Pet Flight Safety Tips when Flying with your Dog or Cat

When it comes time to going on vacation or relocating, sometimes it is necessary for your pet to fly. Although it is always better to drive, depending on your time frame and the distance, flying could be your only option. If that is the case, check out these tips and tricks below to keep your 4-legged friends safe in the skies!

Picking a flight

Before even booking a flight, do some research and determine which airline best fits your needs. Does it allow pets on board? How big? Which breeds? It is best to avoid checking your pet, but if it is a bigger breed of dog, that might be unavoidable. If that is the case, consider boarding your pet in a kennel or getting a doggy sitter instead of bringing them along. When you are booking your flight, you should also consider what route the plane will be taking. Do your best to avoid layovers or transfers, as this will only make your pet more stressed. The most direct route will be easiest for your pet’s health. It is also best to travel during fall and spring as the milder climate will agree better with your 4-legged friend.

Call Ahead

You bought a ticket, so you’re set, right? Think again. Many airlines restrict the number of pets allowed on board, so make sure to call the airline within 24 hours of booking your ticket to reserve a spot for your 4-legged friend. That way, if there isn’t room for Fido, you still have time to cancel your ticket without penalty.

Get a Checkup

A pet that is in poor health is more likely to fall ill or pass away during a flight. So, take your pet for a checkup within 10 days of your scheduled departure to get your vet’s stamp of approval. Also, if your pet is not already microchipped, this is a good time to do so. In the event of an emergency or mix-up, this will help you reunite with your furry friend.

Can my pet fly with me in the cabin?

Many small breeds can fly in the cabin with you as your “carry-on”. Check with the airline to see what size the carrier needs to be to determine if this is a good option for your pet. Remember, to be considered a carry-on your pet will need to fit in a carrier that is small enough to fit under the seat in front of you. Never put your pet in a carrier that is too small so that they can be your carry-on as this could stress out your pet and be harmful to their health. It’s a good idea to make sure your pet can stand up and turn around inside the carrier to ensure it is the right fit.

Animals that are too large to be considered carry-on sized cannot fly in the cabin unless they are a certified emotional support animal. If you are prescribed an emotional support animal (ESA) by a licensed medical professional, then you can bring your ESA on most flights.

Larger breeds must travel in a carrier in the cargo hold. So, consider the temperature, airline-specific regulations, and reputation of the airline when deciding to take your pet with you. Choose an airline that will transport your pet to and from the plane in a climate controlled van and prioritize their health and safety.

Dogs at risk

Certain breeds with “pushed in” noses, such as Shih Tzus, French Bulldogs, Pugs, or Persian cats are at a greater risk when flying. Because they are prone to breathing problems and have trouble self-regulating their temperatures, studies have shown they are at a greater risk for death than other dogs while flying. So, although, it is always better to have your dogs fly with you in the cabin, it is especially important for these breeds. If your dog is one of these “at risk” breeds and doesn’t fit in a carry-on sized carrier, it is best to leave them behind so they can remain healthy and safe.

The big day

The time has come for you and your pet to fly. In preparation for the trip, don’t feed your pet for four to six hours before departure. However, that doesn’t mean you should deprive them of water. Give them small amounts before and during the flight so they can remain hydrated. If your pet is in the cabin with you, ask your flight attendant for some ice cubes so that they can hydrate without the risk of spilling a water bowl. If you are on a longer flight, line the carrier with “wee wee” pads in the case of an accident. Also, if your pet is flying in the cargo hold, watch from the plane as they are boarded and deplaned to make sure all regulations are being followed. That way, if you see anything that seems out of the ordinary, or witness a pet being kept outside in extreme temperatures, rather than being immediately loaded into a climate controlled van, you can speak up and tell a flight attendant.

The 4Paws family wishes you and your furry friend a safe flight and hopes that with these tips you will both have a healthy trip. As pet parents ourselves, we know that your pet’s safety is always at the forefront of your mind. Let us protect your 4-legged friends with a 4Paws pet insurance policy, so that they can have many tail wagging years to come.