Flying With Your Pets
By Emily Hoppmann, DVM
As you plan for your next big trip, you may think about bringing your pet with you. If this is something that you would like to do, there are a few helpful tips that can make traveling with your pet much easier on the both of you. One of the most important things to do is to start getting your pet used to his/her carrier from a young age. You want the carrier to be something that does not elicit any fear or anxiety, but something your pet views as a regular item in the house. In order to do this, you can feed your pet treats or meals in the carrier so he/she associates it with good things and be sure to leave it out, with the door open, so your pet will feel free to explore it and become comfortable with it. Once your pet is used to the carrier, you will want to go on car rides with your pet in the carrier in a calm and relaxed state. This means that you want to start with very short outings, and may even have to start by simply placing your pet in the carrier in your car, and then increase the length of your outing at a slow enough pace that your pet does not become anxious or distressed. It is also a good idea to end the outing with a trip to the park for your dog or a special treat for your pet! There are times where a trip ends with a visit to your veterinarian, a grooming appointment, or a boarding stay, so it is important to start with trips that end at a fun place like the park or with simply coming back home so that your pet learns that trips in the carrier are nothing to worry about. Once your pet is well-adjusted to trips in the carrier that do not end in unfamiliar places, you can move on to taking them to an unfamiliar place that also has a reward for their good behavior. One great way to do this it to head over to see us so we can offer your pet a treat or two, helping them learn that even trips that do end in an unfamiliar place can be a positive experience too!
It is important that your pet is comfortable being in a carrier and with trips to both familiar and unfamiliar places before you consider taking them on a big trip with you. Once you are ready to travel with your pet there are a few things you should become familiar with when it comes to flying with a pet. Most airlines have all of their information about their pet policies on their websites and you can learn a great deal from visiting their sites. There is general “pet fare” fee and pets that fit in a carrier under the seat are generally allowed in the cabin but in limited numbers, so you want to book your flight early. Pets do count as one of your allotted carry–on bags if you are going to be able to have them in the cabin with you so keep that in mind when packing. Larger pets or pets that are on a flight when the number of pets allowed in the cabin has been exceeded can fly cargo but not in extreme temperatures. When considering the temperature, you need to think about not only where you are leaving from and where you are going, but also how much the temperature differs with the high altitudes that a plane reaches. Your pet also needs to be up to date on all vaccines and will need a certificate of health from your veterinarian to bring with you to the airport. It is also a good idea to have your pet microchipped and have all of your information on a collar and on the carrier. Be sure to reference the airport’s website to know exactly what you should expect when you arrive. Often times Transportation Security Administration officers require pets to come out of carriers at security, but be sure that you have your pet’s collar or leash on already so you can easily reach in the carrier and attach a leash to your pet before you pull him/her out of the carrier.
You do not want to leave food or water in the carrier with your pet, but it is a good idea to include some treats or toys. Be sure to pack some food or a travel bowl for water in your carry-on in case of an unexpected delay. It is usually best for your pet to travel on an empty stomach to avoid accidents in the carrier because your pet needed a bathroom break that wasn’t possible and to decrease the likelihood of your pet vomiting. If your pet is prone to motion sickness, there are very good medications that your veterinarian can provide for your dog or cat to take before the flight. Also, if your pet is anxious or tends to be a noisy traveler, it is a good idea to talk to your veterinarian about medications that may help keep them relaxed and quiet! Placing items from home, such as clothing or blankets, in the carrier can also help with nerves.
Hopefully these tips on how to best get your pet familiar with his/her carrier and traveling will allow for a great experience for both of you! As an added bonus, by getting your pet used to traveling with you will not only make vacationing together more pleasurable, but also make routine travel to your veterinarian or groomer easier as well.