Best Practices for Pet Airline Travel

Pet airline travel can be stressful, but properly preparing yourself and your pet for the experience can make it safer and more enjoyable for both of you.

Preparing for Travel

If your dog or cat is small enough, he will be able to ride with you in the cabin, under the seat in front of you in his crate. If he is too big to fit under the seat, he will have to ride in cargo, also in his crate. Either way, your dog will have to be accustomed to spending a long amount of time in his crate.

To prepare for this, you must get a properly-sized crate and get your dog used to spending time in it. The crate should be big enough that your dog can comfortably stand and turn around in it. Before you purchase a crate, do your research. Each airline has certain guidelines that must be met.

If you are taking a four-hour flight, prepare your dog to spend at least six hours in his crate. Slowly build up to six hours by starting with an hour and then slowly building up the amount of time.

There are many web sites that rank airline pet friendliness, so check them out prior to your trip. Tell the airline prior to your departure that you will be bringing your pet.

Take your pet to the veterinarian before your trip to make sure he is physically capable of flying. Don't fly with pugs, bulldogs or other dogs with short nasal passages. They are especially vulnerable to oxygen deprivation and heat stroke. Try not to fly in summer or winter months as this is more dangerous.

Traveling with Your Pet

Don't feed your pet four to six hours prior to the flight. Give ice chips in place of water while at the airport, and if possible, place ice chips in the water dish with them so it is less likely to spill. Put a collar on your dog that won't get caught on the door of the kennel and trim his nails so they don't get caught on anything during flight.

When you arrive at the airport, take your pet for a long walk and give him chances to relieve himself. Many airlines require that you arrive by a certain time if flying with a pet. Don't put him in the kennel until the last possible moment.

Put a comfortable bed and bones in the kennel. Chewing helps relax your pet as well as helps them pop their ears during altitude changes.

Don't sedate your pet unless absolutely necessary. Consult your veterinarian before doing so. Sedating your pet during flight can be very dangerous. Don't muzzle your pet. This makes it harder to breathe, and they might swallow access saliva that has nowhere else to go and choke.

Write your name, pet's name, home address and cell phone number on the kennel as well as your pet's tag. Carry a current photo of your pet.

When you board the plane, alert the flight attendant and captain, if possible, that your pet is in the cargo hold. If they are aware, they may take special precautions.

Following these suggestions can make flying much more safe and less stressful.