How to Safely and Comfortably Travel with Your Dog on a Plane

Holidays are best spent with loved ones. For most people, pets are full-fledged family members and celebrating with them feels only natural. However, if you plan on flying with your fur baby, it requires a bit more advanced planning.

Taking your pup on a plane? Here are some pet travel tips to keep them safe and comfortable during the flight:

1. General Airline Rules and Reminders

Each airline has their own dos and don’ts when it comes to traveling with pets. On the whole, most expect that at a minimum, your animal is well trained and non-vocal. Some exceptions do apply to therapy and service dogs, but generally, he or she must fit under the seat in front of you and meet all other carry on requirements.

Dogs under 15 pounds can reasonably fit pretty comfortably in flight-specific pet carriers. For most airlines, the dimensions of your carrier will need to be smaller than 19 inches long and 10 inches tall.

Remember that some airlines also require you to reserve your pet’s spot ahead of time. At least a few well-known airlines only allow a maximum of six dogs per flight. Also ask about extra fees, too. You may need to budget up to $100 each way to have your best friend in flight.

2. Vet Recommendations

Airlines have the right to ask for a vet-supplied certificate stating your pup is in good health. It will also detail their most recent shots and vaccinations. Some carriers require the certificate before allowing you to book or board. The cost is minimal, but it’s better to have it and not use it than miss your flight because of a simple oversight.

Vets also generally only use sedatives as a last resort. They’ve been known to cause breathing issues that can be compounded by changing air cabin pressure. If your dog runs super anxious, a pet sitter may be preferable to flying at all.

3. Travel Pet Carrier Suggestions

The first rule of thumb is to choose a carrier that your pet can stand and sit in. If they can make a full turn and lie in a natural position, you’re set. Putting them in a carrier that’s too small is both against airline regulation and could induce a high-stress response.

There’s no shortage of pet carrier models that are made specifically for traveling. If you’d like to see if yours makes the cut, check the IATA (International Air Transport Association) requirements.

Whichever brand you choose, be sure to line it with a puppy pad to avoid a potential mess. Even the best-trained pets can experience a little loss of bladder control in high-stress environments.

4. What Pet Supplies to Take on your Travels

Between airport security and flight time, even a relatively short trip will result in your cat or dog being crated for several hours. Packing all-natural dog treats and rawhides for entertainment are recommended. Don’t forget your doggie bags for potty breaks, a leash/harness for the security line, a spill-proof water bowl and extra puppy pads in case you can’t get outside fast enough.

Also, throw a blanket or dog sweater in the bag in case the plane’s temperature is chillier than they’re used to. You can also soothe your pup by lining the carrier with a t-shirt or clothing item you’ve recently worn. It will help keep them warm and your scent will be a calming, familiar reminder of home.

5. General Pet Travel Tips

Take up the food and water dishes two hours before you’re scheduled to depart. This will help prevent accidents during the flight. With the nerves that often come with travel, too much food could cause some digestive upset. Giving your dog an ice cube after the plane takes off will keep them hydrated without overly increasing your risk of an accident.

Know that you’re likely to have to keep your dog in its carrier for the duration of your time at the airport. If you need to go outside for any reason, remember that you may not be allowed back to your gate without repeating the security process. If you feel like your pup simply can’t wait for a proper bathroom break, try laying out a puppy pad on the floor of the restroom. If they have to go badly enough, they’re likely to relieve themselves.

Following these pet travel tips will help keep the whole family together this holiday season. Plan accordingly and may your stays be merry and bright.

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