Thinking about air travel with your dog?

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With the holidays coming up many of us are planning on taking our dogs with us to visit friends and relatives. Air travel may be a concern.

By Laura Pakis, Certified Professional Dog Trainer and Blogger

In accordance with the Safe Air Transport for Animals Act passed in June, commercial airlines in the United States are now required to report all incidents of family owned pets that are injured, lost, or killed while flying in the cargo hold of domestic flights. This information is available to the public at the Department of Transportation’s Air Travel Consumer Report site.

Teach your dog to use a crate as soon as possible

If your dog is not crate trained, you should begin crate training as early as possible to ensure that your pet is comfortable in the kennel. Trying to escape and actually escaping from the kennel during the flight is the most common cause of injury for pets that fly. Some dogs may take up to 6 months to become comfortable in a kennel, and some may never completely accept the kennel. If your dog does not become comfortable with the crate before the flight, you may want to reconsider flying your pet.

Contact the airline well in advance for specific regulations and to secure your pet’s reservation.

Federal regulations require that dogs be at least 8 weeks old and weaned at least 5 days before flying. Generally, a health certificate (which is not more than 10 days old) must be available before pets will be permitted to fly. A valid rabies vaccination certificate will also be required.  Make sure you have all required paperwork and documentation in order, your dog’s tags are current and that you have current contact information on file with your vet or microchip vendor.

You will want to inform the airlines as early as possible as some limit the number of pets on a flight.  Try to book a nonstop, midweek flight and avoid plane changes if possible.  If warm temperatures are a concern, book an early morning, evening, or overnight flight when the temperatures are cooler. If cold weather is an issue, book your flight for the middle of the day.  This will help reduce the stress on your dog.

Ask your veterinarian for specific feeding instructions. For your dog’s comfort, air travel on an almost empty stomach is usually recommended. The age and size of your dog, time and distance of the flight, and your dog’s regular dietary routine will be considered when feeding recommendations are made.

Call the airline a few days before your scheduled departure to make sure you have everything in order

Call the airline a few days before your scheduled departure to make sure you have everything in order and there are no scheduling or other changes that may adversely affect your pet’s travel.

Take a picture of your dog. Tape one copy to the kennel, and keep one with you should your pet become lost.

Most airlines and veterinarians don’t recommend tranquilizers for pets when they fly. Tranquilizers can adversely affect your dog’s breathing and ability to regulate body temperature. Be sure to discuss tranquilizers with your vet before deciding to go this route.   In addition, honestly evaluate how you think your dog will react to the experience. If you feel that your dog might injure itself by attempting to escape from the kennel during shipment, you should look for other options in transporting your pet. Not every pet is a good candidate for air travel. You know your dog and are in the best position to make this decision.

Arrive at the airport early

Arrive at the airport early, exercise your dog, personally place it in its crate, and pick up the animal promptly upon arrival. To avoid added stress, do not take leashed animals on escalators.

With a little preparation and time you can minimize the chances of an unpleasant experience and all have a happy holiday season.

 

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