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Tips for traveling with pets on an airplane

So, are you ready for family vacation? Are you moving overseas? Or are you getting ready to show off your lovely pet at the next dog show? No matter why, as a pet owner you are probably nervous before flying with your pet for the first time. And you are right to be nervous because flying with a pet is like flying with a baby; or even worse. This is why it requires good preparation and good knowledge of what to expect so that both you and your pet enjoy the flight!

Here are some tips for flying with your pet and make it an unforgettably pleasant experience:

a)      Check the pet policies with the airline

Each airline has its own pet policies. For instance, Delta Airlines allows dogs, cats and household birds to travel in the cabin provided the pet is at least 8 weeks old and small enough to fit in a kennel with secured door, under the seat in front of you. Pets can travel as carry-on, cargo or checked baggage (Source: Delta Air Lines, 1). American Airlines allows only dogs and cats of 8 weeks old to travel in a kennel and only as carry-on or checked baggage (Source: American Airlines, 2). United Airlines allows carry-on and checked baggage for dogs, cats and household birds, but it also allows rabbits, hamsters and guinea pigs as checked baggage. It also has a summer embargo for specific dog breeds that travel as checked baggage. (Source: United Airlines, 3). So, before you book a flight reservation for you and your pet, you should check the pet policies with the airline in order to know the requirements in advance and choose the best airline that suits your travel needs, but also your pet’s needs.

b)      Check with your vet

Before taking your pet on the plane, you have to make sure it is fit to travel. For instance, short-nosed dogs such as Bulldogs or Boxers require special attention because they have problem breathing in certain conditions or even under normal conditions. This is why you should talk to your vet and get a health certificate seven to ten days prior to departure to comply with the rules of most airlines and make sure that your pet can travel safely.

Besides, you can ask your vet if you should give your pet a sedative. The American Veterinary Medical Association suggests that most pets should not be sedated before the flight in the fear of experiencing nausea symptoms. Moreover, the pressure of high altitude can cause respiratory or cardiovascular problems in a sedated animal, even in the cabin. On the other hand, if your pet is really nervous, it may be a good idea to sedate her and help her be calm during the flight.

c)       Feeding and watering your pet

United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) suggests that pets should be fed and watered within four hours before the check-in. Avoid over-feeding your pet before the flight because if the pet travels with a full stomach is more likely to experience nausea and throw up during the flight.  Also, when you check-in at the airport, you need to sign a certification of the time you last fed and watered your pet and put it on her carrier.

d)      Exercise your pet before the flight

Like you, your pet would have to be in the same, possibly uncomfortable, position for several hours. To make it easier for her, let her enjoy her last moments of “freedom”, but mostly release the flight stress before entering the plane. Before leaving for the airport, exercise your pet with a leash so that you walk her around. Apart from being a stress-relieving activity, it will help her falling asleep during the flight. You may also walk her around at the airport, before the check-in. In any case, make sure you walk her before she gets in her carrier for travelling.

e)      Use a proper carrier

Your pet’s carrier should be comfortable enough so that she can turn around, stand and lie down comfortably. Most carriers are made of hard plastic and have openings for ventilation that should be at least 14% of their total wall space. They also have a leak-proof, solid floor covered with a towel to absorb any fluids that may lick during transit.

Make sure that your pet’s name is written on the carrier and that you include identification tags with your home address and phone number as well as the address and phone number of someone you are meeting at your destination point. Also, do not change carrier too often. Your pet needs to feel a sense of safety. If you need to change carrier, do it at least one week, if not earlier, before the trip.

Overall, you should always remember that pets feel and think exactly like you. They only lack the charisma of speech to communicate their feelings. One week prior to departure, your pet places her favorite toys and bones and stuff in her carrier’s door. She is getting her luggage ready. Soon, she will become a luggage herself. Make sure she feels safe and relaxed as much as you would like to feel if you were in her place.


Christina Pomoni has acquired her MBA Finance from the American College of Greece. Her advanced familiarity with financial statement analysis, capital budgeting and market research has been acquired through her professional career at high-esteemed organizations. As part of her long journey, Christina has served as an Equity Research Associate at Telesis Securities (EFG Eurobank) and a Financial & Investment Advisor at ING Group. Besides, having lived at Chicago, IL, Boca Raton, FL and Paris, France has helped her, not only to be a successful professional, but mostly to see life under a more creative and innovative perspective.

Since 2005, Christina provides high quality writing services to numerous websites and research companies contributing her knowledge and expertise. Her areas of specialization are Business, Finance & Investment, Society, Politics & Culture. She also has a very good knowledge of Entertainment, Health & Fitness and Computers & Technology.

Christina currently designs the website of her own writing company. Believing that knowledge is the road to opportunity and development, her mission is to promote her already established knowledge to a growing number of visitors and to provide high quality writing services to meet the most demanding customer requirements.

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