Keeping your dog safe and stress-free on the flight



According to the National Pet owner survey, approximately 40 percent of pet owners include their pets in travel plans.

The holiday travel season of 2022 is starting in full swing and the wanderlusts have reached the travel fever.

According to the National Pet owner survey by the American Pet Products Association, approximately 40 percent of pet owners include their pets in travel plans. And interestingly, that number has almost doubled since the last decade.

Practicing DVMs share these tips to keep dogs safe and stress-free while flying:

Before you fly

Air travel takes a good bit of planning whether or not you’re bringing your dog. In a sense, everything you bring for yourself you have to bring a dog version of for them — plus additional dog-specific items.

Visit your vet

Start early – you’ll need at least one visit to a special, USDA-accredited vet and maybe more than six months to prepare the necessary paperwork for international travel with a pet. Health certificates are also required for domestic interstate travel, but these usually don’t take as long to prepare.  Health certificates have expiration dates, so it’s important to get the timing right.  You’ll also want the peace of mind of knowing your pet has been thoroughly checked over and is ready for travel.  This is also the perfect opportunity to ask about options that may help your pet cope with the stress of travel. Dogs who are prone to GI upset with stress, for example, might benefit from starting a probiotic a day or two before the trip. 

Call the airline

Each airline has its own set of rules and requirements, so get in touch with them well in advance so you won’t have any surprises. Many airlines, for example, limit the number of pets that can travel in the cabin.  You can also expect to be required to present your dog’s health certificate to airline staff at the check-in counter and have a signed letter of acclimation from a veterinarian. They also may not allow pets to travel during extreme weather, especially if they won’t be in the cabin with you.  If your dog takes regular medication, make sure you have enough to get through your travel period in your carry-on. 

Choose a travel carrier

Your dog’s carrier must meet certain size requirements in order for your pup to travel with you in-cabin. For pets traveling cargo, allowed kennel dimensions are somewhat larger, as many people choose to fly large-breed dogs this way. Regardless of an airline’s specific size requirements, all carriers must be ventilated and large enough for your dog to comfortably sit, stand, and turn around in. Dogs are not allowed out of their carriers at any time, either in cargo or in-cabin.

What to pack

In addition to medications and vet documentation, you’ll want to be sure you pack the essentials, even on a short flight:

Food

Water

Pee pads

Doggie bed

Calming collar or shirt

Toys

Chews

Identification

Collar and leash

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