How To Keep Your Pets Safe When Flying

November 24, 2009

in Cats

Up until just recently, pets have only been welcome on airplanes if they’re flying with the luggage stored beneath the plane. One of the main concerns we have with this old practice is that most luggage compartments aren’t properly shielded to keep out the extreme hot and cold temperatures that occur during flight. This then goes from bad to worse if they’re forced to remain locked in their cage for hours on end when your flight gets delayed. While you’re up in the terminal trying to finish that book you brought they’re suffering in a dark compartment with practically no room to move around. If a traveling pet becomes ill during flight there is no way of monitoring, let alone being able to assist the animal until the flight has landed in their scheduled destination. As you can imagine this has resulted in countless tragic pet deaths over the years. Due to the growing concern for animals traveling with their owners in the air, most airline companies now enforce stricter training for their baggage handlers, even requiring them to report any adverse incidents to the Department of Transportation. In addition to that most will refuse passage to animals during extreme weather and during the hottest months of summer.

If your pet is a small animal than you’ve got it pretty easy as far as travel preparation is concerned. The large majority of airlines these days will allow you to bring your small dog or cat with you onto the plane as long as both the animal and pet carrier weigh no more than 40 pounds and can fit underneath the seat in front of you (please don’t even think of trying to put them in an overhead bin!). Due to allergies and passenger discomfort though there usually is a limit to the number of pets allowed on any given flight to if you’re planning on taking your pet with you just make sure to notify them of your travel buddy as soon as possible.

Before booking any flight you should call your airline and discuss with them what their policies are for traveling with pets. Each airline is different in their policies towards pets both traveling in the cabin as well as stored underneath the plane. Airline personnel can also help owners choose a flight that will be most comfortable for their pet. Try to aim for a flight in the early morning or late evening during the summertime as it’ll be the coolest during those hours. Any airline representative should be able to assist you in picking a flight that is right for your animal/situation so contacting them should be one of the first steps in your travel preparations.

Regardless of how your pet will travel, there are precautions owners need to take to be sure traveling is safe and healthy for the animal. AAHA suggests, and major airlines require, that traveling pets be examined by a veterinarian no more than 10 days before to the date of departure. You will also be required to provide the necessary rabies vaccination certifications when you check in to the airport prior to boarding. Because their feeding schedule might be affected ask your veterinarian for tips on how to keep your pet fed and happy. The age and size of the pet, time and distance of the flight and regular dietary routine all will play a part in your pet’s well-being. There is also a Federal Regulations that states that dogs and cats must be at least eight weeks old and weaned at least five days before flying. If you’re meeting your pet at the airport on a different flight, you will need to be there when it lands. No late-pickups!

As for what type of carrying case or crate you should secure them in for traveling on a plane that all will be determined by the size and breed of your pet. You can’t go wrong with any of the sturdy pet carrier most commonly found at any pet store but just make sure that they have all-hard sides and at least two ventilation ducts on opposite sides of each other. If you have a small pet then you should look into getting a soft leather dog carrier to keep your four-legged friend happy and content for the duration of the flight. Whether it’s a dog kennel or pet carrier, it’s important that you make sure it has a water resistant floor as well as soft objects all over the place to help pad any turbulence. All kennels should have the proper large signs attached to them that read “Live Animal” complete with a copy of your travel itinerary, contact info and way to reach you while on your trip.

Taking your pet on a vacation with you is a rewarding experience and in the end you’ll be the only one who can truly judge whether or not they’d be able to handle themselves on the flight. There are a lot of both dogs and cats who are overly sensitive to changes in cabin pressure and flying may not be for them.

Still have pet questions? Head on over to and submit them to be answered for free by our online veterinarians.

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