LIFESTYLE

Dogs on Planes: Taking Fido Flying

Dog getting ready for a flight
Emily Young
Written by Emily Young

For those of us who want to take an extended trip or just don’t like kenneling our dogs, the issue of dogs on planes is bound to crop up at some point during our long distance travel plans. It is not always practical to drive everywhere you’re going and holidaying with your hound is sometimes tough without taking it to the air.

In this article we’re going to take a look at some of the issues around getting your puppy on a flight and also dig a bit deeper into what you can expect from customs officials (if you’re traveling internationally) and from the airlines themselves.

We’ll also drill down on the issue of ticket pricing. Even though they don’t usually ride in the cabin, an airline ticket for your pet can often cost you more than a ticket for yourself. Dog lovers don’t care though and the chance to take our furry buddies on vacation is worth every dollar.

Flying with dog

Later on in the article we will also have a look at dog friendly hotels and what you can expect from accommodation providers when you arrive at the front desk with your best friend in tow.

Important things to consider

Unfortunately, even though they do allow dogs on airplanes, you’re going to end up having to check your pooch in as luggage at a facility outside of the main terminal in most places. There are also some pretty stringent regulations that you’re going to have to keep to if everyone is going to successfully make it onto that flight.

  • Dog carriers. You can’t just have your pet in any old carrier. There are specially approved carriers that you’re going to need to buy before you head out on your big adventure. If you need some help choosing one then talk to your vet or a local pet store, they will most probably know what is required by the authorities in your area.
  • Your pet’s health. No carrier is going to allow an animal that is not 100% up to date with their vaccinations to travel. The likelihood is that there will be other dogs traveling in close proximity and if your dog has some sort of nasties then they may spread. Again, talk to your vet here about what shots you’ll need to get up to date and what documentation you’ll need for the authorities at your chosen airport.
  • Food and drink. In the United States the USDA requires that pets are fed no less than four hours before a flight. That means that if you’re taking your dog on a plane you’ll need to manage this. If you’re not far from the airport then chances are that you can feed him just before you leave the house. Either way, make sure that the dog is nourished but will not be traveling with a full stomach.
  • Exercise your pet. All dogs just love walkies. It will calm them down and get them in the right frame of mind to be confined during their journey. Take them for a good long walk before you leave the house and be sure to give them a little stroll around somewhere near the terminal just before you check them in. You’ll also need to be sure to get them out for a walk as soon as you arrive at your destination.
  • Consider the weather. If you live somewhere with extremes of heat and cold be aware that a flight delay could mean your dog is uncomfortable. Try to choose a clement time of day for your flight. In summer aim for early morning or in the evening.
  • To sedate or not to sedate. Many pet owners will ask the vet to provide medication to sedate their animal during the flight. Most responsible owners won’t choose to do this unless they have to though. If your dog is likely to be agitated or hyperactive (especially if it might somehow hurt itself in flight as a result) then this is something that you need to consider and talk with your animal health professional about.

You can take your dog on a plane, but in order for it to be a raging success it is extremely important that you take all of the above into consideration.

Dogs on Planes infographic

Failing to do so could result in harm to your pet, an uncomfortable trip or even having to completely cancel your travel plans.

Important notes about going overseas

There are plenty of people who take their dog with them internationally but depending on where you’re going this can be somewhat complicated. No matter where you’re going you’ll need evidence that your dog is 100% up to date as far as vaccinations and their general state of health go. The problem is that different countries have different rules about what dogs need to be treated for and that means that you may find yourself separated from your best friend if they get forced into quarantine.

Dachshund going on a plane

What quarantine really boils down to for pooches, is rabies. Some countries have eradicated it, some countries have it under control and others still haven’t gotten on top of things. If you’re traveling between two rabies free countries you will have a very easy experience but if you’re not you could find yourself subject to enforced quarantine periods which can be lengthy and expensive.

In most cases while your pet is quarantined you will have to pay a substantial daily fee for kenneling and you could also be restricted from visiting your animal freely.

