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Pet Airways: Tips to prepare your dog for air travel

Posted on: November 19th, 2010 by

A dog sits in a crate, preparing for air travel.
By: The Pet Airways Team
For Pets Best Insurance

Road trips with dogs can be a wonderful adventure, but sometimes driving cross-country simply isn’t practical or possible. Air travel with pets can be a safe and comfortable option, with just a small amount of preparation.

When traveling with your pet to any destination, it’s also a good idea to make sure you’re up-to-date with your pet insurance coverage, as emergencies and illnesses are a possibility when traveling with pets, as well as in your hometown.

Make sure you have the correct pet carrier size
While we might like to imagine our dogs sitting in first class seats while enjoying in-flight entertainment, traveling in a carrier is actually the safest way to go– so longs as it’s the correct size! Remember, your dog must be able to stand and turn comfortably in the carrier. You’ll also want to add some canine amenities, such as a comfy blanket to provide warmth and cushioning on the joints, some healthy treats, a favorite toy, spare leash and collar, and any necessary medications.

Help your dog feel comfortable in the carrier
Dogs are den animals by nature. They seek out a quiet, safe haven they can call their own – and there’s no reason they won’t feel that way about their carrier with a little proper introduction:

• Let your dog sniff out and explore the inside of the carrier on his own. Enhance his curiosity by tossing a few bite-sized treats inside and leave the door open.

• Try feeding your dog in the carrier. Quietly close the door while he eats and then open the door after the meal is over and let him go outside.

• Make the inside of the carrier cozy and comfy by lining the bottom with a blanket, old bath towel or a t-shirt with your scent. Provide a favorite chew toy to keep him occupied.

• Never place your dog in his crate as a punishment. Select a different time-out location like a bathroom (turn the light on) when you need to stop an unwanted behavior quickly.

Do NOT Sedate!
It’s natural to want to keep your dog calm and relaxed during air travel, but administering a sedative is never recommended. Sedatives can alter a dog’s natural ability to balance and maintain equilibrium and body temperature, which can lead to other pet health issues. Sedatives also relax the respiratory muscles, which makes breathing more difficult, potentially leading to over-exertion and a drop in blood sugar. Finally, sedatives also impair the flight attendant’s ability to determine if a pet is quiet or lethargic because of the sedative or because the pet needs medical attention for another reason.

Think twice about cargo
The reality of pet travel with passenger airlines is not comforting to pet owners. News media constantly bring to light stories of dogs chewing through their carriers, getting loose on the tarmac and most recently, tragedies involving brachycephalic breeds or puppies. The temperature in the cargo hold can vary from 0 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit, and there is no climate control on the ground. Even in cargo compartments designated for pets, the oxygen pressure may be minimized for fire suppression, and the pilot may not even know there are pets onboard, as they are classified as cargo.

Although in the past, cargo was the only option for dogs too large to fit under the seat, that is no longer the case. On Pet Airways, dogs fly comfortably in the climate-controlled main cabin of the specially-equipped planes under the constant care of a Pet Attendant.

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