Air Travel with a Dog

posted: 05/15/12
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Air Travel
Donald Stampfli/Associated Press
More InformationBeing Safe in the Car, Dog Harnesses for the Car, Heatstroke, Air Travel, Moving

Dogs have joined the flying public, but — with the exception of very small dogs whose carriers fit under the seat in front — most dogs do their traveling in the cargo hold. While the USDA generally regulates live-animal transportation, you should confirm with your airline that your dog will be in a heated and pressure-controlled hold. Avoid flying puppies younger than 8 weeks and pregnant, ill or elderly dogs.

A crate is imperative for flying. Your dog should travel in a strong crate large enough for him to stand up in and turn around, lined with paper and clearly marked "Live Animal — This Side Up." Both the dog (via his flat collar and tags) and the crate should be clearly labeled with name and address. The crate should be unlocked and include, in case of delay, enough food and your dog's regular medication (including instructions) for 24 hours.

Try to fly on nonstop, direct flights. To minimize delays, travel at off-peak times. Feed your dog one-third of his usual meal four hours before the flight, and water and exercise him just before departure. Unless advised by your veterinarian, do not sedate him. Have his rabies and health certificates ready at check-in. There are numerous horror stories about improper air pressure or temperature in the cargo area of airliners. To be safe, well before take-off, you may want to talk to the boarding agent or a crew member so that the responsible individuals on the flight know a family member is down there.

If all of this seems too complicated or you think it will upset your dog, opt for a pet sitter or kenneling. A pet sitter makes your house look lived in and allows your pet to stay in his home environment. Although kennels take your dog away from his familiar surroundings, a good kennel can be a relatively low-stress environment. If you choose either of these options for your stay-put pet, call the sitter or kennel as often as your peace-of-mind requires to check on the dog's well-being, and to answer any questions the sitter or kennel staff may have.

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