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Tips for flying with pets

6 Tips for Flying with Pets

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As the wife of a veterinarian, I have witnessed many of my husband’s clients ask him for advice about flying with cats and dogs in carry-on pet carriers. Here are the most common bits of advice that I hear him sharing with small animal owners about flying with pets:

Select the right pet carrier for your pet and airline

Most airlines will now let you carry on a dog or cat if it fits comfortably into a carry-on pet carrier that will fit under the seat in front of you. However, there may be restrictions that vary by airline, so be sure to check with each specific airline in advance to find out exactly what they require. More flexible crates seem to work best for carry-on, and you will also want to make sure that the carrier provides adequate ventilation and padding for your pet. To find out specific requirements for the airline on which you will be flying, check out the FAQ page on their websites or call their customer service number.

Include identification

Make sure that both your pet and the pet carrier are marked with proper identification and contact information in the event that you are separated. Include your mobile phone number in the contact information provided so that you can be reached quickly in case of an emergency. It is also a good idea to make sure that the identification matches up with the name on your airline ticket in the event that they use airline records when they try to locate you. Having a microchip implanted in your pet is always smart, whether you are traveling or at home, because this is a sure way to identify your pet if necessary.

Visit your veterinarian for a pre-flight checkup

A quick trip to the veterinarian for a checkup before your trip isn’t a bad idea. Tell your vet about your upcoming travel plans and any concerns that you might have. Your vet will make sure that your pet is up-to-date on all vaccines and preventatives, as well as offer advice in the event that you might have travel related questions. For example, if you have a highly anxious pet, your veterinarian might suggest a sedative.

Research your destination

Some diseases (like heart worm) and infestations (like fleas) might be of higher incidence where you are going than where you came from. A visit with your veterinarian can determine if your concerns are valid and if additional medication or prevention would be recommended.

Pack the necessities

As we all know, travel plans are never certain, and this way your pet will have the necessities should you find yourself and your pet delayed or if your checked baggage gets lost. When flying with pets, packing extra food that is easily accessible is always a good idea in the event that you end up separated from your bags with a long delay.

Because you won’t be able to bring water past security, bring an empty container that you can fill once your are at your gate and an empty bowl for serving the water. There are many collapsible water dishes on the market that will fit easily into your carry-on baggage and will come in very handy when you have the opportunity to refresh your pet with water.

Keep stress to a minimum

Most importantly, keep a close eye on your pet to watch for signs of discomfort or stress. A change in routine can sometimes be hard for small animals, so make it a habit to check on your pet in regular intervals. You may even want to provide your pet with a favorite toy or blanket from home to make them feel more at ease. Just hearing the sound of your voice and knowing that you are nearby can greatly reduce the stress level of being cooped up in a small space. Most airports have areas for pets to get out, stretch, and relieve themselves, and your pet will appreciate these moments to assure them that this journey is all part of a fun adventure that you are taking together.

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Flying Dog photo by Julita B.C. / CC BY-SA 2.0. Added thought bubble with airplane and text overlay.

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Keri Lyn is an Idaho girl, born and raised. She shares her country home with her husband Brady, a veterinarian, and their two children–a son (10) and a…

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