To Fly or Not to Fly Fido?

To Fly or Not to Fly Fido?
Now that the holidays are over and New Years has come and gone, it’s easy to get into a post-holiday slump. What a better way to beat the winter blues that planning a trip? If you’re like many dog owners who can’t imagine the idea of going on a trip without their best friend, you’ll need to take the proper steps to ensure that your dog is happy and safe while traveling to your get-a-way destination.

It’s fairly easy to pack the car and make your dog comfortable for a road trip, but if your vacation spot requires air travel, there are many things to think about when preparing your dog for flight. Before you booking your flight, you’ll need to find out whether or not the airline will allow your pet on the aircraft. While some airlines will allow dogs in the cabin, others will only allow them in the cargo area, or don’t transport animals at all. If you cannot find an airline that will transport your dog, contact a professional pet transporter. These companies meet all the regulations for transporting pets in the air and are extremely knowledgeable. Using a professional pet transporter will be more expensive than flying commercial but will provide you with peace of mind.

In 1995, I flew my large 4 year old Black Lab, Boris from Denver to Hartford to visit my family for the holidays. He flew in the cargo area, and all in all it was a very positive experience because I was very well prepared for the journey. Following are some beneficial tips I’d like to share:

  • Acclimate your dog to his crate or pet carrier well before the flight.
  • Call the airline several times prior to your flight to ensure that a spot has been reserved for your dog.
  • Fly direct whenever possible. If you can’t fly direct, schedule as few stops as possible to reduce your dog’s stress level.
  • Be sure to have your dog’s collar on him. The collar should have a tag that clearly shows his name and your contact information, including a phone number at which you can be reached.
  • Provide ample food and water into two bowls attached to the kennel. Provide the staff with feeding instructions and food and also post feeding instructions to the carrier.
  • Keep your dog secure in the cargo area by placing him in a hard-sided, airline-approved dog carrier that is clearly marked with your contact information/your vet’s contact info, live animal stickers, arrows that show the upright position, and the dog’s name. By clearly posting the dog’s name, people handling him will be more apt to talk to your dog. 
  • Do not board the airplane until you know your dog has been loaded. Have the flight attendant verify that your dog is on board. Likewise, do not leave the plane until you know your dog has been unloaded. As soon as you know he is off the plane, immediately proceed to baggage claim to retrieve him.
  • Do not transport your dog in a cargo area that is not climate-controlled. Uncontrolled cargo areas can experience temperature extremes, putting your dog at risk.

If you’re contemplating sedation and tranquilizers, there are a few things to consider. Some people think using a sedative or tranquilizer prior to travel will calm a dog and make him less stressed. Fortunately, this was the case with Boris. He did well on the tranquilizers that the Vet prescribed, mostly because he had experience taking them in the past. Boris was terrified of thunder & lightening, and needed tranquilizers to get through a stormy night. I was confident that he would be okay taking the same pills to overcome any anxiety or stress while traveling in the cargo area of the plane. However, many experts believe that these medications can be dangerous, as they interfere with your pet’s ability to balance, increasing his risk of injury when his carrier is moved. Also, air travel requires increases in altitude, which can cause respiratory and cardiovascular problems in medicated dogs. Always talk to your vet before giving your dog any medication prior to air travel.

If you prepare carefully and everything goes as planned, you and your dog will fly the friendly sky’s with ease, realizing it was all worth it when arriving at your final vacation destination! Enjoy!




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