Top Five Tips for Flying with Your Pets

November 28, 2018

a chihuahua in a bag

Nowadays, more than ever, pet parents are choosing to travel with their pets rather than leaving them at home with a pet-sitter or boarding them. Just like traveling in your car, flying with your pet comes with a number of precautions and considerations you should keep in mind. If flying with your pet is something you may be considering, the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (APCC) has a few handy tips to help ensure that you and your pet to have a safe and happy trip.  

1. Be Prepared; Planning Is Key.

a kitten

There are a lot of things you’ll want to know and consider before flying with your pet. Here are some questions that may come up:

  • Can my pet travel on my selected airline?
  • Can I bring my pet as a carry-on, or do they need to travel in the cargo hold? 
  • How much does it cost to fly with my pet?
  • What do I need to bring to make my pet comfortable and happy during our travels? 

You should make a list of all of your questions and be sure to do research and investigate with the airline before planning your trip. Make sure no potential question is left unanswered or unknown. 

Ask the airline about any specific regulations and restrictions they may have involving pet travel and what you should be aware of. Factors that may be considered can include:

  • Size of your pet
  • Breed 
  • Health of your pet 
  • Climate in the locations you are flying to and from
  • Duration of the flight and length of travel 

Once you have confirmed that your pet meets any travel guidelines and you have purchased your tickets, you will need to contact the airline to confirm your pet’s reservation and receive any additional instructions.  

2. Check In with Your Vet             

a dog being examined

In many cases, in order to fly, your pet will need a health certificate and possibly veterinary records. Often times, these documents are required to be dated within a certain time period before your trip. If you are flying outside of the United States, you might need more than just the health certificate—vaccinations, microchips and relevant lab tests are some things that also may be needed, potentially months prior to flying. All of these requirements depend on the country of travel. 

If you are traveling internationally with your pets, you should check government websites for your international destinations as well as the USDA website to help you prepare for how much time and additional documentation may be needed. 

3. Safe Sedation

a sleeping cat

Generally, sedating your pet for travel is not advised due to the potential risk for respiratory or cardiovascular problems with altitude changes. Sometimes, sedation may seem like a good option to calm your pet, but you want to ensure that you are being as careful as possible when dosing them. If you do choose to sedate your pet, its best to try a trial-run at home, before your trip, at a time when your veterinarian is available. This will help determine how your pet reacts to their prescribed sedatives.  

Airlines may also ask you for information regarding what and how much medication your pet was given before allowing them to fly. Always check with your veterinarian before making the decision to sedate your pet.    

4. Packing

a kitten with suitcases

When traveling with your pet, there are a few key things you will need to bring. It will be important to bring:

  • A leash 
  • A collar 
  • Identification (tag, microchip and picture) 
  • Food and food dishes 
  • Sufficient amount of any prescription medications 
  • A copy of your pet’s medical records 
  • Contact information for your veterinarian 
  • Contact information for a veterinarian in the area you’re traveling to 
  • APCC’s contact information: (888) 426-4435

You may also want to consider bringing a toy, blanket or something comforting for your pet during travel.

5. Arrival

a woman sitting with a dog on a couch

Before you travel, you’ll want to ensure that your pet will be welcome and has a place to stay once you arrive at your new location. Checking with friends or family you may be staying with or finding a pet-friendly hotel should definitely be on your to-do list before leaving.  

Once you’ve arrived at your destination, but before bringing your pet inside, take a good look around for things your pet could get into that could be problematic. Things like dropped medications and mouse or rat bait are common problems when pets come into a new location. Be sure to pet-proof any new space and make sure that your pet feels comfortable in your new location.  

You may also want to consider downloading the APCC Mobile App for important pet safety information in the palm of your hand.