Flying With Your Dog

Often, dog owners can”t imagine the thought of going on a trip without their furry best friends. While this can mean simply putting your dog into a pet carrier and placing him in the car for a road trip, other vacations or moves will require you to fly with your dog.

While many dogs will fly well, especially if they are accustomed to riding in the car, others will not. Therefore, it is important for you to take the proper steps to ensure that your pet is as happy and safe as possible while flying, whether he is in the cargo area of the plane or in the cabin of the aircraft.

Before Flying with Your Dog

Before taking your dog on an airplane for a vacation, ask yourself if he will be happy and comfortable on the trip. If the answer isn”t a definite “yes,” consider leaving him with a friend, family member or dog sitter. Many veterinarians also offer boarding for dogs in their offices.

Of course, leaving your dog isn”t an option if you are moving to a new city. However, if you think your dog won”t do well on an airplane, consider driving with him to your new home. The trip might take a little longer, but it will be well worth it in the end.

Airlines that Allow Dogs

Before you show up at the airport with your dog on the day of your flight, you”ll need to find out whether or not the airline will allow your pet on the aircraft. While some airlines will allow dogs in the cabin, others will only allow them in the cargo area. Still others don”t transport animals at all.

Here”s a list of some of the major commercial airlines that will allow your dog to fly, either in the cabin or cargo area:

  • American
  • Continental
  • Delta
  • Frontier
  • Northwest
  • Spirit
  • United.

Please note, however, that you will be required to pay a fee to fly with your dog. Expect to pay anywhere from $35 to $100, each way. Also, remember that airlines will allow only a set number of animals in the cargo or cabin area. Therefore, it is extremely important to get your reservations well in advance.

If you cannot find an airline that will transport your dog, contact a professional pet transporter. These companies meet all the regulations for transporting pets in the air and are extremely knowledgeable. Using a professional pet transporter will be more expensive than flying commercial but will provide you with peace of mind.

Sedation and Tranquilizers for Travel

Some people think using a sedative or tranquilizer prior to travel will calm a dog and make him less stressed. However, many experts believe that these medications can be dangerous, as they interfere with your pet”s ability to balance, increasing his risk of injury when his carrier is moved.

Also, air travel requires increases in altitude, which can cause respiratory and cardiovascular problems in medicated dogs.

Always talk to your vet before giving your dog any medication prior to air travel.

Dogs in the Cargo Area vs. Dogs in the Cabin

While all dog owners would prefer to bring their dogs into the passenger area of the plane with them, many airlines will only transport dogs, especially medium and large dogs, in the cargo area. While it is generally safe to fly your dog in the cargo area, there are some important steps you need to take to keep your dog happy and safe:

  • Always provide ample food and water for a dog that is flying in the cargo area. Many carriers have front gates onto which bowls can be attached. Have one bowl for water and one for food. Provide the staff with feeding instructions and food and also affix feeding instructions to the carrier.
  • Cargo can shift in a plane, putting your dog at risk for injury. To keep your dog secure in the cargo area, place him in a hard-sided, airline-approved dog carrier that is clearly marked with your contact information. Also, attach live animal stickers to the carrier.
  • Do not board the airplane until you know your dog has been loaded. Have the flight attendant verify that your dog is on board. Likewise, do not leave the plane until you know your dog has been unloaded. As soon as you know he is off the plane, immediately proceed to baggage claim to retrieve him.
  • Do not transport your dog in a cargo area that is not climate-controlled. Uncontrolled cargo areas can experience temperature extremes, putting your dog at risk.

Tips for Flying with Your Dog

Whether your dog will be in the cargo area or in the cabin, you should keep the following in mind:

  • Acclimate your dog to his crate or pet carrier well before the flight.
  • Be sure to have your dog”s collar on him. The collar should have a tag that clearly shows his name and your contact information, including a phone number at which you can be reached.
  • Call the airline several times prior to your flight to ensure that a spot has been reserved for your dog.
  • Fly direct whenever possible. If you can”t fly direct, schedule as few stops as possible to reduce your dog”s stress level.
  • Mark your dog”s carrier with stickers, ribbons, etc., so that you can easily recognize it. Also, make sure that the carrier is clearly labeled with your name, address, phone number and e-mail address.
  • To avoid temperature extremes, fly with your dog at night during the summer months and during the day during winter months.

Also, remember to pack the following before flying with your dog:

  • any necessary medication
  • blankets and/or a dog bed
  • disposable bags for cleaning up messes
  • dry food packed in plastic bags
  • treats
  • two bowls, one for food and one for water
  • two leashes, in case one gets lost or breaks
  • water bottles
  • wet food, if necessary
  • your vet”s contact information, in case of an emergency.