Dog travel by plane

First of all, you should only be using the plane if it is the only feasible option available. I say this, because it can be quite a pain to travel with your dog by plane. Depending on the size of your dog, you might be able to bring him as “a carry-on”. However, your dog’s journey in the cargo compartment of an aircraft can be very risky and can even have a fatal outcome. The airplane’s cargo compartment generally has no heating or air conditioning and can therefore reach extreme temperatures. Just as an example (yes I know, different airlines have different rules), here is the site for Delta airlines which explains their specific rules.
Always ask your vet on their recommendations before traveling. Here are my general tips on how to transport your dog by plane:

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• When you book your flight, always inform the airline that you will also be bringing your dog. Every company has different rules and procedures for transporting an animal. Sometimes there is maximum number of animals allowed or there is a weight limit. Always good to know the rules beforehand.
• DOCUMENTS! If you are going abroad, make sure to inquire (in advance of course) about which health documents are required and if your dog will need to be quarantined upon arrival. Many countries have required quarantines (some for up to six months).
• In addition to the anti-rabies vaccination, the certificate of origin, and documentation of other vaccinations, sometimes additional paperwork is needed and a more complex health certificate accompanying the animal is required (especially South Africa). So again, DOCUMENTS!
• Going along with the document theme, you might need to get a Pet Passport depending on where you go.
• The dog must be transported in a kennel that is strong enough to prevent crushing or escape. When not provided directly by the airline, these kennels are usually sold in pet stores. The kennel should be left available to the animal several days before the trip to allow it to gradually get used to the new object. Always make a few additional “air holes” in the kennel just in case the kennel is surrounded by bags, thus preventing the closure of the ventilation holes. NEVER put a leash inside the kennel because it could accidentally strangle the animal.
• Dogs that are pharmacologically sedated, although they have reduced motor control, can still maintain the ability to feel fear and anxiety. Tranquilizers also decrease the thermoregulatory capacity, a very important fact when considering the extreme temperatures that are reached in the cargo compartments. Therefore sedatives should be used only when prescribed from your vet and only if your dog will panic which could ultimately cause injury in an attempt to escape.
• Your dog should always wear a collar with tags including his name, vaccinations, and your contact information. If you are traveling, it will never hurt to bring a spare set of tags just in case.
• As this may be difficult, always travel on direct flights. This reduces the risk of trauma, accidents, and leaks when your dog is being transferred from one flight to another. If you have to make changes, ask the airline exactly how your dog will be moved and where he will be held. You may have to pick him up and re-check him in to the next destination.
• If you are flying on a very hot day try to book the flight in the early morning or in the late evening. Also, take into account the climate of the country you are going to. In winter it is obviously preferable to fly during the hottest hours of the day. The extremely low or high temperatures are extremely dangerous to dogs that may die from freezing, suffocation, or heat stroke, especially if it is replaced by a delay in the flight.
• Avoid crowded airports and days of intense air traffic, when delays are more frequent. Depending on the destination, pay attention to the strikes in progress or places that are frequently threatened.
• Check that the sticker placed on the kennel is really stuck on there, and has the correct destination and all of your contact information. Attach also all the useful information on feeding if needed or indicate if the animal is to be left on an empty stomach. Always write “LIVE ANIMAL” in big letters so it can be read easily from a distance. If the country you are going to does not speak English, then write it in the language as well. Draw arrows indicating the top of the kennel.
• If the flight is delayed, inform the crew that the animal is in the cargo compartment and they should inform the pilot.
• When you arrive at your destination, immediately remove your dog from the kennel and check to see if he shows any symptoms or is injured. Immediately consult a veterinarian to examine your dog if he is suffering or is injured.

General dog travel tips

Have your dog micro-chipped at the vet BEFORE you leave.
• Plan your trip well ahead of time. Meaning: book the hotel where will stay and read up on their rules for having pets. Best just to call and ask just to make sure.
• Bring your dog to the vet at least two weeks before your departure to make sure he is in good health before subjecting him to a stressful journey and to also check that he has all the required vaccinations and documents.
• Look up (or ask your vet for a possible referral) a veterinarian that is available at your end destination and write down their contact info just in case you have an emergency. (If you are moving, then obviously you will want to find a vet that will become your new go to vet at that location).
• Make sure that your dog wears AT ALL TIMES an ID tag with your cell phone number and the address of the place where you are going.
• Just in case, bring a small first aid kit for your dog.
• Bring a photo of your dog in the event that he gets lost. It can happen.
• Bring along familiar objects (games, bowls, kennel), so that he can at least have something familiar with him. We have all had a security blanket/toy when we were young! Your dog needs one too!
• Depending on the duration of the trip, either bring enough of his regular food/treats with you till you arrive at the end destination or ask your vet which brands are similar to his current brand of food. Unfortunately, the stress of moving could cause some digestive problems in dogs. Keeping his food brand and routine as normal as possible will help.
• If your dog has dietary restrictions or is on a diet, consult with your vet about how much food he should have if his exercise will be limited for a couple days.
• When you arrive at your destination, try to establish a routine as soon as possible. Meaning: try to keep the same hours for meals, walks etc. If your dog has a routine, he will feel more secure in his new environment.
• If you have to leave your dog alone for short periods at your new destination, try to gradually get him used to you being gone. You can read more about this in my separation anxiety post.
• Clean up after your dog at your rest stops or at the hotel! No one likes to do it but it is necessary!

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