Top 10 Tips for Pet Air Travel

As a general rule, traveling with a pet can be an enjoyable, problem-free experience, provided that adequate planning and preparation are taken prior to departure. As air travel can sometimes be traumatic for an animal, here are some helpful guidelines to ensure a safe and comfortable journey for your pet:

1.  Contact the airline you intend to use well in advance (3 months in advance is recommended) to verify services, check regulations and book reservations. Ensure that you are able to meet airline requirements and specifications before showing up for your flight.

2.  Always have current health and rabies vaccination papers readily available while traveling.

3.  Use an approved air travel carrier, which can be purchased from the airline, an animal hospital or a pet store. Allow your pet to familiarize itself with the carrier prior to the trip, so that it begins to identify the carrier as a safe, recognizable environment. Ensure all screws on the carrier are tight and that it is clearly labeled " Live Animal" and "This End Up" The carrier must be large enough for your pet to stand up in, turn around and lie down. Place something with a familiar scent in the carrier to calm your pet (A tee shirt or socks of a family member are commonly used). Airlines also require that carriers contain some sort of absorbent, cushiony material for the animal to lie on.

4.  Feed your pet a light meal a few hours prior to departure and a drink of water before boarding. Pets should be accompanied by ample food and water during their trip. A couple of zip lock bags filled with food, taped to the side of the carrier works well. A full water dish, which has been placed in the freezer, is ideal as the water does not slosh around and stays fresh during the trip.

5.  Food and water dishes must be securely attached and easily accessible to allow airline staff to care for your pet without opening the carrier. Instructions for feeding and watering your pet should be attached to the carrier should staff need to provide extended care in cases where the flight is inadvertently averted from its original destination.

6.  Be sure to exercise your pet before arrival.

7.  During hot weather seasons, fly early in the morning or late in the evening when temperatures are cooler. This will make the flight much more comfortable for your pet.

8.  Schedule flights with a minimum of stops and transfers. The less moving around in an unfamiliar environment, the better. Direct flights also minimize the risk of missed baggage connections and your pet carrying on to an extended destination by itself.

9.  Try to reserve mid-week flights, and thereby avoid peak travel periods.

10.  Whenever possible, try to fly with airlines which will manually carry your pet to and from the plane(s). Bumpy rides on baggage carts and/or conveyor belts can lead to increased stress for your pet.

11.  Once your flight details have been confirmed, arrive at the airport early. Airline pet space is at a premium and is sometimes offered only on a first come, first served, basis.

12.  When proceeding through airline security with a pet, you will be required to have the carrier scanned. Under these circumstances, you will have to physically remove your pet from the carrier, at which point it may become fearful and skittish. Ensure you have a strong leash, identification tags and collar on your pet at all times should it get away from you at the airport.

13.  Never tranquilize a pet without first consulting a veterinarian, particularly when traveling by air. Sedation can occasionally result in cardiovascular and respiratory problems due to the change in altitude. Unless your pet is traveling in the cabin, administer such medication only on the advice of a veterinarian.

14.  Airlines generally do their best to unload "live" cargo first. As soon as your pet is in the baggage claim area you should try to immediately attach its leash and take it outside for a "bathroom break', a short run, a stretch and a favorite treat. The most efficient way to do this is to have one person collect the pet and have someone else look after luggage, rental car, etc. To expedite this process, the person collecting the pet should have the claim tickets, their name on the sticker on top of the cage, and a driver's license ready for identification purposes.

15.  All countries have their own rules and regulations for allowing animals enter their borders. Almost all areas require rabies shots at least a month in advance of entering, with proper papers documenting this information. Pets Can Stay does not attempt to provide detailed information about a country's quarantine and vaccination rules as these details change from country to country, and often from month to month. In order to avoid the risk of outdated information, please contact your vet, airline, or the customs office in the country you are traveling to. Do not assume that the information which was valid when you made the same trip a year ago is still valid; be sure to obtain recent updated information. Do not forget to check regulations for re-entry as well. You may be able to get out of the country with your pet but not necessarily comply for present re-entry regulations. Always check before leaving.

From one pet owner to another, we wish you and your pet safe and comfortable travels.