6 Tips for Flying with Animals

Jupiterimages / Goodshoot / thinkstock.com

Jupiterimages / Goodshoot / thinkstock.com

Flying with animals can be a major undertaking, from the earliest stages of preparation to the actual flight itself. Luckily, with a little bit of planning and some smart pre-departure research, chances are good that Fido or Fluffy’s voyage will be a great one.  Here are some tips to help make the journey as safe and as stress-free as possible.

Is Your Friend Fit to Fly?
Before you do anything else, you need to stop and think about whether or not your pet is going to be able to handle this adventure or if you should be looking into doggy daycare while you’re away. If you have a social, laid-back animal, chances are you’ll be absolutely fine. If your four-legged friend is anxious, bad with crowds, and isn’t keen on new people, you could be in for a world of hurt. In some cases (such as moving), you don’t have a choice and you have to bring your pet, regardless of his disposition. If you’re concerned about how he’s going to handle it, try talking to your vet to see if there’s anything they can recommend to make the journey smoother for all parties involved.

Get a Health Clearance
Something important to consider is your animal’s health. Flying can be traumatic, even for the most easygoing creature, and you want to be confident that your little buddy is going to be able to handle his trip. Prior to departure, check that the destination you’re headed to doesn’t require any special vaccines or certificates from your vet. If they do, you need plenty of time for appointments and document processing so be sure to plan accordingly. You are definitely going to need a health certificate so at the very least, book an appointment for that. Other things to consider include whether or not your animal will be okay not going to the bathroom for the duration of your trip, how he or she handles being separated from you, and if temperature fluctuations (including the possibility of relatively extreme heat) are something that can be managed. Your pet’s health and safety are so important, you want to be confident that you’ve covered all your bases.

Know Airline Policies
As a general rule, you’re going to want to check with the airline that you’re flying to see what their policies are concerning flying with pets. Some are stricter than others and you want to be absolutely sure you know what to expect before showing up at the airport. Most airlines offer comprehensive guidelines pertaining to pet travel on their websites but if you still aren’t sure, don’t hesitate to call them directly. In this case, it is definitely better to be safe than sorry. Some questions to ask are which documents are required, if there are any date restrictions on pet travel, whether or not you need to include feeding instructions, and if there are any breed restrictions that you should know about.

Research Crates
As cute as it is to imagine a bunch of cats and dogs running wild in an airplane, that’s not quite how it works. In order for any animal to fly, they need to be contained in an airline approved traveling container. If your pet is too large to be considered carry-on, he or she is going to be flown as cargo which means that they need to be in a sturdy crate that can withstand whatever is thrown at it. When purchasing a travel container, ask the airline and your vet for recommendations and then head to the store with measuring tape in hand. You want to be positive that the crate is big enough for your animal to be comfortable and that it’s strong and unlikely to be damaged. Before checking in, clearly label the crate with your pet’s name as well as your contact information.

Pack for Your Pet
Now that you’ve dealt with all of the major things, you need to consider the details. One thing to think about is what you want to include as your pet’s carry on. Double check with the airline to see if they have any rules regarding what can be included in the kennel and then think about what will make your animal feel comfortable and secure. Maybe a favourite blanket or stuffed toy that smells like home will help make the adventure a little less frightening. Check your pet’s collar to ensure that there is nothing on it that could potentially get caught on anything and confirm that all tags are securely attached and up to date. Think about what you’ll need for your pal once you’ve arrived at your destination and pack accordingly. Depending on where you’re going, you may need to bring food, dishes, medication, and other necessities.

Arrive Early
You’ve prepared to the best of your ability and now the big day is here. In order to save yourself any unnecessary misery, plan on arriving extra early in order to allow plenty of time to get everyone situated. Find out beforehand whether or not you should feed your pet and how much water they should drink before take off. Be prepared to provide the airline with information regarding the time of your pet’s last meal, typically this is something they need to document prior to departure. If you’re traveling with a dog, take some time to allow her to stretch her legs and take care of any bathroom business before being crated.

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