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Home > Dogs > How to Fly With a Dog: 12 Vet-Approved Tips for a Smooth Flight

How to Fly With a Dog: 12 Vet-Approved Tips for a Smooth Flight

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Dr. Chyrle Bonk

Veterinarian, DVM

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Our dogs are not just pets; they’re family, which is why it’s normal to want to share our special moments and adventures with them. But getting ready to explore new horizons with your four-legged companion and hopping on an airplane can be scary, especially if you’ve never done such a thing before.

Uncertainty can be a huge problem for people whose dogs are traveling by their side for the first time. From getting the proper documentation to knowing the airport rules and airline policies, you need to be prepared for a myriad of procedures to fly with your dog.

So, what should you do in order to have a calm, safe, and peaceful flight with your canine?

Here, we go over the most important things that you need to know about flying with a dog and provide 12 tips that will ensure that you and your four-legged companion have a smooth flight. 


Are All Dog Breeds Permitted to Fly on Planes?

Before traveling and flying on an airplane with your dog, you’ll need to check and verify that your dog is allowed on the flight. Many airlines have breed restrictions, so it’s best to get familiar with these before booking your flight.

Most airlines allow small-breed dogs up to 20 pounds to fly in the cabin alongside their owners, as long as they are properly secured in an airplane-friendly dog carrier. Dogs larger than 20 pounds will need to be placed in the plane’s cargo hold section.

Furthermore, many airlines have restrictions against snub-nosed and brachycephalic breeds, both in the cabin and in cargo. These include:

Keep in mind that these rules and restrictions vary from airline to airline, so you’ll need to ask all the necessary questions about traveling with your dog prior to booking your flight.

dog in airport carrier
Image By: Monika Wisniewska, Shutterstock


The 12 Tips on How to Fly With a Dog in Maximum Comfort & Safety

1. Talk With Your Veterinarian

Before your dog flies with you on an airplane, you must talk with your veterinarian and ensure that your four-legged friend is in good health. 

These health checks will help make the whole process safe and comfortable for your dog while preventing possible health problems from arising while you’re away from home. They will make sure your dog is up-to-date on vaccinations, including some that may be specific to your area of travel. They can also provide you with any preventative medications, such as flea treatment, that you may need while you’re away.

During the check-up, your vet will provide you with a certificate containing all your dog’s important medical information, such as their vaccinations and shots. Getting your dog microchipped is also a good idea to ensure that they have permanent identification in case you happen to get separated from your dog during travel. If you are traveling internationally it is usually a requirement to have the microchip placed before rabies vaccination and testing.

woman looking at border collie dog while having vet check up
Image By: Tyler Olson, Shutterstock

2. Get an Airline Approved Crate

Your dog will need an airline approved dog crate to travel in, no matter their size. For small dogs that are eligible for in-cabin travel, this may be a soft-or hard-sided crate. Larger dogs traveling in the cargo area should have a hard-sided crate. Travel crates should have a door that securely closes and current identification on it.

Get your dog used to the crate weeks to months in advance. They should be comfortable in the crate for long periods of time. You may include some of their favorite toys or objects to make it more familiar, but avoid adding food or water dishes as these can easily spill.

3. Gather the Paperwork That Your Dog Needs to Travel

Before traveling and flying with your dog, you should gather all the needed paperwork for your four-legged companion. This may include vaccination certificates, a health certificate, or a passport if you’re traveling outside of the United States. 

Your dog should also need to have identification tags, or a microchip, with up-to-date information, and consider bringing their medical records, especially if they have a chronic or on-going health condition. 

vet checking microchip implant of dog
Image By: olgagorovenko, Shutterstock

4. Book Tickets in Advance

Booking the tickets in advance may enable you to get a better deal, ensure that there’s free space on the plane for your canine, and make your flight easier overall. Most airplanes have a limited number of pets that they allow on board, so it’s crucial to reserve a spot for your four legged-companion.

This tip is vital for people who want to fly internationally with their dogs, as the paperwork often takes a while to get processed.

5. If Possible, Book a Non-stop Flight

Long flights and layovers can be stressful for dogs, especially if they’re flying for the first time. So, it’s best to book a non-stop flight that has no layovers and instead goes directly from one destination to the other. It will make your whole journey less stressful and more hassle free. 

Keep in mind that adult dogs shouldn’t spend more than 6-8 hours in their crate at a time and puppies should only spend 2-4 hours, depending on their age. If you book a flight for longer than this, you’ll need to make arrangements to let your dog out.

Obedient dachshund dog sits in blue pet carrier in public place and waits the owner
Image Credit: Masarik, Shutterstocks

6. Be Ready for Additional Pet Fees

It’s common for many airlines to have extra fees that you have to pay in order to travel with your dog. These fees depend on the airline, and they can cost hundreds of dollars, so make sure you ask your airline about them to accurately determine the final cost of your flight.

7. Check the Pet Policies for Your Destination

Before flying, check the pet policies for your destination to ensure that you have everything that you and your canine need. Flying with your dog in-state is typically easier than flying internationally.

Some destinations require specialized permits, vaccinations, or quarantines for dogs. Your airline should know all the necessary details, so be sure to consult them before your flight.

Different airlines have different pet policies, and you should discuss this information with airline staff to ensure that you and your dog will fly comfortably. You can also check these details online on the airline’s website.

To guarantee ease of travel, get as much information as possible about your particular flight. Also, verify how early you should get to the airport, and learn about the security procedures that you and your dog will need to go through before the flight.

8. Feed Your Dog Before the Flight

Food is essential for proper body functioning, and since flights can often be long and tiring, you should feed your dog before the flight. That said, while your dog should be well-fed beforehand, they should not eat directly prior to the flight, in order to prevent possible bathroom mishaps. It’s best to feed your dog no sooner than 30–40 minutes before the flight.

Bichon Frise dog eating from the bowl
Image Credit: mikeledray, Shutterstock

9. Remember to Consider Your Dog’s Potty Needs

When on an airplane, your dog won’t have a spot to go to the bathroom, which is why they should go before the flight. 

Many airports offer a pet relief area where canines can go potty shortly before a flight. Doing so should reduce the chances of potty accidents and mishaps. You may also want to get some pee pads in case your dog needs a potty break mid-flight.

10. Prevent Dehydration in Your Dog During the Flight

You should do everything that you can to prevent dehydration in your dog during the flight. Depending on the length of the journey, some dogs can get through the whole flight as long as they drink water prior to boarding. For long flights, it’s best to have a dog water bottle available so your dog can drink if they get thirsty.

cute tired fluffy corgi dog drinking water
Image Credit: guys_who_shoot, Shutterstocks

11. Ask to Board the Plane Early

Depending on the airline that you’re flying with, you may be eligible for early boarding. It’s always beneficial to see if such an arrangement is possible. Boarding early will save you and your dog from unnecessary stress when settling in.

12. Don’t Sedate Your Dog

While this may seem like a good idea, you should never sedate your dog for flying on a plane. Sedatives used to calm dogs often interfere with the animal’s ability to regulate their body temperature at high altitudes, which could negatively impact your dog. Instead, prepare your dog for flight by practicing spending long amounts of time in their crate. You may also keep them entertained and calm with some of their favorite toys and bedding, and give them treats and affection.

holiday vacation jack russell dog waiting in airport terminal ready to board the airplane
Image Credit: Javier Brosch, Shutterstocks


Final Thoughts

If you and your dog are planning your next big adventure, by following these tips, you can safely fly together and make the whole experience pleasurable and safe for both of you.

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Featured Image Credit: Tsuguliev, Shutterstock

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