and your dog will be enjoying your hard-earned vacation sooner.  Sit back, relax, and don’t forget to treat yourself – and your brave pet!

Do you have pet air travel stories that you would like to share?  Comment here, or tell us on our Facebook page!

Part II of our travel series will focus on long-distance car travel with your dog.  Click here to receive notifications of new posts so you won’t miss the next installments of Dog Tails.

(Photo courtesy of tombothetominator via Flickr.)

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