By Rachael Funk
When you’re traveling with your best buddy, you want them to have as good a time as you do. Taking a pet on a trip may seem daunting, but here are a few ways to make the journey as safe and smooth as possible.
Read up on travel requirements
Rules for pet travel can vary by airline and destination, so read pet policies thoroughly and talk with your vet about your travel plans. Many countries require health certificates, pet passports, and microchips among other items that may take extra time to get together. As soon as you know your furry friend is coming along, don’t delay in getting your pet’s paperwork squared away before departure.
It is your responsibility as the pet owner to make sure your pet meets travel requirements. Here are some helpful links to get started:
Requirements to take your pet FROM the United States TO another country
Requirements for domestic travel in the US with pets
Steps to take for an international health certificate
Checklist for International Health Certificate
FAQs for pet travel
Pet policies by airline:
Get an IATA-approved crate
Different regulations exist for different methods of travel and pet size, so whether you're shipping your pet or keeping them in a crate on the plane, make sure their container complies with airline regulations. Here’s some helpful information on finding a suitable container for your pet.
Do practice runs
If your pet is a novice traveler, it can be stressful for them to experience their crate for the first time on the airplane. Let your buddy acclimate to their crate at home and take them on a few drives so they can get a feel for the travel routine.
Deck out the crate
As your pet gets used to their crate, don’t forget to practice securing the items your pet will need during the flight. Sometimes, a comfort item that smells like home can be helpful to keep your pet calm, but make sure it isn't loose in the crate. You can add stickers or markings to the outside of the pet carrier to indicate there is a live animal inside and to specify which end is “up.”
Keep your pet hydrated and fed
Make sure to feed your buddy 3-4 hours before takeoff and take them on a potty break as close to boarding as possible. Pets can get dehydrated on flights just like people, so give them small amounts of water while you can and be sure to give them water as soon as you can after landing. Don’t forget – if you’re somewhere you can’t handle the tap water, your pet probably can’t, either.
Put together a vacation kit
Comforts from home can go a long way for a stressed pet in a new place. Here’s a handy guide for what kind of things you might consider including in your pet’s travel kit:
- Travel documents (including your vet’s contact info)
- First aid kit
- Extra dry food
- A collapsible bowl
- A favorite toy or blanket
- An extra leash and harness/collar
- A variety of important sweaters for priceless photo ops
Pets traveling as cargo or accompanied baggage
Talk to your airline. Call the reservations number and let them know you will be traveling with an animal. Each airplane can only transport a certain number of animals so you should give 24-48 hours of notice to make sure you and your pet will be on the same flight.
The USDA requires that your pet is offered water within four hours of check-in. When you get there, you will certify the last time your pet ate and was given water. Freeze water in your pet’s bowl to avoid spillage during handling. You can also secure a bag of dry food to the top of the crate
Sedatives are generally not recommended for flights, as they can make it harder for small bodies to regulate temperature and other functions. All-natural pet calmers are a safer alternative to keep your little friend chill without getting too chilly.
Give yourself loads of extra time at the airport. If your pet is traveling with you in the cabin, your check-in will probably be at the passenger terminal. If your pet is not traveling with you in the cabin, you may need to go to the air freight terminal which is often located in a different part of the airport. Be sure you know where and when to show up.
Try to stay with the same airline through layovers. If you do have to change airlines, you will likely need to claim, recheck, and clear your pet through customs in the layover country which could have other restrictions for pet travel.