Plan before you fly with your dog


I plan to travel to California this winter and would love to bring my 11 year old Laboratory Oreo with me. I can make sure that it sits in an airline crate in the hold on a non-stop flight (about six hours). What advice could you have? Should the dog travel with food or water? What if he has to go to the bathroom during the flight? Are there other ways I should consider sending or taking him west as I will be out there for several months? I could leave him at boarding school, but I think that would be unfair to him and a little cruel.

The scenario you are asking about is very different from traveling abroad with a dog or pet, which can be much more labor intensive and sometimes difficult depending on the country you are flying to. I often advise my clients to consider how long they are going to be out and about to travel with the dog, and that goes for both domestic and international travel. Check with the airline to find out what their requirements are. If you call three times in a day, you might get three different answers about what you need or need.

You need to be sure that you have the right size crate and that the shipping box meets certain standards that can change from one airline to another. If you plan to take your dog to the west coast, be sure to reserve a seat in advance as many airlines have limited the number of pets on a particular flight. You will also need a health certificate, which is usually issued by your local veterinarian within 10 days of travel. I would avoid a sedative as Oreo is older, but you could give 25-50 mg OTC diphenhydramine to make him a little drowsy and take the edge off. Withhold food and water for a few hours (two to four) before flight time to reduce vomiting, and take him outside the airport before signing him up for the flight to reduce the need for cancellation. Since this is a six-hour flight, traveling on an empty stomach shouldn’t be a problem.

You can choose not to fly but to drive your dog around the country and possibly enjoy a nice trip. Conversely, there are numerous animal transport companies that will take care of anything that might keep you busy. Some would let the dog fly while others took him away in the truck. If you don’t go for too long, a reputable, spacious inn can work for both you and your dog. If you consider it, let him hop in for a day or two and spend a night or two to see how he’s doing. He could see it as a vacation or a camp! Browsing through all of the options will give you options that you might not otherwise have considered. Good luck and good for planning ahead.

Dr. John de Jong owns and operates the Boston Mobile Veterinary Clinic. He can be reached at 781-899-9994.


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