5 Tips for Flying with Your Dog

A yellow lab stands with his owner before they head to the airport to fly out.

By Dr. Eva Evans, a veterinarian and writer for Pets Best, a pet insurance agency for dogs and cats.

Flying with your dog? Here are five tips to travel safe and smart.

As pets become more like family members, they are joining their human comrades during travel at an increasing rate. Traveling by car or RV is simple, but flying your pet on an airplane can get tricky! Follow these 5 steps to provide Fido with a first-class experience.

1. Get Your Travel Documents Early

If you are traveling domestically, travel documents include vaccination records, medications with dosages, known allergies, your veterinarian’s phone number, a health certificate and a written plan just in case disaster strikes. An interstate health certificate from your veterinarian shows that your dog has been vaccinated appropriately and is in good enough health to travel. If you are flying to Hawaii or internationally, you will need additional forms and possible blood tests, flea treatments, etc for your dog. Be sure to visit your veterinarian at least two to three months before your departure date to prevent any hold ups with travel. When you arrive at the airport make sure you have additional copies of paperwork in case the originals are lost.

2. Discuss With Your Veterinarian If Your Dog Needs Sedation

Flying is stressful, especially if it’s your first time! Many dogs do not need any sedation while flying, but occasionally some dogs do. If you suspect that your dog will have an uncomfortable level of anxiety, make sure to consult with a veterinarian. Often times these dogs will be prescribed a sedative that is safe for airplane travel. Be advised: the common sedative for dogs, Acepromazine, is NOT recommended for airplane travel!

3. Bring A Snack For Fido

These days, airline delays are common, and you never know when your flight might be cancelled leaving you stranded with your pet. Even if you are planning on a quick flight, make sure to bring some of your dog’s regular food just in case. Water can be purchased inside the terminal, but dog food can’t! The foods available inside an airport are likely to cause major intestinal upset and diarrhea if fed to a dog, so be prepared!

4. Monitor Your Dog’s Behavior Before, During, and After The Flight

It’s important to keep an eye on Fido throughout the whole travel process. Watch for excessive panting (indicating possible overheating, anxiety or pain), lethargy and overall behavior. If you notice any significant change in behavior, make sure that your dog sees a veterinarian as soon as possible. Sometimes, removing the dog from the stressful situation is all it takes, but if your dog continues to behave strangely, make sure he is seen to rule out any stress-induced illnesses.

5. If Your Dog Is Too Big To Fit Under the Seat In Front of You

Small dogs will need to be placed in a carrier that fits under the seat in front of you. If your dog is too big for this, he will likely be riding under the plane in the cargo area. Do your research on the individual airline and make sure you understand exactly how your dog will be stowed. Each airline has individual regulations for flying with pets. For example, some airlines ban certain breeds from flying as checked baggage. Some airlines forbid pets from flying as checked baggage if the weather is too hot or cold, in either the departure city or arrival city, or they’ll have seasonal restrictions/bans.

If you have a dog that is prone to heat stroke such as an English bulldog or pug, or if your dog is a large long haired breed such as a Newfoundland or Pyrenees, take extra precaution in warm temperatures. These types of dogs should be carefully evaluated prior to traveling.

Follow these tips to ensure that you and your dog have a safe flight to your vacation destination!

The views and opinions expressed in this article are that of Dr. Eva Evans. You should always consult with your own veterinarian because they know your pet’s current and past health situation.


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  • FYI…I travel extensively internationally with my small dog in the plane cabin and you mention to bring dog food with you on the plane… Well in the US and other countries, they will confiscate it during security check…no food allowed…or snacks that are meat products…just thought you should know. I learned the hard easy many times!!!

  • Kristin

    Thanks for this great article! I wish I would of knew some of this years ago. I always fly with my 5 lb Shih Tzu and the vet prescribed her Ace for her first flight. Worst experience ever! She was gasping for air and going crazy. Since that I have never given her any meds and she has been just fine.

  • Marie O'Connell

    I work for an airline and dogs cannot fly in any cabin on international flights unless they are service animals ie.with blind or other passengers with certain disabilities !!

    • Jac

      I also have travelled both domestic AND internationally with a pet (dog or cat) many (MANY) times over the last three decades. One pet made trips to/from Europe with me six times. Airlines have different rules regarding acceptance of pets in the cabin and they charge different rates/fees; most have limitations concerning the number of pets per flight–so check, compare and reserve your pet’s space early. I’ve never had a small plastic container of pet food/kibble packed in the pet carrier confiscated at security.

  • Sherri Olson

    Also sometimes medication for motion sickness is needed. My small rescue dog was given Xanax for the anxiety and it did nothing. The get even increased the dose but still nothing. Turns out he was getting motion sickness. A little Meclizine would have made him so much more comfortable instead of 6 hours of hell each way.


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