We’re all looking forward to good times and getting back to traveling but travel with your pet can be the best and the worst of times. You need to consider your furry friend’s feelings when it comes to pet travel, especially traveling on an airplane.
Not all pets travel well. My dog, Bentley has traveled since he was a puppy so he probably has more frequent flyer miles than most people! Before his first flight, we checked in with his veterinarian and the airline to learn more about what we should know; it turns out that there’s a lot to consider!
Before Flying with Your Pet
First and foremost, check with BOTH your airline and your veterinarian. There are Federal guidelines for flying with a pet but each airline can have specific rules that you will need to follow. Check your airline for the most current guidelines. I’ve listed my top items you should carry when traveling with your pet in this post. Guidelines include what you may need for proof of vaccination as well as weight restrictions. The average weight limit allowed in the cabin of an airplane is 16 pounds, larger pets are not allowed to fly in the cabin and are required to fly in the luggage area below the plane (Check your airlines’ guidelines for larger animals).
Your Pet’s Health and other Considerations
Your vet will give you advice about the health of your pet and whether it’s advisable for them to fly.
Cabin pressure. Take off and landing of the plane can be stressful for your pet. Remember they are under the seat in front of you so they will “feel” the rumbles of the take-off and landing. Many times the change of cabin pressure may scare your pet. To them, the change in cabin pressure may feel like a storm is coming. If your pet has ear issues consider how the pressure will affect them. Make sure they have been taking their ear medication.
Booking Your Flight
There are a limited number of animals that are allowed in a cabin during each flight. You will typically pay for your pet’s flight at check-in but if you plan on flying with your pet make your reservations early or they may not have a spot for your pet! Space for pets is limited!
I typically fly Delta and the current charge for a one-way ticket for Bentley is $150. That price allows your pet to fly in its carrier underneath the passenger seat in front of you. Some animals can fly for free if they are considered Therapy animals. The “therapy” option was being abused by many and airlines are becoming more strict about these guidelines. Be prepared to provide documentation that your pet is a therapy animal and be prepared to show documentation from your physician that you need a therapy pet. Don’t try to fake it as it hurts those that really need this service.
Going Potty. Can your pet make it the length of your flight? I always fly non-stop versus taking flights with a layover. Consider how long your pet can last without going to the bathroom. New flyers may be anxious and their need to go potty may increase. Many airports are adding pet potty areas but there aren’t many. Check where they are located in the airport in relation to your flight gate.
Even before you get to the airport find a place where you can allow your dog the chance to go potty! Some airports have designated areas for this. Depending on the time of day of your flight, limit food and water.
Check-in with pets at the Special Services Airline Counter of most airlines. Have your pet’s paperwork ready; this includes a health certificate as proof of vaccinations and any documentation needed if you’re flying with a therapy pet. You will receive a tag to put on your pet’s carrier.
Going Through Airport Security
The pet carrier will go through the x-ray machines at the airport. You will need to carry your pet through the full-body scanner. Once you are through the scanner, security personnel will swab your hands to make sure there is no residue of explosives on your hands and verifying there are none “inside” your dog.
Pet Travel – Items to Bring on Board
- Pet Carrier with Wheels you will appreciate the wheels more than you will ever know! Bentley absolutely loves being pulled around in his carrier. The one I use has a flag that you can attach saying a pet is on board. I don’t use the flag as it makes people curious to see him. The more they want to say hello, the more excited he gets. It’s better to avoid a lot of new friends.
- Toy– Bentley loves his fluffy toys; especially his stuffed Lambchop.
- Kong – The Kong toy is a lifesaver; especially during take-off. The change in cabin pressure can bother your pet so keeping them occupied is key. Often they will forget what’s going on and after a while, they will go to sleep.
- Medication: Just like humans, make sure to bring any medications with you on the plane. Bentley has allergies so I always bring those on the plane in case our luggage would get lost. Essential oils, prescriptions, ear meds the day before and the morning of. I’ve used essential oils to relax Bentley but I’m not sure how well it works; I do still use it from time to time if he’s having an anxious flight. Your dog will smell like patchouli or something!
- Sedation Drugs. Some vets will prescribe drugs to sedate your dog. Bentley’s vet initially told me to use a small amount of Benadryl caplets to calm him down (ONLY do this with the ok from your vet!). In Bentley’s case, it gave him more energy instead of calming him down so I’ve decided against using drugs on him.
- Ear Medicine. Bentley has an aversion to ear infections and he has medication that he takes year-round. I make sure that I give it to him the day before we fly to make sure his ears are in good shape to fly. Remember how your ears can feel when taking off and landing? It’s the same for dogs.
- Tick Medicine. Make sure that your dog is protected from fleas and ticks. There are some areas of the country where fleas are particularly terrible. You don’t want your dog to get infested and you don’t want them either!
- Food and Containers. Although I limit food and water during the flight, you will want to bring a food and water container. Guardian Bend a Bowl collapsible dog water and food dish is my travel favorite. Use a carabiner to attach to the dog carrier and you’re set!
- Blanket. Everyone loves a security blanket! If your dog has a special blanket bring it. If not, I recommend keeping your pet’s travel blanket in with your dirty clothes for a couple of days. It sounds weird but your pet will feel at home with your scent. The travel carrier shown in the shop carousel below comes with a removable sherpa bottom. It’s removable so you can easily take it out and so your pet can get used to it.
- Potty Bags. I hope you never need to use these on the plane but you’ll definitely want them to pick up after your pet before you arrive at the airport and as soon as you leave the airport.
- Leash and Collar. You must have these to board the plane.
- Wipes. Keep your pet clean and you’ll want these in case your pet has an accident.
- Pet Health Certificate with proof of vaccinations. Contact your airline and your veterinarian for this documentation.
- Thunder Shirt. The Thundershirt acts like a “hug” for your dog and may help relieve some anxiety. I used this a lot for Bentley when he was little and began flying.
- Treats and Food. You will want to limit your pets intake, but they will get hungry just like you, so have their favorites on hand.
All of this may sound daunting but being prepared really is important and makes it easy! I love having my dog with me and it doesn’t’ seem to bother him either. He’s flown over 40 flights so far and he’s actually a pretty happy camper in his travel bag.
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Safe travels and here’s to finding style! – Kim
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