Planning to bring your furry friend along for your next big adventure? Here’s what you should know before booking your flight.
As the holiday season kicks off, people will soon take to the skies in droves to visit far-flung loved ones. For many, a pet is as much a family member as a person, and you can bet that Lassie will be coming along for the cross-country holiday celebrations.
Flying with a pet requires careful planning, so if you’re bringing yours along for the ride, consider these precautionary steps before boarding the aircraft to ensure that both your pet and your fellow passengers are as comfortable as possible.
Routine Check Up
Before you take off, be sure to make a trip to the vet, who can ensure that your pet is healthy enough to travel and provide the necessary paperwork to confirm as much. Obtaining proper documentation from the vet can ease international travel significantly. Many countries have vaccination requirements, a full list of which can be found at the International Air Transport Association. Be sure to request a domestic or international travel certificate that lists the dog’s breed, country of origin and full vaccination history before you go.
Finally, if you know your pet experiences severe travel anxiety, consider the option of pre-flight sedation. Of course, you should only administer sedatives with the vet’s approval. If your pet will have a positive reaction to the medicine, you’ll be able to determine the correct dosage with your vet’s assistance.
Each major airline has its own specific guidelines for transporting pets. Pet owners must take numerous factors into consideration, from dog breed and size to whether the plane is already at pet “capacity.” That’s right — planes can only hold a certain number of dogs at a time, so ensure that yours makes the cut by planning for your trip well in advance. American Airlines only allows seven dogs per flight, and JetBlue caps the number of total canine and feline passengers at four.
Experts recommend that pet owners book their tickets as early as possible to secure seats in the cabin for themselves and their pets. In addition, watch out for airline fees, which can vary depending on whether your pet is traveling as checked baggage or carry-on cargo. Most flights charge about $125 for pets in the cabin, but prices for checked cargo can climb up to $250 each way. With this in mind, it’s best to book direct flights to avoid multiple fees — not to mention the discomfort of multiple takeoffs and landings for your pooch.
Price aside, which is the optimal mode of pet transportation: carry-on or cargo?
One option is storing your pet in the under-seat carriers provided by many airlines. However, these are limited in size. If your pet is too large for a carrier, you can opt to transport your pet in the plane’s cargo hold — but it might not be an easy trip. Cargo conditions, which are subject to very hot and cool temperatures, can make an already taxing situation more stressful for you and your pet. So if your pet is compact enough to fit, you should try to bring him into the cabin with you.
One last thing to consider: airlines generally recommend that snub-nosed pet breeds, like pugs and Persian cats, avoid flying altogether. With their delicate and compressed respiratory systems, these pets are especially sensitive to cabin pressure changes, meaning that flying could be harmful to their health.
Know Your Pet
As the owner, you know your pet’s personality better than anyone. Some dogs and cats may take to the air like seasoned travelers. Others may be thrown off by a new routine, and find the experience too stressful. Only you, the pet parent, can make that final determination.
As a test run, animal expert Cesar Millan recommends putting your pet in an airline carrier and going for a drive to mimic in-flight conditions on the ground. He also suggests applying an “association scent” to your hands when you take your dog for a walk or at feeding time — for example, you might try lavender oil. Use the scent again on the plane, and your pet will develop a positive association with air travel.
Another tip? Take your pet for a long walk before heading to the airport. That way, your pet will be tired and use the flight as an opportunity to nap.
If you decide to forego the hassle and leave your pet at home, consider the dog and cat boarding services at University Animal Hospital in New York City. We offer 24-hour vet supervision, multiple walks per day, and additional outdoor play time in our cage-free area. We’ll take attentive care of your pet while you’re away, allowing you peace of mind as you enjoy the holiday festivities.