Air Travel

Eric Fold, DVM
June 6, 2018

If you plan to travel by air, make sure and do some homework before the flight. It is important to know if pets are allowed on the flight and where they will spend their time while en route. If they are not allowed to ride in the cabin under your seat, you should weigh the benefits of the destination with the stress of air travel for your pet. Whether you are traveling across the country for a bold adventure or internationally to an exotic location, the experience needs to be comfortable and enjoyable for both you and your pet. Traveling can be very stressful on our furry friends so start with a plan, stay safe, and have fun!

Have a plan

Photo by AarStudio/iStock / Getty Images
Photo by AarStudio/iStock / Getty Images

Travel should be well thought out and not spur of the moment with your pet. It is important to read the guidelines and regulations for the specific airline that you will be traveling on. Different airlines have different policies on where your pet can be during flight, and what is required to board the aircraft. Always let your veterinarian know what documentation you will need so we can make sure you will have a smooth boarding process.

Have your pet checked out by your veterinarian three to four weeks before air travel. This will ensure that they are physically fit and will give you an opportunity to discuss your travel plans. Veterinarians are often alerted to disease outbreaks throughout the country and can help make sure your pet is adequately protected. Some air travel, especially if international, will require your pet to be examined a few days before you fly. Keep this in mind as your departure date approaches.  

When possible, book a direct flight to avoid connections and potential for mix ups on the tarmac. Having your pet during extended layovers can be difficult since there is not access to an area for the pet to go potty.

Have a travel kit for your pet. In your kit include plenty of fresh water, food and bowls. Feeding a small meal six hours before a long trip may help, but don't forget the waste baggies or scoops to clean up along the way. Consider freezing a bowl of water before the trip, this will allow the pet to have access to water as it melts during transit.

  • Contact the airline to get pet travel policies

  • Get checked out by your veterinarian three to four weeks before departure date

  • Book a direct flight

  • Pet travel kit

Stay safe

The crate that they travel in should be a sturdy, USDA approved crate. Make sure that "Live Animal" is printed on the crate so personnel know how to handle it when moving to storage. Have your pet's vaccine records, pertinent medical records, and a picture of your pet on hand. It would be wise to attach a manila envelope with copies of your pet's important information to the outside of the crate. This would also be helpful in the event that you need to go to a pet emergency hospital. Affix a travel tag with destination information and your contact information. Records can be available by email or direct access to the pets record with our clinic software.

The pet should be labeled with updated contact information and a rabies tag. You can also attach a temporary tag, similar to a luggage tag, with destination information and additional contact information to their collar. Try to make it as easy as possible for someone to recognize your pet and contact you in the event of emergency or escape.

Ensure your pet is up to date with flea, tick and heartworm prevention. There are several regional diseases that your pet could pick up from these parasites. Having them up to date with prevention makes sure that they wont bring these pesky critters home.

Tell the gate and cabin personnel that you are traveling with a pet. This allows them a familiar face in the event that your pet needs attention during transit. They will help assist you and make the transition as smooth as possible.

  • Use a USDA approved crate
  • Have copies of pet and contact information on hand and attached to the crate
  • Make sure they have up-to-date identification
  • Keep them current with vaccinations and preventatives
  • Notify airline employees at the gate and in the cabin that you have a pet with you

Make travel fun!

Bringing your pet on trips can offer unique travel experiences and really be a blast! Make sure you pack them some special toys, maybe even have some new ones that will make the long airplane ride fun. Since travel can be very stressful for your pet, making them as comfortable as possible is key to air travel. Soft absorbent bedding will help keep your pet clean if they have an accident during flight. Consider putting an article of your clothing in the crate for a familiar smell, or use pheromones like Feliway for kitties.

Just like people, some pets cannot tolerate riding in planes and get an upset stomach. We have a few prescription medications that can help alleviate those episodes and keep them calm. There are also several anti-anxiety prescriptions that can help knock the edge off in stressful pets. Never use human medications unless you have spoken with your veterinarian, several are toxic to pets or may not be appropriate for use.

  • Pack plenty of toys
  • Ask your veterinarian about medications if needed

Don't forget to include them in your adventures and travels, they make some of the best memories unforgettable. Remember to have a plan, stay safe and have fun!