The Expert’s Guide to Flying with Your Pets
September 21, 2017
Now more than ever before, our pets are an important part of our families. Because of this love affair with our ‘fur babies,’ fewer people are willing to leave their pets behind when they travel. As a result, we are seeing many of you pet owners flying with your pets.
As accredited veterinarians with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), AirHeart veterinarians are trained in writing domestic and international health certificates and are well-versed in the individual country and state requirements for pet travel/importation. Below, AirHeart Pet Hospital
has a summary of important points to keep in mind when flying with your pets.
Start planning early
If you have decided to take your pet with you on your next vacation, or if you are relocating to a new state or country, the first and best piece of advice we can give you is to start planning early. Contact your veterinarian and your selected airline to determine what it is you need to do for your pet to fly with you. Never leave anything until the last minute, or you may end up having to leave your furry friend behind temporarily.
Do your research
We recommend that all pet owners who are traveling with their animals do their research, because different countries have different rules and regulations about bringing pets through their borders. The UDSA has an easy-to-use pet travel website
with all the information regarding specific countries, states, and animals.
The veterinarians at AirHeart Pet Hospital always refer to this site for up-to-date information. We prepare pets to travel all over the world every day and are happy to help you with any questions or concerns you may have.
Make an appointment
Anytime you are traveling with a pet on an airplane, whether it is international or domestic travel, you will be required to produce a health certificate that is issued by a USDA-accredited veterinarian. Please note that not every veterinarian is accredited. Becoming a USDA-accredited veterinarian requires specific training, so be sure to ask your veterinarian if he or she can issue a health certificate for your pet.
Make an appointment as soon as possible with your accredited veterinarian and with the USDA. Most international destinations require that the USDA APHIS Veterinary Services office endorse the veterinary health certificate issued by your veterinarian. However, they have strict guidelines as to when you can book appointments, and you may be turned away.
Ensure you have the right crate
Airlines have strict regulations on the types of carriers that are allowed for pet travel. The regulations include the material they are constructed from, the size, weight, and even how much ventilation it has. Make sure your crate meets the standard with your airline’s regulations. If you book your pet’s travel through a pet travel company, they may supply the appropriate crate for you.
Make sure your pet fits
It’s important to measure your pet and make sure your dog can fit comfortably in their crate. A crate that is too big may result in your pet being tossed around during any turbulence, and a crate that is too small can leave your pet feeling cramped and uncomfortable, especially on a long journey. Crates that are too small may also hinder your pet’s ability to reach the water bottle and pets may get scratches or scrapes from constantly being in contact with the edges of the crate.
Most airlines provide information online with the size of crate recommended for your pet based on measurements (including height, weight, and width) and suggestions on how to accurately measure your pet. Your pet may not be allowed onto your flight if the crate size is inappropriate.
Don’t overpack your pet’s suitcase
Check with your airline about what is and isn’t allowed inside a crate, particularly if your pet is not flying with you in the cabin. While you may want to give your pet it’s favorite blanket or toy inside the crate for comfort, these items can pose a risk during transit. Pets may choke, become tangled in, or accidentally ingest these objects, resulting in injuries or even fatalities. The fewer items in the crate the better. You may wish to pack your pet a separate bag if they are flying in the cabin with you to ensure you have everything needed during the flight.
Items we do recommend you pack in dog’s onboard bag:
- Collapsible water bowl
- Empty water bottle that can be refilled on the other side of security
- Extra dry kibble & treats
- Prescription medications (such as cardiac medications) that are needed during the duration of the flight
- Small blanket
- Absorbable pads for any accidents and/or if there is not a pet exercise area in the airport(s) you are traveling in.
- Extra poop bags
For pets not traveling in the cabin with you, we recommend taping an extra water bottle to the crate, as well as additional kibble in a zip lock storage bag. Unfortunately, there is no guarantee that your pets will be fed in transit if they are traveling in the cargo hold.
Following the above guidelines will help your pet to feel more at ease during travel, which can be a stressful time for everyone involved.
If you feel that your pet needs a calming influence while traveling, you may want to consider pheromones. Pheromones are chemical substances produced and released into the environment by an animal when they feel safe and secure. Pheromone products mimic the natural substances with the idea that they will help a pet feel comfortable in stressful situations, such as flying.
Prepare your pet for the journey
If your pet will be flying in cargo rather than onboard with you, be sure to get your pet acclimated and comfortable in a crate. For pets that are crate trained, this will be easy. For pets that are not, a crate needs to be a safe space. We recommend starting this process as soon as possible and for as long as possible before travel. Here are some basic guidelines to help with the gradual introduction of the crate:
- Introduce your pet to the idea of the crate slowly. Place the crate in a central area in your house where your pet can see, approach, and smell the crate at a leisurely pace. Get your pet used to the crate as if it was a new piece of furniture. Don’t make a fuss over it or force your pet into it as this can cause your pet to fear the crate.
- Feed your pet near the crate and slowly move the food bowl until it is at the entrance of the crate. The goal is to move the food dish inside the crate eventually to develop positive reinforcement and teach your pet that the crate is a safe place.
- Place one of your pets’ favorite blankets/beds within the crate and leave the door open. When your pet is ready, he or she can enter the crate and curl up for a nap. Allowing your pet to comfortably enter the crate associates the crate with a positive, safe environment.
Does your pet need daily medications?
If your pet takes prescription medications, make sure you have arranged to have enough medication for your journey before your trip. Vets who are not familiar with your pet may not refill a prescription from another veterinarian for both state and federal reasons, and the veterinarian at the other end of your trip may require a complete exam before doing so. Call your pet’s primary veterinarian well before your travel dates for medications, especially if blood tests to monitor medication levels are required before being given additional refills.
Give yourself plenty of time
We cannot stress enough the importance of extra time when flying with your pet. Be sure to get to the scheduled drop-off point for your pet several hours before your flight is scheduled. Many airlines require pets to be checked in up to 4 hours before their flights. Be sure to ask your airline for specific timing requirements.
You never know when an unforeseen issue may occur that needs to be resolved at the last minute. The gift of extra time may mean the difference between you and your pet making or missing your flight.
If you realize that you need to get a travel certificate or any vaccinations for your pet before you travel with him or her and you live in Jamaica, New York, call AirHeart Pet Hospital at 718-917-8059 to make an appointment.