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Well-Made Goods for Dogs & Cats
Well-Made Goods for Dogs & Cats

Airline travel with a dog - making the skies friendly for your pup

Flying with a dog can be easy if you prepare well

Earlier this year we picked up our new puppy, Zane, from California. Driving was not an option. A 9-week old puppy in a car from Sacramento to Seattle would be just too stressful for all of us! I knew we would need a pet reservation, a health certificate, a soft-sided pet carrier, and pay a pet fee. So these are the basics, but each airline has their own unique set of rules, as I discovered. Note that these guidelines are for pet companions; service or emotional support dogs have a different set of rules.

Before You Fly

Here are the general, big picture requirements that all airlines adhere to. We have also given you a heads up on things to verify with your airline when planning air travel with your dog.

Dogs cannot travel alone.

Whether in the cabin or in the hold, someone must accompany your pet. As far as the airline is concerned, your beloved dog is no more than luggage to them and you cannot send luggage on a plane you are not on. So if your dog must travel without you, she should be transported by a licensed and approved pet transportation company.

Your dog must be old enough to travel.

The US standard is 8 weeks. However, some carriers, such as Delta, require your dog to be at least 10 weeks of age.

Your dog must have a clean bill of health.

You will need to have a full physical and updated immunization record dated within a certain amount of time before travel, usually within 10 days of travel. Keep in mind that your health certificate is only good for 30 days and must cover both ends of your journey. If your trip lasts longer than 30 days, you’ll need to get another one in the state you’re visiting.

Ask for a health certificate (officially called a Certificate of Veterinary Inspection) that says your dog is fit to travel and is up to date on her vaccinations. Also, ask your veterinarian to print out your dog’s shot record. Not every airline requires a health certificate, so ask. However, it is better to have it and not need it than to be stuck without one while on the road.

Have your health certificate in case the airline requires it. Not all do, but be sure you are prepared.

It must be safe for your dog to travel on a plane.

Due to the heartbreaking case with the French Bulldog on United earlier this year, many airlines have restricted short-nose breeds from flying on their planes due to respiratory concerns. Talk to the airline before booking a seat to ensure your pup can join you.

Additionally, if your dog will be in the hold, there are restrictions on when and where your dog can fly. Since some terminal facilities and the airplane hold are NOT protected against outside temperatures, know the local weather. Flying your dog in the hold to/from/through Chicago in January or Phoenix in August may not be an option, nor would you want it to be.

Dogs in hardsided crates on their way to be loaded into the airplane hold

Airlines restrict the number of pets on any given flight.

This means not every flight will have room for your pet. It varies by airline and location on the plane (in the hold vs. in the cabin). Be sure to make your dog's reservation at the same time you book your flight to be sure there is space.  Most airlines require a call to make the pet reservation. The airline we usually fly allows only 2 pets in the cabin and the flight we wanted was already booked. We flew Southwest, which allows up to 6 pets in the cabin. Be aware that many airlines will not allow you to book a pet into the cargo hold more than 10 days before your trip.

In-cabin travel is subject to size and weight restrictions.

These vary between airlines, but most require that your dog and carrier together not weigh more than 20 pounds. Dogs over 20 pounds will have to travel in the cargo hold of the plane.  As the cargo hold needs to be pressurized  Not all airlines offer this option since the cargo hold needs to be pressurized to allow pet travel. When you are planning a trip with a larger dog,

Of greater concern, each airline has limits to the size of the carrier allowed in the cabin. It must fit under the seat in front of you, which dictates the size of the bag. Your dog must be able to lie down, stand up, and turn around comfortably in the carrier. This is a tricky one, as we learned. We flew out of a small airport, where most of the planes were regional jets…meaning the allowed carrier size was much smaller, too small for our puppy. JetBlue and Southwest were our only options for full-size jets, as it turned out.

Does the jet allow enough room for your pup?

You will need to pay a separate pet fee.

When you check in, you will need to pay an additional $95 - $150 for your pet.  This is the fee each way, so factor these costs into your decision to bring your pup along with you on a vacation.  Be sure to factor in additional time to check in your pet at the counter since you will not be able to check them in online or at a kiosk.

International flights are especially difficult to travel with your dog.

Most airlines have restrictions on how long a dog can be in a crate safely. Any flight over 10 hours would be especially difficult for any dog! Additionally, you and the airlines must follow individual laws for bringing a dog into another country. As such, you may not be able to take your dog with you to certain destinations. Check each airline as these restrictions differ. Find out what regulations are in place for bringing your dog into your destination country, then be sure to have any necessary paperwork on hand when you check in.