There is something called a blood teeter test which can be conducted some time before your journey which some countries will accept. There are certain countries which just will not allow dogs from countries that do not have rabies under control to enter. It’s going to be very important to talk to your travel agent on this one or you could find yourself in a lot of hot water.

For dogs that travel regularly it is probably worth investigating getting them a “pet passport”. This is a sort of a pre-clearance that makes crossing the border a lot easier for you and your pet. It can also save a lot of money on clearances and quarantines.

Important notes about traveling in the US

Pretty much any time you’re going to take a dog from one state to another in the USA you’re going to have to be prepared to furnish health papers if you’re queried. If you make a decision to take your dog with you interstate then it’s important that you check with your vet what documents you’re likely to be asked for in the event that you’re stopped. This is generally nothing more than a formality and it’s unlikely to cause you any serious problems if you make sure you are well prepared.

Dog flying in US

Just like with international travel, make sure you consult with the relevant authorities in your area and those you’ll be traveling through and lean on your veterinary professional for help navigating the requirements.

Thousands of people do take their dog interstate with them every single year so there’s usually nothing to worry about.  Also, even though you’re in the same country you need to be aware that rules change from place to place so you may not be as free (or you may be freer) to do what you want with your dog while you’re out of town.

Destination considerations

If you’re heading somewhere you haven’t been before it’s going to be extremely important that you get the lay of the land before departure. You need to know about where you can and can’t take your pet while you’re there, and what you’re going to be doing about accommodation. Additionally if you’re planning on renting a vehicle you’ll need to check with the rental company if they will allow you to have your dog in the car with you.

A quick internet search of your destination followed by the phrase pet friendly hotels will usually yield some good results. When you book your room they’ll probably also be able to give you some advice on appropriate transport for you and the pooch from the airport to the property. If your dog is normally and outside or an inside dog you’ll need to check what facilities are in place at the hotel as well.

Pet friendly hotels are (obviously) used to accommodating people with pets and they understand that these customers have different needs to those who are traveling without them. Make sure you ask at the front desk to get all the relevant information about the local area. Here is a list of things you’ll need to cross check to make sure nothing goes wrong:

  • If you’re by the coast what beaches is your dog allowed on and at what times can you take it there. Different jurisdictions have different rules on this, some will impose dog free times during the day when the beach is busy and others will just not allow dogs on beaches at all. Usually there will be at least one beach in each area that allows dogs on it but in order to make sure you’re not going to fall afoul of the law it’s up to you to identify it and stick to the rules.
  • The same applies to parks as applies to beaches.
  • Different countries and areas within them also have different rules when it comes to cleaning up after your dog has relieved itself. It’s very important that you familiarize yourself with these early on to avoid getting fined.
  • It’s a good idea to find out where the nearest vet is in case something goes wrong too.

Insurance issues

You’ve probably got some kind of insurance for your pet already but you’re going to need to read your policy document (or check with your insurer) to find out if it applies while you’re out of town. Remember that if your dog hurts someone while you’re in a strange place it could get very expensive for you if you’re not properly covered.

There are a number of insurers that offer travel insurance for pets but be sure to do your research and ask all the right questions.  A few of the things you’ll want to dig deeper on include:

  1. Are you covered for liability if your dog causes damage to a person or their property and if so to what level.
  2. What happens if your dog gets sick on the plane, what emergency treatment cover you have in place.
  3. What if your dog gets very ill while overseas, what arrangements are there for the costs of your and their journey if you get stuck somewhere while they’re in recovery.
  4. To what levels and for what conditions do you have veterinary costs covered while you’re away?
  5. How does the policy work? Are you expected to front the expenses and then claim them back or are there some other arrangements in place?
  6. If you are traveling internationally it is very important that you make sure the country you’re heading to isn’t excluded from your policy. Be sure to be as complete as possible during your discussions with your insurer.

People are traveling overseas and interstate with their dogs more and more often these days so any decent insurer will be ready to field these questions for you. As with anything though if you don’t ask the questions they’re not going to be answered so that means it is on you to check out the terms and conditions of the individual policy.

How much does it cost?

