10 Air Travel Tips for Dogs

Most professionals advise against flight travel for your dog, but sometimes it can’t be avoided. Find out what you need to know.

Dog running through grass
Your veterinarian can tell you if your dog is healthy enough to travel by airplane. By: CJ Anderson

How I travel depends on whether my dog is coming along. When I fly alone, obviously, there are no special considerations to worry about, but when the dog comes, prep work is a must.

Here are some things I do that make air travel with my dog a lot easier:

1. Call the Airline

This first step is crucial. Ask questions such as:

  • Where will your dog be on the plane, and is that area pressurized and climate controlled?
  • Are there height and weight limits for a dog to fly inside the cabin?
  • Are any breeds restricted or forbidden?
  • What are the fees? Does the dog need his own reservation or ticket if he’s flying inside the cabin?
  • Does the airline require paperwork?
  • Will travel insurance cover your dog?
  • What is the airline’s emergency procedure regarding pets?

2. Keep It Short

Try to avoid layovers whenever possible and look for short, direct flights in moderate weather. If your flight is delayed, ask an employee to check on your pet. For extended delays, you may be able to retrieve your dog until the new departure time is confirmed.

3. Visit the Vet

Have your dog’s health checked before any travel. Discuss sedation with your veterinarian and microchipping (if it’s not done already).

And here’s something exciting to know: You can get reimbursed for the cost of microchipping under Embrace Pet Insurance’s Wellness Rewards. Curious about the cost of pet health insurance? It’s more affordable than you probably think. Get your FREE, no-hassle quote here (affiliate link).

4. Check Your Dog’s Vaccination Records

Make sure vaccinations are current and get a copy of any records you may need once your vet confirms your dog is safe to travel. Keep 3 copies for travel: 1 each for you, the crate and the airline personnel.

5. Know Where You’re Going

Ask about check-in and pickup procedures and where the areas are located. Most airline websites show the layout of the facility and the individual airlines. If you don’t know where to drop off or pick up your pet, ask the airline and arrive early.

6. Check the Crate

Make sure your dog crate is clean, safe, secure and large enough for your dog to stand up in and turn around. Close the crate door to secure it, but do not lock — airline personnel may need to open the door in the event of an emergency.

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Include a favorite toy or item of yours so the dog will have familiar smells and feel safe. Line the bottom of the crate with puppy pads for accidents and cover them with a blanket or old shirt. Include an extra leash and snacks, and attach food dishes and water bottles if possible.

If you are traveling during or through extreme heat or humidity, freeze a container that is 2/3 full of water and place it in the crate before boarding.

7. Examine Your Dog

Check for injuries, trim the nails and take a current photograph of your pet. Print at least three copies of the photograph in color to take with you (one for you, one for the crate and one for the airline).

8. Hydrate and Take Potty Breaks

Keep your pet well hydrated before flying and make extra time to take a potty break before entering the airport.

Watch this dog get a kick out of flying in a plane:

9. Make Time for Exercise

Your dog may be stressed and anxious on the day of departure — he’ll appreciate extra time for walks or play to blow off some steam.

10. Triple Everything

Remember — keep 3 copies of every document: vaccinations, photos of your pet, your itinerary and any tags or identifying documentation. Keep one with you, place another set in a waterproof bag secured to the crate and give yet another set to the airline personnel.

If you can make another copy of your documents and the dog’s photograph, give one to the airline crew when you board so they know you are traveling with an animal. This way, if your dog is lost or is in an emergency, you’ll have all the necessary information. The ASPCA also recommends writing “Live Animal” and an arrow to indicate which way the crate should be placed (right side up).

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Don’t leave these preparations for the last minute. Your vet might be on vacation, your crate might not be the right size or the airline might not accept your pet on the flight you plan to book.

If you need to transport your pet but don’t need to be present on the flight, Animal Airways is an animal-only flight carrier designed for your best friend. Preparing early can help you avoid headaches later.

Additional Resources

Kristine Lacoste

View posts by Kristine Lacoste
Kristine Lacoste, editor in chief of Petful, is an author, poet and pet lover from Louisiana. She is the author of the book One Unforgettable Journey, which was nominated for a Maxwell Award from the Dog Writers Association of America, and was host of a weekly pet news segment on the National K-9 Academy Radio Show. In addition, she was the New Orleans coordinator for Dogs on Deployment, a nonprofit that helps military members and their pets, for 3 years. Kristine has been researching and writing about pet behaviors and care for many years, with her articles appearing in various publications. She is the CEO of a large mental health practice in Louisiana and holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology, a bachelor’s degree in English and a Master of Business Administration degree.

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