As the holidays are coming up, you may be traveling more than normal. Since your pet is a valued member of your family, it makes sense that you might be considering bringing it along with you on your travels. 

dog sitting in a carrier at an airport

However, it is important to note that traveling with pets on airplanes has gotten considerably more difficult in the past few years. The pandemic has caused major upsets to the airline industry, with ever-changing travel restrictions, flight requirements, and multiple flight cancellations. According to the New York Times, the CDC has also passed a new ruling that makes it difficult to import dogs into the country when traveling internationally. Some airlines have even suspended their pet traveling programs temporarily. 

That being said, if it is necessary for your pet to travel with you, with some planning and research, most of the time, it’s possible to safely bring your furry friend with you on your travels. Here are some important tips to consider when deciding whether or not to bring your pet with you when traveling by air.

Weigh the Risks of Flying with Pets

When making this decision, it is important to note that air travel can be much riskier for our furry friends than it is for humans. Justine Lee, a veterinary expert, recommends not flying with a pet unless absolutely necessary. “Ideally,” she says, “pets should not fly unless owners are moving permanently or taking a long trip.” She goes on to clarify that unless the trip is at least three weeks long, it might be best to leave your pet at home.

It is also important to consider the physical features of your pet when deciding whether to fly. Pets with pushed-in faces, known medically as brachycephalic faces, such as bulldogs, pugs, and Persian cats, have a much more difficult time flying than other breeds. Their facial anatomy, specifically their shortened nasal passages,  leaves them especially vulnerable to heatstroke or oxygen deprivation.

Other than danger, it is also important to note that traveling by air may be very overwhelming and overstimulating to your pet. They’ll be in new, loud, uncomfortable places and situations. They will also have to endure changes in air pressure and have a limited chance to use the restroom. Your pet may be much more comfortable being boarded or under the care of a pet-sitter, if possible.

Where in the Plane Will Your Pet Travel?

In making your decision, it will be helpful to know if your pet will be able to travel in the cabin, with you, or if it will need to be stored in the cargo hold. Though the rules may vary from airline to airline, the rules seem to be consistent that in order for your pet to travel in the cabin, they will need to be in a carrier that fits under the seat in front of you. There are generally only a limited number of pets that are able to travel at the cabin at any given time, so it’s important that you call and reserve a place for your pet well before your flight in order to ensure they can stay with you.

If your pet does not meet these size requirements, they will need to travel in the cargo hold, with the luggage and other freight. This can be a scary place for your pet, as they aren’t able to be with you and may have to experience loud and scary sounds from items shifting as the plane flies. Many pets are able to fly in the cargo hold with no issues, but there’s no guarantee that the baggage handlers or other airline employees will pay any special attention to your pet. Though there are many pets who are able to fly successfully, there have also been many instances where that hasn’t been the case and pets have become lost, injured, or unfortunately even killed. The Humane Society cites rough handling, excessively hot or cold temperatures, and poor ventilation as the main causes of these issues.

Use Discretion When Choosing Your Flight

If you know that your pet is traveling in the cargo hold, there are a few things to keep in mind as you go to book your trip. If you know it is going to be very hot, try to book a flight that will land when it is cooler, such as in the morning or evening. If it’s going to be cold, try to find a flight that lands during the warmest time of the day.

You will also want to book direct flights with no transfers and allow yourself ample time to get to your gate once you get to the airport. Keep in mind that if you are traveling during traditionally busy travel times, you will want to allow yourself extra time to get everything settled before your flight. If at all possible, try to choose flights that will help you avoid the busiest times of the day. Most airlines will require you to get to the airport at least three hours early to drop your dog off at a specific cargo loading location.

Visit Your Vet Before the Trip

In order to fly, your pet will need a certificate of health from your vet that has been issued recently. This document says that the animal is both healthy enough to fly and that they are current on all their required immunizations. Depending on the length of your trip, you may need to plan to see a vet while on vacation to get an updated certificate for your return flight.

Prep Your Pet

When you’re taking your pet for their certificate of health, it’s important that you speak with them about food, water, and medications before the flight. 

The Humane Society doesn’t recommend feeding or watering your pet for four to six hours before the trip. The American Veterinary Medical Association generally advises against tranquilizing or sedating your pet before a flight, but acknowledges that in certain circumstances, it may be beneficial. Your vet will be able to help you make this decision for your specific pet.

Additionally, you will want to familiarize your pet with the carrier or crate they will be traveling in for their trip. If possible, you may even want to take them to the airport several times before the trip so they feel more comfortable on the day of. You will also want to ensure that your pet’s collar won’t get caught in their carrier and that their nails are clipped for the same reason.

Greenlin is Here for Your Pet Boarding Needs

If you have decided that plane travel is not right for your pet, Greenlin is here for you. With long and short-term boarding options for cats and dogs, Greelin has five conveniently located resorts in Pennsylvania. 

We will provide your pets with a comfortable living space, fun activities, time for socialization, and a consistent schedule while you are away. Call us today at one of our facilities or contact us online so we can begin planning your pet’s visit today!