Check out (http://www.sheknows.com/pets-and-animals/articles/974085/airlines-that-allow-pets-in-cabin) for some details on 8 major airlines that can help begin your planning.

Day of Travel

So you booked your flight and are ready to travel! Be sure to keep your dog’s collar – with identifying tags – on at all times. If your little one wriggles free along the way, you want to get them back ASAP. Here are some suggestions for making the actual flight easier when bringing a dog in the cabin with you:

Get the right carrier and make sure your dog is comfortable in it.

You can select a hard sided or soft sided carrier for your trip. Most airlines allow a slightly taller size for a soft-sided carrier as long as it can squish to fit under the seat. There are many different types, so shop around to see what’s best for you and your dog. Remember, your dog needs to be able to lie down, stand up and turn around comfortably in the carrier. If the person checking you in does not think the dog will be comfortable, they can and will deny your dog from traveling in the cabin. Additionally, be sure to get your dog accustomed to the carrier BEFORE the day of travel. Throw some treats in it, feed in it, etc. so that the dog is comfortable in the space.

Prepared for the trip and en route. Note: not all flight attendants will allow the puppy in your lap like this.

Bring an empty water bottle and a small bowl for water.

A collapsible bowl, like the Canvas Collapsible Water Bowl from Found My Animal, is great for flights. It folds up small for travel but still offers plenty of capacity for your dog. Take the empty bottle through security then fill up before boarding. That way you will not need to wait to beverage service to keep your dog hydrated.

Found My Animal's Collapsible Travel Bowl is easy to pack for a flight so you can keep your dog hydrated

Invest in potty pads, even for an adult dog.

Accidents happen - line the carrier with a potty pad so there is no leakage. All airports have pet relief facilities of some kind. Where they are and how convenient they are will vary from airport to airport. Check out DogJaunt.com/guides/airport-pet-relief-areas/ for information about pet relief areas in airports all over the country. They also include lots of useful info about traveling with pets in general.

If there is no pet relief area once you are past security, potty pads can be a life saver. Dash into the bathroom and put the pad down for a last potty break before boarding.

Get a “high value” treat or toy to keep your pup entertained

  • A favorite cuddly toy with the scent of home to keep your dog calm. We used a small towel from his old home (for the scent) and a Simply Fido Stuffless toy with a crinkle noise inside to cuddle. It is still one of his favorite toys!


Zane's first toys are still his favorites: Simply Fido Stuffless Lion and Planet Dog Woof Treat Dispensing Ball

  • Interactive treat dispensing toy. Zane got a Planet Dog Woof ball as it was small enough for him to roll around in his carrier. We also had a clean bone with some peanut butter smeared inside – but make sure there are no peanut allergies on the plane before pulling it out.
  • Treats for the toy or to distract if your dog gets fussy/whiny. For this, we used a portion of his kibble as a treat and just factored it into his daily feeding.

Dog wipes – for you and your dog

We brought some human wipes for us and trueblue Super Fresh Body & Paw Wipes in a zip-lock baggie for Zane. Accidents happen, and you want an easy, healthy way to clean up any messes on your dog.

TrueBlue Super Fresh Body & Paw Wipes clean and moisturize the skin and coat with macadamia nut oil

Poo bags

For containing the messes along the way. You will only need a few - Earth Rated Lavender-scented Bags with Handles are a great option. They can help cover the scent (very important on a plane!) and the handles make closing up the bag fast and easy.

Earth Rated Lavender Scented Poo Bags with Handles for easy and fragrant clean up on the plane

Keep your dog’s vaccination record

And any relevant health information easily accessible for check in.

A back up of your dog’s kibble

You should usually travel with 2 meals worth. If you get stuck along the way to your final destination, it is always good to have your dog’s food readily available.

One final note: Sedation

There’s a lot of debate about whether it’s safe to sedate a dog while flying. The American Veterinary Medical Association advises against it, saying, “It is recommended that you DO NOT give tranquilizers to your pet when traveling by air because it can increase the risk of heart and respiratory problems. Short-nosed dogs and cats sometimes have even more difficulty with travel.”

If your dog is especially nervous about flying, talk to your vet for the best option. There are a variety of ways to calm a dog without medication. Your vet may offer one you have not tried.

And absolutely do NOT give your dog any medication for a flight without talking to your vet first.

If you are introducing something new into your dog’s diet, whether a supplement or medication, talk to your vet about giving it a trial run before you get on the plane. The last thing you want is a bad reaction mid-flight. Test it out at home to avoid problems in flight. If anything goes wrong, you can get your dog into the vet quickly and safely.

If you find that your dog really cannot fly without heavy medication, maybe they should just enjoy a doggy vacation at home while you are out of town.

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