As a dog lover, it was hard not to feel heartbroken once the news came out about the 10-month old bulldog puppy who passed away following the owner was forced to put the puppy in the overhead compartment by United flight attendants. That wasn’t the only deadly incident for pets in the air–24 pets expired on airplanes. The question: Is it safe to travel with your beloved dog on a plane is reignited by these episodes?
Is it safe to take dogs?
There are several opinions on the subject. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) discourages air travel with large dogs that would need to go in cargo, even if it’s on a pet-friendly airline. “Unless your furry friend is small enough to ride under your seat, it’s ideal to avoid air travel with your pets,” they counsel.
Nicole Ellis, a Licensed Professional Dog Trainer in Los Angeles who travels frequently with her puppies that are smaller in-cabin, agrees. “I certainly don’t recommend it to my customers and I would not ever put my dog underneath in cargo,” she said.
He can only travel in cargo and if you have to bring your dog, the ASPCA recommends that you book a flight, get a checkup with the vet and tell them of your plans to travel. Sedation is not recommended by them for a pet, as it may affect their breathing.
“We do not sedate pets when they’re going in cargo, because there’s nobody to observe them,” agreed Dr. Patrick Mahaney, a Los Angeles vet and Certified Veterinary Acupuncturist. This is especially important for short-nosed (brachycephalic) dogs. “They’re at much higher risk for exhaust [and] heat-related problems, since they can not ventilate as well due to their squish nose and otherwise altered respiratory tract. It’s a far higher likely set of death and illness,” he said.
However, Dr. Mahaney did consider sedatives an option for especially anxious pets that are in-cabin. “Sedatives are something I urge people speak to their veterinarians [about] to figure out what’s likely to be the most appropriate for their pet.” He also urges the sedatives are tested by owners so that they know how their pet affect and if the dose is accurate.
The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) doesn’t outright discourage cargo compartment traveling, but does replicate the ASPCA’s suggestions on labeling the crate, and they also discourage tranquilization.
Considerations before dog airline travel
Is your pet healthy enough for travel?
Senior pets, or pets with cardiac or endocrine issues, can be at higher risk during plane travel. “Be concerned about those animals that have diseases that could compromise their security while they fly,” Dr. Mahaney said. Talk to your vet about any concerns they or you have to fly.
Does your pet have the right temperament to fly?
That doesn’t mean that flying is a fantastic choice, even if your pet is physically well. Air travel can be stressful for pets, and making sure they have a character that works well with change is vital. “On an airline, we have lots of weird sounds. The elevation changes, the pressure changes, their ears pop and it is loud, and their ears are a lot more sensitive than ours,” Ellis described. “Something to consider: is your pet relaxed in new environments?”
“We need a dog that’s generally pleasant and calm,” Dr. Mahaney said. “A calm, pleasant dog that does well in closed environments with other people and possibly other puppies.”
Can your pet have a good time where you are headed?
“Are you bringing your pet somewhere that’s going to have a great deal of pet-friendly things your pet can enjoy? Because if not, the stress of traveling is probably not worthwhile for them,” Ellis suggested. “If you are going to be on a boat and sightseeing museums, those aren’t really pet-friendly things and your pet may enjoy being home with a pet sitter rather than partaking in those.”
Services such as Rover’s pet and home sitting options would let your pet stay in the comfort of their own home with a new friend to play while you are out jet-setting, so both of you can have a fantastic time. Or, if there are times where your pet will not be welcome on your journeys, Rover probably operates in your destination city. There, you can have a sitter you trust to watch your dog as you go on a trip.
Tips for taking a dog on a plane
If you’ve determined flying with your pet is the ideal option, here are a few tips our experts recommended for traveling.
1. Check your airline’s rules and regulations
Airlines have different rules in regards to breeds they allow on flights, how much advance notice they require, what size of pet carrier you’ll need, etc.. Be sure you’ve read up on your airline’s pet needs well in advance of your journey.
2. Prepare the Ideal crate
Generally, in-cabin crates should be soft-sided and fit under the airplane seat in front of you. Ellis recommends Sleepy Pods carriers for small in-cabin pets.
For freight crates, the ASPCA says that crates should be big enough for the pet to sit, stand and turn around in. The door ought to be closed but not secured. Labeling is crucial. Mark the crate with a large, bold”Live Animal” warning on the outside with a photo of your pet. You will want to line the floor with towels to absorb any accidents, and tape a small amount of food to the exterior of the carrier so airline employees can feed your pet if needed. You may also consider freezing a small tray of water, which should stay frozen when loading your pet but may melt by the time they’re thirsty.
Consider writing your name, cell phone number and destination phone number on the crate, if it is lost by the airline. They also recommend alerting every airline employee you see, both at the airport and when you’re in the air, that you have a pet in cargo, and requesting wellness checks when you have concerns.
Check out our 8 dog travel crates.
3. Get your pet comfortable with their carrier
Do not expect your pet to instantly love their carrier. Provide ample time prior to the trip to introduce it to them and make it a place they enjoy. “Lure them and give them plenty of toys and treats and pets and positive things while they’re in that carrier and you are home,” Ellis suggested. “You can practice walking around the block with your carrier, taking it out to breakfast with you and sitting on the terrace, and just making it this pleasant, comfortable and secure area for your animal.”
4. Exhaust your pet two days ahead of time
Try lengthening your walks or runs together in the days leading up to your trip. “Try to increase the level of activity for 48 hours beforehand, so that when your pet has to be in cottage or in freight they’ll be more prone to not being stressed out, rather than sleeping or resting,” Dr. Mahaney advised.
5. Restrict food in advance of the flight and go for a long walk the morning of
For 12–24 hours before your flight, give your pet access to food. “Then your pet will be less inclined to poop,” Dr. Mahaney advises. Additionally, take your pet for a long walk before your flight so they have plenty of opportunities to relieve themselves.
6. Bring vaccination records and microchip numbers
Requirement for this paperwork may come up in the airport or in hotels, so having it handy is important. “I like to take a picture with my phone so that if I’m at a hotel or something I can usually pull it up,” Ellis suggested.
7. Get a map of your departure and arrival gates
U.S. airports are required by law to possess pet-relief areas available so that working animals like K9 units or support creatures have a place to rest, and your pet is welcome to use them, also. “If you look online for a map of your terminal you usually can find it, so in case you know the terminal you’re taking off from and landing in, look it up,” Ellis recommended.
Most of all, says Ellis,”You are your pet’s biggest advocate–if someone asks you to leave your pet or do something that you are not comfortable with, say no.”