Dog Air Travel:
What is your opinion on sedating dogs for dog air travel?
This is quite a controversial topic! The short answer, in my opinion, is that this decision should be made by a dogs’ own veterinarian on a case-by-case basis. Most agree that sedating a dog can jeopardize their safety by affecting their respiratory and/or cardiovascular function below cabin, as well as their ability to balance and maintain equilibrium when being jostled around. Others believe it’s not realistic to expect a dog to endure the stress of a flight without light sedation. A trusted vet can help determine what’s right for your dog based on his health, breed, age and circumstances of travel. Also keep in mind that some airlines will not accept sedated pets.
What, if any, health and medical certificates will the dog require during dog air travel?
Each airline has different requirements, which may vary based on your final destination. If a health certificate is not required, you should still bring copies of your dog’s rabies and other vaccines/titer records in case you’re asked. Being prepared will help prevent any unnecessary delays.
The safety of our canine companion is the primary concern of any caring pet parent. Can you share some specific safety tips for dog air travel?
Purchase a nylon snap-buckle or “breakaway” collar (I like the KeepSafe collar by Premier) and write your dog’s information and contact number right on the collar. Do not attach any tags or plan to use a chain or prong collar the day of the flight – these can get snagged on the wire door of the kennel, causing severe injury and even strangulation.
Trim your dog’s nails the day before you leave, to help prevent snags and give him better footing in his crate.
Bring a photo of you with your dog and keep it with you on the off chance the dog becomes lost, or you need to prove ownership.
Bring an extra leash and keep it in your purse or carry-on.
Have a back-up plan in place if, for any reason, your dog is refused at the airport due to a reservation snafu, extreme weather, etc.
Be sure your dog is well exercised the day of the flight to help release pent up energy and anxiety. Allow extra time in your schedule for him to hydrate and eliminate before entering the airport.
Be confident, calm and happy when you bid your crated dog farewell, and double-check the airline tags on his crate to make sure they’re accurate.
Before boarding your flight, inquire at the gate that the dog has been loaded safely onto the aircraft, and confirm where you’ll be picking him up at your final destination.
Airport personal are key in ensuring a safe, comfortable flight for our beloved dogs. Do you have any “insider” tricks for interacting with airline personnel and flight crews in order to make the dog traveler’s flight as pleasant as possible?
Suck up to everyone! Seriously, a smile, friendly attitude and good eye contact can go a long way towards making your concerns heard and motivating others to go out of their way for your dog. Of course, tipping goes a long way too – so be sure to tip the baggage handler who takes your dog (about $20 if you can afford it).
Now I’ll share a trick from a seasoned pilot for a major carrier: Bring two packets of goodies (such as a sealed box of chocolates wrapped in cellophane) on board, a few photos of your dog, and a note that says:
“Dear Captain: Please know that on this flight you are carrying the most precious cargo in the world—my beloved dog (insert name). Please confirm that he is on board and that his area is safely pressurized and climate controlled. He means the world to our family and we appreciate your kindness.”
Give one package of goodies to the flight crew to keep and ask your flight attendant to deliver the other package with the note and photo of your dog to the cockpit.
If you have time to chat with your flight attendant without disrupting her duties, ask her about any pets she has, and whether she has photos to share. Make yourself stand out in a positive way. That way if there are any delays or complications with the flight, your concerns for the well being of your dog may be addressed more quickly.
Small dogs, of course, can fly in the cabin. What special considerations should be given when carrying a dog on board an airplane?
As you would with a larger dog flying below cabin, arrive at the airport early and give him a long walk to stretch his legs and relieve himself before heading inside. Adjust his feeding/watering schedule before the flight so that you do not anticipate him needing to eliminate for the duration of his journey, which may mean skipping a meal altogether. Do not feed him within two hours of departure.
If your little pooch is prone to anxiousness, consider a natural calming remedy such as Ultra-Calm Valerian cookies (available at Drs. Foster and Smith) or Rescue Remedy for pets (alcohol-free formula).
Are there particular breeds that require extra caution when flying, or that perhaps should not fly at all?
Yes! Any breed prone to breathing difficulties such as brachycephalic (short head, snub nose) breeds or those prone to stenotic nares (pinched nostrils) should not fly below cabin, as they are at risk for life-threatening heatstroke, respiratory and cardiovascular emergencies. These include the Pug, Pekingese, Shih Tzu, Boston Terrier, Bulldog, Boxer and Chow Chow. Luckily, some of these dogs are small enough to fly in the main cabin.
A major concern would also be with elderly dogs, dogs with heart or lung conditions, and dogs with extreme anxiety.
Understand that there may be instances (e.g., mechanical problems) when the air below cabin becomes compromised. This could potentially harm any dog, regardless or breed, age or state of health.
What final advice would you like to leave people with when it comes to dog air travel?
Don’t! Unless, of course, you really have to.
Fantastic Dog Air Travel Alternative: Pet Airways Pet-Only Airline
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Your furry friend is relying on you, so when it comes to dog air travel, please remember that the safest alternative is always to keep your pet off of a commercial airline carrier and out of cargo completely. There are far too many tragic losses that occur. Be sure that your pet is not one of them.
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