by Susan Paretts
Traveling alone is fun, but vacations can be even better when you bring along your four-legged companion. More people than ever are bringing their furry family members along on trips, including when they travel by air. But there are rules you must follow when heading off into the wild blue yonder with your canine or feline companion.
Not all airlines even allow pets, so you’ll need to do your research before booking your flight. Read on to discover what steps you should take before, during and after your flight to ensure everyone gets to their destination calmly and safely.
Preparing for Your Flight with Your Pet
Before booking your flight, check your airline’s pet policies on their website or call the customer service line to ask about them. Remember, the best airline for pets is one that allows your pets in the cabin, not just in cargo.
Generally, your pet can only fly in the cabin with you if the carrier for your pooch or kitty fits under the seat in front of you. The airline that you are flying with can tell you the largest dimensions allowed for an in-cabin carrier. You’ll also need an airline-approved container that is properly ventilated and allows your pooch or kitty to sit, stand and lay down comfortably.
When flying with a large dog, you’ll likely need to put them in the cargo hold for your flight. Most airlines require that you include a bag of food taped to your dog’s carrier, along with feeding instructions for a 24-hour period that airline personnel can use if needed. Note that brachycephalic breeds of dogs and cats (think those with super-cute smushed faces) aren’t allowed to fly in the cargo hold of an airplane on most airlines because of the breathing issues that could arise during a flight.
Most airlines require a vet-signed health certificate dated within 10 days of your flight, so plan on making a trip to your veterinarian. You’ll also want to get your pet used to his carrier several weeks before your flight. Place a few treats in there each day and let your pet sit in it to reassure them that it’s a safe space.
Flying with a Cat or Dog
When you are flying with a cat or dog, feed them and offer them water within four hours of your check-in. For dogs, you should give them a walk and potty break around the same time so that they won’t have any accidents during the flight. You’ll also want to pack all your pet’s essentials in your carry-on luggage so you can easily access them, including food, treats, a leash, potty pads, veterinary records and a few dishes.
Make sure that your dog or cat has a collar on with a tag containing all of your contact information in case he gets out of his cage. In terms of his carrier, ensure that you have properly labeled the outside with a “live animal” sticker and a note containing your full contact information like your name, phone number and address. And, when you board the flight, let the flight attendants and pilot know that your pet is on board.
Because pets can get spooked by flying, whether in the cabin or in the cargo hold, you might want to give them an herbal calming aid prior to check-in. Dog and cat calming products containing CBD oil made from hemp may help keep your pet calm and relaxed during the flight.
Dealing with Pets After Your Flight
Once your flight is over, give your pup a potty break so it has a chance to stretch its legs and relieve itself. You can also clean out the carrier if there were any accidents during the flight. Once you’ve made sure your furry friend is okay, you can head off to your destination. But, should you notice anything amiss, you might want to stop by a veterinarian just to be safe.
Of course, prior to heading off to your accommodations, you’ll also want to check to make sure that your furry friend will be allowed to stay with you.
Plan Trips with Pets Carefully
Traveling with pets is fun, but it can be stressful if you’re not fully prepared. Remember to leave plenty of time to plan your trip, as many airlines only allow a limited number of pets on board, especially within the cabin. And don’t be afraid to ask lots of questions when booking your flight and at check-in to ensure that your canine or feline companion will be comfortable during your trip.
Finally, pack some dog or cat calming chews for your pet. Heelr offers several options that you can bring along with you on trips to help your furry friend cope with any stress they may feel during all the hustle and bustle of travel.
Susan Paretts is a pet expert and author whose work has been published in a variety of pet-related publications, including the American Kennel Club, Cuteness, World of Wag, The Noseprint, The Nest Pets, The Daily Puppy, Mom.com and GoFetch. She is a graduate of the University of Southern California, with an MFA in writing, and lives with her husband and her adorable furry family members.