How to Travel With My Dog on an Airplane

Regulated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the International Air Transport Association, air travel with a dog requires that pet owners follow the rules and restrictions set in place by the airline they choose. Most airlines allow small animals to travel in the passenger cabin with the owner, while larger dogs are placed alone in the cargo hold. Early preparation, and determining what your airline requires, saves time and headaches when planning to travel in the cabin with your dog.

Bulldog puppy
Bulldog puppy (Chris Amaral/Digital Vision/Getty Images)

Things You'll Need

  • Airline-compliant pet carrier
  • Old towel or blanket
  • Carrier label
  • Veterinary health certificate
Step 1:

Purchase a pet carrier that meets the airline’s standards, has a waterproof bottom and will slide under the airplane seat in front of you. Fit it with an old towel or blanket to keep your dog comfortable. Label the carrier with your name, address, cell phone number and the phone number at your destination.

Dog sleeping on bedding
Dog sleeping on bedding (Janie Airey/Lifesize/Getty Images)
Step 2:

Obtain a health certificate from your veterinarian stating that your dog is current on all vaccinations and in good health.

Woman holding dog at vet
Woman holding dog at vet (Jupiterimages/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images)
Step 3:

Check with your airline regarding age and weight restrictions for your dog. For example, American Airlines requires that dogs be at least 8 weeks old and less than 20 pounds.

Woman researching on laptop
Woman researching on laptop (Jupiterimages/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images)
Step 4:

Book a non-stop flight if possible. Remember that while your dog is on the plane, it will not be allowed out of the crate during the flight and will not be able to relieve itself--except in the carrier.

LAX airport
LAX airport (Thinkstock/Comstock/Getty Images)
Step 5:

Withhold solid food starting approximately four hours before the flight, to avoid any vomiting or stomach distress.

Dog in kitchen
Dog in kitchen (Digital Vision./Photodisc/Getty Images)
Step 6:

Check in to your flight at least three hours before departure. This allows for all veterinary documentation to be checked, for you to reserve space for your dog, and for you and your pet to go through security.

Family checking into flight
Family checking into flight (Digital Vision./Digital Vision/Getty Images)
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Tips & Warnings

  • Freeze a couple of ice cubes for your dog to drink as they melt during the flight. This prevents water from spilling from the dog's bowl into the carrier during the jostling that often occurs while boarding.
  • Most airlines do not require a reservation for your dog, but they restrict the number of pets per passenger. American Airlines allows a maximum of two checked dogs per passenger, and it accepts them in the cabin on a first-come basis.
  • Find the name, address and telephone number of the emergency veterinary clinic nearest to your destination, write it down and keep it with you. If your dog develops a medical problem during the flight, you will be able to more quickly obtain veterinary treatment with this information on hand.
  • As of early December 2010, no airlines allowed dogs to ride in the cabin with their owners between the U.S. mainland and Hawaii, according to PetTravel.com.
  • Dogs cannot travel in the cabin on flights that last more than 12 hours or that go to the United Kingdom.

References

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