When you’re asking yourself how much it’s going to cost to take a flight with your dog it is not just about the airline ticket. There are also going to be associated costs with things like consultations with your vet and obtaining the relevant paperwork. It is also really important that you don’t choose the plane ticket for your dog based purely on price.

Hundreds of dogs a year die from heat related deaths while they’re in the cargo hold of aircraft and that means that you really do need to check the track record of the carrier you choose. Cheaper is not always better, especially when we’re talking about such an important member of your family.

Dog in cargo of a plane

You’re also going to need to make sure that you’ve got travel to and from the airport covered when you’re working out the amount you’re going to pay. In many places taxi cabs will either refuse to carry or charge a fee for transporting your pet so be sure to check that out before departure.

What are the dangers?

Dogs that are not used to traveling can become agitated and harm themselves. There are cases of dogs breaking out of enclosures inflight and hurting themselves in the baggage hold as well. If you want to be completely safe it’s best to leave your dog at home while you’re away.

That said thousands of dogs travel very long distances every single day of the week so chances are that you won’t have any problems if you plan everything properly.

Long flight

Here are some of the things that can go wrong:

  • On long trips dogs can become restless and hurt themselves (this is one of the reasons why a proper carrier is a must have)
  • Poorly closed carriers can result in dogs escaping in flight. If they’re in the baggage hold this can be an unmitigated catastrophe.
  • If dogs are fed too close to a flight then they can become airsick and make a mess, this also comes with a risk of dehydration.

As you can see, it basically comes down to preparedness. If you want a hassle free journey with your pampered pooch then just make sure that you (and them) are properly prepared prior to embarkation.

Is it worth it?

That is a question that can only be answered by the individual who owns the dog. You know your animal, their temperament and you are the best person to make the judgment call about taking them on an airplane.

Is it worth it

Taking your dog on holiday makes your family complete while you’re on vacation so it’s an extremely rewarding thing for the entire family group. That said, if something goes wrong then it could also put a serious damper on the trip, could cost a lot of money and could also result in harm coming to your pet. You’ve got to really take the decisions seriously, make sure that you work with your insurance company and your vet and make sure that you choose the right carrier and accommodation.

If you prepare as fully as you can, then chances are that you’ll have no problems at all.

About the author
Emily Young
Emily Young

Emily is originally from China where she graduated from The University of Hong Kong with high distinction learning about fashion and design. During university she opened her own magazine about Dog Fashion as dogs were always in her heart. She was surprised, when she moved to a beautiful British Columbia 10 years ago, to see many great Boutiques with dog's designer clothing and desire of pet owners to make their babies look nice.

  • Alice Moore

    Having your dog walked is a good thing. But let’s add pooing to that list of things to do before boarding the plane. The most important thing is to get your dog accustomed to the carrier long before the flight, though. Familiarizing them would help keep them calm. If all else fails, a benadryl could help (but consult your vet first!).

    • Emily Young

      The Benadryl trick works BUT I really recommend consulting a veterinarian first because overdosage can severely compromise respiration to dangerous levels, or other adverse effects may manifest during the flight.

  • Cate Turner

    I’ve heard from a friend that a lot of dogs and cats get lost in transit when the pets are put in storage. I can’t and don’t want to risk that when I take my pets on a plane, the extra fee is totally worth them being safe. In any case try NOT to drug or have your dog on a leash while traveling on a plane. Those interfere with their breathing and adjusting with higher altitudes. It makes them uncomfortable and is generally not advised for us. And for everyone else too.

    • Emily Young

      That’s true, Cate. Some airlines offer special storage facilities for pets for a fee, and while the charges can be really expensive, pets are really delicate and will definitely benefit from any extra care given.

  • Sandra Underwood

    My sister is flying to see me with her dog. However, her pooch is too big to go under the seat, that’s why the dog will be placed with the luggage. Is this a good idea? My sister is agitated since she heard a lot of horror stories about dogs being flown this way. Any input is appreciated. Thank you!

    • Emily Young

      I understand her agitation because we’ve seen a lot of stories about dogs ending up being injured (or worse, dead) after a flight. Before the flight, she must consult the regulations and instructions by the airline personnel to ensure the safety of the dog during travel.

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