Want to Fly with a Pet? Here are Five Things to Keep in Mind

Follow airline protocols, have proper documents, consult your vet, keep essential medications, and prepare comfortable lodging for your pet well in advance.
Pet dog sitting on suitcase to fly in airplane

It is okay to fly with your pet, but you need to make sure that you do it the right way. Not only should you have all the required documents and follow the protocols, but you also need to consider your pet’s health and comfort and make necessary arrangements. Here are the things you need to keep in mind for making flying with a pet a lot easier. ~ Ed.

Want to Fly with a Pet? Here are Five Things to Keep in Mind

If you’re anything like most animal owners out there, your pet is your best friend, and you want to take them everywhere

Much to the pleasure of pet owners everywhere, there’s been a considerable uptick in recent years of pet allowances in public places. Even restaurants and stores often welcome well-trained animals nowadays. 

Still, there’s one big obstacle to complete pet accessibility: airplanes. 

The truth is that most airlines these days are pretty accommodating of pets, as long as you follow the proper protocol. Still, though, travel is anxiety-inducing enough without the added burden of having to figure out how to go through it all with your furry pal by your side.  

The airline is likely to have lots of requirements for the animals they let on board. Plus, you’ll have your pet’s health, safety, and comfort in mind. 

There’s a lot to consider when it comes to flying with pets. Read on for a comprehensive list of everything you’ll want to keep in mind and get done before taking your beloved pet for a plane ride 40,000 feet in the air.

5 Things to Keep in Mind When Flying with a Pet

Have you consulted the vet and taken the required medications and catered to creating comfortable lodging for your pet? Read more about these and more things to consider when flying with a pet.

Proper Documentation

Just like you need to show up at the airport with your boarding pass and ID, your pet will also require paperwork for boarding. 

While the extent of the paperwork depends on the airline and whether the flight is international or domestic, the typical list usually includes pet registration forms, up-to-date vaccination records, and a recent health clearance from a vet. 

If you have a service animal, in particular, you’ll want to make sure you complete all the paperwork with the service dog registry

You’ll also probably have to pay a pet fee as part of your ticket purchase. These usually go for somewhere between $50 to $150.  

Most airlines only allow a certain number of pets per flight. You should try to purchase your ticket over the phone so that you can make sure your pet’s spot is reserved. 

Federal Regulation and Airline Protocol

There might be other rules and requirements for the safety of both your pet and the other passengers on board. 

Federal regulations for traveling with a pet mainly have to do with animals flying into or out of the country. You can search for the origin or destination country for specifics on international pet travel.

Airlines also have their protocols separate from federal concerns. For instance, most airlines only allow animals of a specific size in the cabin. So if you think your dog or cat might exceed that limit, you’ll want to double-check to make sure they don’t have to go in the luggage hold (which means you’ll probably want to take extra precautions for their well-being). 

The age and health of your pet are also a big stipulation for airlines. For liability reasons, most don’t allow animals too young to be without their mothers or too old that the high altitude might negatively affect them. None allow animal remains from a deceased pet, cremation ashes included. 

Other than that, airline protocol typically involves the size of the carrier and the type of animal you are bringing. Only a handful of companies allow pet reptiles onboard, for instance. 

The requirements can be lengthy and varied, so it’s worth doing some internet sleuthing or getting on the phone with a travel agent to make sure you’ve checked all the boxes before showing up at the terminal. 

Medication

Some pet owners are lucky enough to have animals that love to travel and do so with no anxiety whatsoever. It is not the norm, though. 

Because of the altitude and air pressure changes of an airplane, on top of all the unfamiliar sounds and smells, flying tends to be a very stressful experience for most pets. So stressful, in fact, that you might want to consider medicating them on the day you’re traveling to avoid any unnecessary and unhealthy panic. 

Talk to your vet about what they recommend, depending on your animal’s size, age, and breed. There is a lot of information available on the web, but a professional opinion is best when it comes to your pet’s health while flying. 

No matter what type of medication you go with, though, you’ll want to test it out ahead of time to make sure no adverse reactions occur and that you’re using the correct dosage. If it turns out your pet has a medication allergy you didn’t know about, it’s much better to find out before you’re up in the air. 

Feeding Schedule

One of the main difficulties of flying with animals is that they are without their usual means of eating and relieving themselves for many hours at a time. If your pet has a pretty regular meal schedule, this could be pretty difficult for them. 

You don’t want them to go hungry for the whole day, but you (and everyone else onboard) also don’t want them to have a mid-flight accident. 

Talk to your vet about what your schedule should be for the day. Depending on how long your flight is, they’ll have suggestions about when to cut off their access to food and water. 

This is especially important for any lengthy international travel you might be doing with your pet. 

Just in case, you should bring some emergency treats and a portable water dish in case they get noticeably uncomfortable. 

Comfortable Lodging

Just as humans prefer window seats over being crammed in the middle with no leg room, your pet also has some in-flight comfort considerations. 

When it comes to picking out a carrier for your pet, try to go with one that is breathable yet sturdy. The more mesh siding, the cooler they’ll stay. But if the carrier has little structure and collapses too easily, they might still feel trapped and overheated. 

Once you pick out a carrier, keep it lying around your house in an area your pet frequents. If they start cozying up in it regularly, the day-of jitters will be much less for them. 

Before your flight, you can also stick a piece of your clothing or a favorite toy there with your pet. The familiar scents will help keep them calm in the unknown environment. 

Conclusion

No matter how much planning you do, flying with your cat or dog is sure to be an adventure. 

Doing whatever you can to prepare before the big day can help ensure it’s not a negative one, though. Your pet’s health and comfort depend on the extent of preparation you take before the flight, so do your research and show up to the terminal, having taken all the correct, precautionary steps.

Over to you

Have you ever flown with a pet? Share your tips and experiences in the comments section.

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