Preparing to Fly with Your Dog

Pet Insurance  •   Mary Shaughney  •   Apr 11, 2018

You have a big trip coming up and driving cross country with your dog just won’t cut it this time. Is flying with your dog in the cabin a feasible option? Thousands of people fly with pets every year, and airlines are becoming more accommodating than ever. With a little preparation for you and your dog, flying doesn’t have to be an ordeal!

Choose Your Airline

Every airline has its own rules regarding the number of pets allowed in the cabin on each flight. Be sure to check your airline’s website for the list of rules and requirements and contact the airlines with any questions you may have ahead of time. Read about the rules regarding dog height and weight, crate size and breed restrictions. The BringFido website has a handy guide that addresses many of the major U.S. airlines’ pet policies.

Book Your Flight

Make your reservations as early as possible as many airlines have rules regarding the number of dogs allowed in the cabin on each flight. You should call the airlines to make your reservation to ensure that your dog has a reserved spot on the plane, and to ask any questions that you might have so you’re prepared. If you are scheduling a round trip flight, ensure that you tell the airline that you will have your pup on BOTH legs of the trip. Expect to pay a fee for having your dog fly with you; fees generally range from $95-$125 each way. Book nonstop flights if possible as a long day of travel with limited access to comfortable doggie bathrooms and confinement to a carrier are not in the best interest of your pet.

Health Certificates: The Great Debate

Depending on who you ask, you’ll receive differing answers about whether a health certificate is required to fly. Some people report having to show their certificate when checking-in, while others say they were never even asked for a certificate. Most airlines require that you have a health certificate completed with proof that your dog is up to date on his rabies vaccinations.

Health certificates are required to be issued within 10 days of your trip and generally cost less than $35. Visiting the veterinarian before a flight is important to ensure your dog is healthy for travel. Dogs should be at least 8 weeks before taken on a flight.  

Sedating Your Dog

The American Veterinary Medical Association states that in most cases dogs should not be given sedatives when flying as they can increase the likelihood of respiratory and cardiovascular problems. If your dog is prone to anxiety, you can speak with your veterinarian during this visit to determine if sedatives would be the safest option for your dog.

Approved Travel Carriers

Your dog will have to travel inside an approved carrier during his/her time in most terminals and for the entire duration of the flight. Airlines will tell you the appropriate dimensions of the carriers that will be allowed for use on the plane. These dimensions are based on what size carrier will fit under the seat, so trying to sneak in an extra inch is not advisable! Check out the Guaranteed On-Board program for specific information on which carriers are acceptable for each airline!

Choosing a Travel Carrier

When choosing a dog carrier, make sure that your pup fits comfortably. Keep an eye out for carriers that offer small pockets for storing items such as your pet-fee receipt, health certificate, and a small baggie of food. Packing everything you need for your pup can help make the trip more manageable. Remember that this will count as your carry-on bag, so having the option to store some personal items in the side might be helpful to you!

Travel Carrier Tips

You may want to line the base of your dog carrier with blankets or absorbent materials in case your dog has an accident. Remember to also attach identification information to the carrier so you can easily be reunited with your dog should something happen. 

Getting your dog accustomed to traveling in their carrier before a flight can help reduce stress on your trip. Take your dog on a few outings where he must ride in the carrier, so he associates it with a fun adventure.

Off to the Airport!

You’re all prepared to travel! Learn how to get through security efficiently and keep your dog comfortable during the flight in our Flying with Your Dog Blog!

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Mary Shaughney

About the Author
Mary Shaughney

Mary comes to AKC Pet Insurance with an extensive background in animal care. As a lifelong animal lover, she has a passion for promoting pet health and wellness. Mary lives in Raleigh, North Carolina with her orange kitty, "Cat" and her dog, " Wubbi".