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Fitdog Tips on Flying To Pet-Friendly Destinations with Tails & Toys

Flying To Your Pet-Friendly Destination

Achieving jet-setter status with your dog is easier than ever with the recent rise in demand for pet-accessible travel accommodations. But you better make sure you're prepared for the journey.

Is your dog up for the trip?

Some dogs frankly shouldn't fly. Short-nosed dogs, which include pugs, boxers, and Boston Terriers, have a difficult time breathing on planes. Many airlines changed their policies after the on-flight death of a French Bulldog earlier this year. Now, certain breeds are banned on various airlines. If your dog has a short nasal passage, or if they're unfortunately labeled as a "bully" breed, they might not be allowed onboard.

Additionally, you should consider your dog's age, health status, and physicality. Do you think they'll be able to handle a several hour flight, potentially in a cargo hold? Is your dog even-tempered enough to be surrounded by crowds, luggage, and strange new environments? If not, they might be happier at a boarding facility or with a pet-sitter.

Fitdog's Flying Tips

You've asked yourself the hard questions and decided to bring your dog along for the flight.  Here are our 11 tips for flying with your pet.

1. Research your airline's pet policy

If you've already booked a flight, a good place to start is to check your airline's pet policy. If you haven't bought a ticket, you can compare different airline pet policies. This website has a list of all domestic airlines and links to their pet policies.

2. Get a direct flight, if possible

Streamline your travel time by booking a direct flight, if possible. Besides layovers being annoying, they allow a larger margin of error for your dog to become lost in the cargo shuffle. If your dog is traveling with you on board, they'll still likely have to wait between flights to use the bathroom or get fed although more airlines are installing indoor potty stations for dogs.

3. Get your vaccines ready well ahead of time

Standard vaccines your dog is likely required to have up-to-date on the day of your flight include Bordetella, DHPP, Rabies, and Flea Medication. Depending on where you're going, your pooch will have to be up to par with that destination's health standards. You should easily be able to obtain a health certificate by making an appointment with your vet

4. Make sure your pup is used to their carrier

One way to reduce pre-travel anxiety is by getting your dog used to their airline carrier ahead of time. Acquire a carrier well before your trip and let your dog familiarize with it. Definitely let your dog take some car rides in their new carrier before the big day.  This will increase their likelihood of comfort and ease while traveling.

5. Exercise your dog before flying

Getting out the door on time for a trip? Never heard of it. If time allows, take your dog out for some high intensity exercise before leaving home. Your dog will be tired for the flight, increasing the likelihood of relaxation.

6. Bribe with treats, if you must

We know the feeling of being in a room full of people staring at you and your "disobedient" dog. We also know that airports are overwhelming environments, and treats can be a source of comfort for dogs. Treats can also show your dog that they're behaving well, if used for positive reinforcement. Either way, definitely don't forget the treats!

7. Skip the Xanax

We know a lot of vets prescribe dogs tranquilizers or relaxers for various reasons. Do not give your dog relaxers or tranquilizers before traveling. You could frankly kill your dog by doing so. Your dog is more likely to feel relaxed if they're well acclimated to their carrier and have a cozy space. You can also try natural calming aids such as calming coats like ThunderShirt, CBD oil and calming sprays.

8. Feed your dog 4-6 hours before take-off

Feed your dog well in advance to ensure they don't have to go potty while on the flight. Plus flying on a full stomach can be uncomfortable in general. Do provide them with treats for the road.

9. Be prepared in case of a mess

Accidents happen, especially when your dog is nervous. Line the bottom of your dog's carrier with puppy pads to absorb pee. Bring poop bags to dispose of any potential accidents. Other helpful items might be towels or grooming wipes.

10. Recognize motion sickness

Your dog just flew 40,000 feet in the air. Unless they are a seasoned traveler, their body may not be accustomed to all of the movement. Symptoms of motion sickness include drooling, vomiting, and diarrhea. Your dog will likely feel better once you are settled in your destination. If the sickness persists, contact your veterinarian.

11. Potty your dog beforehand

Needless to say, your dog needs to potty before the flight - both number 1 and number 2. Try to take your dog out in a familiar place, like around your home first and then potty them again at the airport. Many airports have outdoor potty areas for dogs and a few even have inside potty stations as well.

Flying Checklist

Here's a travel checklist for you, via the AVMA:

  1. Your vet's contact information
  2. Identification
  • Current color photo of your pet
  • Dog's ID tag should include:
  • Owner's name, current home address, and home phone number
  • Travel ID tag should include:
  • Owner's local contact phone number and address
  • Contact information for your accommodations (hotel, campground etc)
  • The microchip registration should be updated with your current contact information including a cell phone number
  1. Medical Records
  • Current copies of your pet's medical records including pre-existing conditions and medications (especially when relocating or traveling out of the country). For travel within the United States, a brief summary of medical conditions would be sufficient
  1. Certificate of Veterinary Inspection (health certificate)
  • Proof of vaccinations (proof of rabies vaccination required) and other illnesses
  • Requires an examination by a licensed and accredited veterinarian to make sure the animal is not showing signs of disease
  1. Acclimation certificate for air travel
  • Only required by some airlines
  1. Pack the comforts of home

Having familiar objects and scents around your dog can help them be at ease. Make sure to take your dog's collar, leash and harness, crate, bedding, toys, dishes and a small first aid kit. Plus treats, poop bags, pee pads and calming aids for the flight.

Now you are ready to take to the friendly skies.