Airline Travel with Your Pet

You should consider several factors before traveling by plane with your pet.

It is impossible to overemphasize the need to consult with the airline well in advance of your trip. This is essential if you hope to avoid last minute problems. Here are some basic tips for airline travel with your pet:

  1. Determine whether the airline has requirements for “acclimation.” In the event that you are unable to secure a direct flight, the pet carrier may be left outside the plane for a period of time. To avoid liability on their part, many airlines require a letter from your veterinarian stating that the pet is acclimated to a minimum or maximum temperature for a defined period of time.
  2. Consult with the airline regarding baggage liability. In some cases, this can include your pet. If you are sending an economically valuable pet, you may need to consider additional liability insurance.
  3. Have your pet examined by your veterinarian in advance of the trip, especially if it has been more than a few months since the last checkup. This is especially important for geriatric pets. Travel by plane can pose a risk for pets with pre-existing medical problems, such as heart or kidney disease. Also, some short-faced breeds of dogs (Bulldogs, Pekingese) do not travel well in some situations.
  4. Be sure that you have written proof of current vaccinations and, where required, a health certificate. These cannot be obtained “after the fact.” You must be able to present them on demand.
  5. You should also inquire about possible requirements to quarantine your pet should you be traveling outside the continental United States or to a foreign country.
  6. Take direct flights and try to avoid connections and layovers. Sometimes, this is easier to achieve if the trip is planned during the week. The well being of your pet could be a source of concern if the baggage connection between flights should be missed.
  7. Some airlines will allow one pet in coach and one in first class, with some provisions. To find out whether there are limitations on the number of animals present in the cabin, you should advise the airline if you plan to travel with your dog in the cabin. Check on the cage dimensions so that there won’t be a problem stowing the carrier beneath the seat.
  8. Consider in advance all medications that you might need for your pet. These might include heartworm preventive, flea preventive, and heart or kidney medications. Also, give thought to any special diets that your pet may need and whether they can be obtained at your destination.
  9. If there is any chance that your pet will be out of the carrier, give thought to an appropriate collar or harness and keep a leash with you. If possible, the collar should have a small pet identification tag. Order forms are available in most veterinary clinics.

At the time of your flight:

  1. Do not tranquilize the pet unless you have discussed this with your veterinarian.
  2. Make sure that the carrier has permanent identification, including your name, phone number, flight schedule, destination, and phone number at the point of destination.

For additional information related to traveling internationally to or from the United Statesplease read the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service article, Travel with a Pet.