How to Travel With Your Dogs on Planes

There are many rules to adhere to when traveling by plane, and adding a pet to the mix only makes things more complicated. While the Human Society of the United States recommends that you don't travel with your pet by plane, it does offer several suggestions if air travel is absolutely necessary. Before you even get on the plane, there are several things you need to do to prepare. It's also important to note that each airline has different policies, so you must communicate with your airline regarding your pet travel before each flight.

Things You'll Need

  • Dog crate
  • Dog's immunization papers
  • Dog food
  • Water


    • 1

      Call the airline ahead of time and ask if you can travel with your dog. If you have a small dog, the airline may allow the dog to fly with you on the plane as carry-on luggage. This usually costs extra money however, so be prepared to pay between $50 and $200 each way, depending on the airline. The dog will also have to fit in a kennel that's no more than a foot and a half high. Get the exact dimensions from the airline, and get your pet accustomed to the kennel before the flight.

    • 2

      Ask the airline if it transports pets as cargo. If it does, then you may be able to transport your larger dog. Again, be aware that there is an extra fee for this. Depending on how much the dog weighs, and the airline that you're flying with, you may have to spend between $200 and $500 each way. You must also purchase a crate for the dog. This crate must be big enough for the dog to stand up, turn around and lay back down in. Speak with the airline about all of the crate requirements.

    • 3

      Take your dog in to the veterinarian prior to the flight. Make sure that your dog is up on all of its shots and de-worming. The airline may ask to see proof of this prior to you boarding the flight, so be prepared to have necessary documentation from your vet.

    • 4

      Clip your pet's nails prior to the flight to avoid its paws from getting hooked on the crate door. It's natural for the dog to try and scratch or paw its way out of the crate, but you don't want it to get stuck on the door.

    • 5

      Book a flight that will be at the best times of day for your pet. In the summer, this means flying in the morning or at night, so the temperatures will be cooler. In the winter, it's better to fly in the afternoon. This is especially applicable to large dogs who will be flying as cargo. Some airlines even have blackout dates for pets, and will not allow them to fly in the middle of extremely hot or cold seasons. International flights may also bar pets from being transported as cargo, even if they allow pets to be transported as a carry-on. Contact the airline before attempting to purchase a ticket to find out if your pet will be allowed to fly.

    • 6

      Book a direct flight. This is especially important when flying with dogs who are stored as cargo. The less stops you have to make, the fewer times you'll have to locate, load and unload your pet. This will decrease your chances of something bad happening to the pet.

    • 7

      Arrive at the airport three hours early. It may take awhile to go through security, but having a pet will take you even longer. Don't arrive much earlier than this though, because the longer your pet is trapped in its crate, the more uncomfortable it will be. This is also a good point to walk your dog if there is a pet relief area. See the link in the "Resources" section to see if your departure airport has a pet relief area. If there isn't one, then you need to walk the dog as late as possible before going to the airport.

    • 8

      Give your pet water before boarding the plane with it, or before it goes into cargo. Refrain from feeding your pet food before it gets on the plane though, as it may defecate in its crate, and be stuck with the mess through the entire plane ride. Refrain from sedating the pet unless you have been advised to do so by a veterinarian. Many sedatives can cause animals to lose their equilibrium, which will already be challenged by the rocking plane. In addition, it can hinder your pet's natural ability to react to heat or cold by panting, thus causing further complications.

    • 9

      Carry a recent picture of your dog with you during your entire trip. If the dog goes missing, use this photograph to show airline personnel who can help you locate your missing pet.

    • 10

      Locate the crate immediately after getting off your flight and examine your dog for any injuries. If you find something wrong, take it to the nearest veterinarian and have it examined. If you traveled with a small dog who sat underneath you during the trip, then remove it from its crate and give it food and water as soon as possible.

Tips & Warnings

  • Always ask your veterinarian if air travel is safe for your dog. There are certain breeds -- such as pug-nosed dogs -- which do not do well in the cargo area of a plane.
  • Never fly a pet that is less than eight weeks old and fully weaned.
  • Never fly a pet that is pregnant or in heat.
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  • Photo Credit Digital Vision./Digital Vision/Getty Images

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