With summer in full swing, you may be getting ready to take a long overdue vacation. But what happens when your journey requires air travel and your travel companion includes your bird dog? It’s important to make sure both you and your dog are prepared so that everyone can have a safe and enjoyable journey ahead. Here are some tips from Purina Chief Veterinary Officer Kurt Venator, DVM, PhD, for safe and smooth airline travel with your dog.
Know Your Dog
Traveling with your dog on an airline requires some thoughtful consideration. Some dogs do not travel well because of medical condition, age or temperament. Plan a visit with your veterinarian and confirm with him or her that your dog is healthy enough to fly and has the correct temperament for this type of travel.
Do Your Research
It’s important to understand specific airline rules and regulations. Some airlines have restrictions on breed and size, while federal regulations state that a dog must be at least 8 weeks of age to travel. You’ll also need to determine what specific documentation is required by the airline. Most carriers require a health certificate within 10 days of travel. This document, which indicates that your dog has been examined, is free of infectious disease and is current on vaccinations, must be signed by an accredited veterinarian.
If you are traveling outside of the continental United States, be sure to look into other potential health care requirements of your arrival country, as some may require quarantine. Similarly, you’ll want to verify the requirements for your dog to return to the United States, as he or she will likely need a pet passport.
Book flight reservations for you and your dog well in advance of your trip, as many carriers limit the number of pets allowed on each flight. A nonstop flight is preferred for traveling with pets to avoid frenzied plane changes.
It’s also important to consider the temperature, as extreme travel temperatures should be avoided. Familiarize yourself with the guidelines for the airline minimum and maximum temperatures, as well as the temperature regulations for when pets can board the plane in the cargo area. As a general rule of thumb, select early morning or late evening flights during warm months and mid-day flights during cold months.
Acclimate your dog to an appropriate travel carrier or crate at least a month prior to your flight. This is especially important for puppies, as you don’t want a plane ride to be his or her first experience with a crate. Line the carrier or crate with a moisture-wicking pad or material in case of urination or defecation. Avoid blankets or material you dog could ingest during the flight.
Make sure your contact information — name, address, phone number and a photo identifying your dog — is visible on the crate and current on your dog’s collar and microchip. Pack a supplies bag that includes any prescribed medication, a copy of your dog’s medical record, leash or harness, food, water and bowls. Lastly, make sure to bring a few of his or her favorite toys (again, avoiding anything your dog could possibly ingest in-flight) on the day of travel in order to keep your dog calm and engaged.
Day of the Flight
On the day of travel, avoid giving your dog sedatives, which can increase his or her risk of heart or respiratory issues potentially caused by altitude pressures. Sedatives may also interfere with your dog’s equilibrium while being transported into his or her crate.
A tired dog is a happy dog, so prior to leaving for the airport, exercise your dog, or at minimum, take him or her for a long walk. He or she should also fly on an empty or nearly empty stomach to avoid possible vomiting, urination and/or defecation.
Once you arrive at the airport, increase the awareness of all airline personnel you encounter, including flight attendants and pilots, that your dog is traveling in the cargo hold. It’s a good idea to request they confirm when your dog has been loaded into the cargo hold and is safely aboard.
If you are sending your bird dog alone for breeding or training, it’s important to share all of these tips with his or transporter or caregiver. If possible, allow your dog and the transporter an opportunity to spend some extra time together at pick-up so they are comfortable and familiar with each other prior to setting out on the trip.
Although air travel can be stressful and chaotic, try to stay calm, cool and collected. When you’re unfazed by the hustle and bustle of the airport, your dog will be, too.