With the weather warming up, the high travel season is fast approaching. A number of owners are taking pets along for the ride but there's plenty to consider before setting out with your pet. Here are some considerations to keep in mind before traveling by air with your furry friend.
First, consider your pet’s health. Remember that some pets may not be physically up to the stress of traveling – older pets, those with chronic health conditions such as heart disease, and those with extreme anxiety, for example, should probably not fly. If you have any reservations about your pet’s ability to travel by plane, make sure to consult with your veterinarian. It’s also important to see that your pet is up-to-date on his or her vaccines. Make sure to check with your airline carrier for their specific requirements – most travel will require a health certificate which can be obtained from your veterinarian. Allow yourself enough time to get these papers in order before you depart.
Check to see if your airline carrier allows hand carry pets – if your airline does not hand carry, be aware that your dog could be transported as cargo (in his or her crate). I strongly subscribe to the rule that this should be avoided unless absolutely necessary. There are simply too many risks involved when your pet travels in the cargo compartment of the airplane. Smaller pets can sometimes travel under your seat in the cabin with you, which can give both you and your pet more peace of mind.
If your pet must travel as cargo, do your homework and investigate your airline’s pet policies thoroughly. Make sure that cargo areas are climate controlled and safe for your pet. Look for non-stop flights to eliminate layovers and subsequent baggage and cargo mix-ups. Eliminating layovers also helps reduce the risk that your pet will be exposed to extreme weather in between flights. Don’t be afraid to talk to your flight crew and kindly request that they do everything in their power to ensure the safety of your beloved pet – sometimes a tip, smile and a good attitude will go a long way towards getting the crew to take that extra step to lookout for your pet’s welfare.
All travel by plane requires that your pet travels in an airline-approved carrier – make sure it’s sturdy and secure. Line the bottom with absorbent puppy training pads in case your pet has an accident. Also consider including a t-shirt or something with your scent on it to provide a little reassurance for your friend. Securely affix you and your pet’s critical information to the crate – this would include identification information, your contact information, your itinerary and any feeding instructions. Also make sure that your pet has access to water – many crates come with a water tray that can be accessed and filled from outside the crate.
When it comes to feeding, it is generally best for pets to travel on an empty stomach. This reduces the risk of your pet becoming ill from motion sickness. However, it wouldn’t hurt to put a Kong or similar treat dispenser in the crate to help occupy your pal’s mind and energy. For lengthy flights, it may be necessary to pack food and water – these can be securely attached to the outside of the crate with feeding instructions. Your pet will be most appreciative especially if your flight encounters delays.
Air travel can be overwhelming and stressful for your pet leading many travelers to consider administering a sedative before departure however sedating your dog may not be a good solution and can jeopardize your pet’s welfare. Be sure to discuss this possibility with your vet first as this decision must be made on a case-by-case basis.
While air travel can be a daunting prospect for you and your pet, it can be done safely and comfortably. The key is in doing your homework and finding a trustworthy airline. If you’re still unsure, there’s a new alternative these days – Pet Airways – where your pets are “Pawsengers,” not cargo. Pets enjoy a pre-flight “Pet Lounge,” ride in the main cabin, and are regularly checked on by “Pet Attendants.” The only catch – no human passengers – meaning you’ll meet your pet at your destination location. Safe travels!