Taking dogs on planes requires a high degree of commitment to their welfare balanced with a responsibility to public safety and comfort. For the uninitiated, flying with dogs and cats is as likely to elicit anxiety (both yours and your pets) as it is to alleviate it. However, thorough preparation can go a long way to ease the discomforts in flying with pets. Here’s what you should know in advance:
1. Calculate How Long Your Pet Will Spend with TSA
If your flight is four hours long and you get to the airport two hours early, plan on at least six hours that your dog or cat may not get to go potty. If your pet can’t wait that long, consider alternatives like pee pads or diapers.
2. Research the Airports Thoroughly
Look up your airport and “pet travel” online for answers to these questions:
Where are the “pet relief areas?”
Do you need to leave security to get to a relief area or is there one inside?
Some airports have pet rooms with fake grass and doggie bags. Is there real grass or just the fake stuff your dog won’t use?
Do they have a culture of accepting dogs with open arms or do they have a reputation for being difficult?
3. Think of Pets Like Children on a Long Flight
What will they need to keep cozy and content for all those hours? A rolled up padded bed, a few toys, a Thundershirt, some time-consuming chews. Be thoughtful and considerate to your pet’s needs and desires.
4. Plan Ahead with the Airline to Ensure Your Pet has Enough Space
If your pet is large, they’ll likely have to make accommodations. Make sure that you have all necessary ticketing and paperwork. Airlines often have a department dedicated to disability concerns that help you through these basic considerations.
5. Consider Sedation for Anxiety-prone Pets
Typically, I recommend that nervous pets stay home, but mild sedation is perfectly appropriate for well-socialized pets who might be a little anxious on their first few flights. I like using Benadryl (diphenhydramine) or Sileo (dexmedetomidine). Ask your veterinarian what’s best for your pet.
6. Be Prepared Little Emergencies
An extra few hours on the tarmac, a nervous bladder, a vomit-y mess, etc. Be sure to pack paper towels, wet wipes, and clean-up bags.
Whatever you do, keep a positive outlook. Traveling with pets can be rewarding, and your good attitude goes a long way to making sure you have a great experience. However, it’s just as important to recognize that not all pets are born to be world travelers – or at least by plane. Figure out how best to travel with your furry companion.