What You Need To Know For Pet Air Travel - The Trupanion Blog
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What You Need To Know For Pet Air Travel


Every now and then we find ourselves in a situation where we have to travel with our beloved dogs. Sometimes we have to resort to an airline where they have to fly in cargo. Needless to say, you don’t want your pet to be locked in a cage for hours without knowing how they are doing. It can be a stressful situation. Make sure your dog stays safe during travel by following the pet air travel checklist below.

How to prepare for pet air travel 

Kennels Are Mandatory

If you want your dog to travel on a plane, they will need to stay in their kennel the entire time— regardless of where they are on the plane.

Some airlines allow small dogs to stay with you in the cabin but still require a kennel.  Your kennel maximum size is the same requirements as a carry-on bag.  These kennels must be stored under the seat and will not be allowed in the overhead compartment. By doing this there will be an additional service charge.

Each airline is a little bit different, be sure to check before your flight. If your dog’s kennel does not meet the following requirements, you may not be able to board the plane.

The Basic Kennel and Carrier Requirements

Most states and countries follow similar regulations and requirements for dog kennels. Each dog kennel is required to have enough space for the dog to sit, stand, turn around, and have at least 3 inches of space above its head when standing. Additionally, you need to make sure that the kennel has everything your dog needs to be comfortable, including water dishes, floor padding, ventilation and more. To make sure you aren’t stopped from boarding your flight, your dog’s kennel needs to abide by the following regulations:

  • Any wheels on your dog kennel should be retracted, removed or blocked using tape so that the kennel doesn’t move around.
  • The kennel lock must be joined by bolts, any other locking system is forbidden.
  • The floor must be made of solid material and leak proof. It should contain material to absorb liquids.
  • Only one dog per kennel! There may be exceptions when bringing a small dog in the cabin.
  • Toys are prohibited in dog kennels for the safety of the dog. There are exceptions when bringing your dog in the cabin.
  • Any kennel in cargo should be labeled with the words “LIVE ANIMAL” in 1-inch (2.5-cm) letters. If you are bringing your pet on board, your airline may have a special tag for your carrier.

*Your dog’s kennel must be made of rigid plastic material or fiberglass. Pet kennels made of wood, metal, or steel can be turned down.  If your dog is traveling with you in the cabin, a fabric carrier may be used.

Prepare Before You Leave

Training your dog for the flight will prove beneficial for both of you. Getting your dog acclimated to a kennel before your flight can help him become comfortable in his new surroundings. If your dog is not already kennel trained teaching should begin as soon as possible.  Make the kennel a positive experience, do not force your dog into the crate, use treats, and plenty of praise.  Each training session should increase in length where your dog is alone in the kennel with just the items that are allowed in flight.  It is ideal to exercise your dog before putting him in the kennel so he’ll be more inclined to rest.

Health Certificate and Vaccinations

It is important to look up the travel requirements for your pet.  Most airlines and destinations require a veterinary health certificate.  This examination is performed by a licensed veterinarian that must be performed within ten days of travel.  The certificate ensures that the pet is in good health and safe to travel.

The following vaccinations are not only important to your pet’s health but are often required for travel.  Dogs should receive distemper/parvovirus combination, bordetella, and rabies vaccinations and cats should get feline rhinotracheitis/calicivirus/panleukopenia combo and rabies.  Depending on your destination, heartworm preventative, flea and tick treatment, and other vaccines may be recommended. Talk to your veterinarian about any concerns you have before traveling with your pet.

Alternative to Air Travel

There can be many concerns with your pet traveling via airplane.  For instance, many airlines do not allow sedatives, there is no climate control in cargo, no supervision, and high costs.  Consider taking a road trip with your pet.  This can be a fun time for both of you.  You’ll get to see the sites, but also be able to offer bathroom breaks, food, and water as needed.

Pet air travel: a way to travel with your pets

When researching your travel plans, consider all the options that are best for you and your family.  Certainly, the opportunity to travel with your pets can be a fun and exciting time.


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