A few months ago I flew with a dog for the first time. My partner and I brought our foster dog, Bono, from New York to his forever home in Florida.
It was an interesting experience that we felt unprepared for – even as we boarded the plane. Having done it once, I was still curious what a vet’s advice would be for pet owners to prepare for flying with a beloved furry friend.
Whether it’s your first time or you want to confirm you’ve taken the right precautions, I have Dr. Jeremy Kimmelstiel, an associate regional medical director at Bond Vet in New York City, consulted on how to fly a dog.
►Travel tips for pets:What you should know before you take your dog or cat on your first pandemic trip
►If the fur needs to fly:Airlines make it difficult and costly to bring your pets with you
This interview has been edited and shortened for clarity.
Q: What advice would you give people preparing to fly with a pet?
celestial stick: Make sure you know all the rules and regulations of your airline, Transportation Security Administration, and destination before heading to the airport with your furry friend.
Talk to your vet well in advance of your trip about any concerns you may have for Fluffy or Fido. I would say 6-8 weeks before your intended departure if you can. This gives you time to update any required vaccinations, try any medications before the day of travel and address any pre-existing health concerns. Additionally, if your destination requires travel documents, there may need to be a very strict schedule.
Get your pet used to its carrier. Leaving the stretcher in a convenient place like the living room or your bedroom will make them less afraid to get in to leave the house.
Q: How do you know what an airline is charging?
celestial stick: I would recommend checking your airline’s website or calling their customer service department to find out exactly what is required for pets to fly on their plane. Airline requirements vary widely, and requirements are subject to change frequently.
If you are traveling abroad, you should also check with your destination prior to departure to ensure your pet meets all health requirements for entry.
(A side note: airlines have pet regulations. United, the airline we flew with, requires for example: your pet must be a certain age, travel with an adult, pay a fee for your pet to fly, may require documentation for your pet, depending on destination, and a carrier if pet flies in cabin.)
Q: If your pet is anxious, how would you help him stay calm?
Disclosure: The day we flew we called the vet’s office and a rep suggested we give our dog half a Benadryl before we left.
celestial stick: If you have an anxious pet, you should contact your family vet to discuss anti-anxiety medications that might be an option. Just like with humans, Benadryl can make our pets a little dizzy, but it doesn’t help relieve anxiety. If you have a very energetic pet that could use a little help falling asleep on a plane, Benadryl could be a good option for them. Again, though, I would recommend discussing this with your GP as well to ensure you are administering the correct dose.
Q: Are there any health risks for flying pets?
celestial stick: There are certainly health risks to all pets flying in cargo, most of which are temperature related. Airplane cargo holds are rarely air-conditioned, which means your pet can be exposed to very high and/or very low temperatures. Fluctuations in temperature are usually tolerated reasonably well by healthy adult dogs and cats, but there are certainly exceptions.
Brachycephalic (smooth-faced dogs and cats) breeds like French Bulldogs and Persians are more prone to overheating in extreme temperatures. Puppies, kittens, and older pets are more likely to suffer from hypo- and hyperthermia because they have a reduced ability to regulate their own body temperature.
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Q: Which airlines are best for flying with pets?
celestial stick: Most major airlines welcome furry family members with restrictions and regulations on how this can be done. Airlines like JetBlue, American Airlines and Southwest all have their rules outlined on their website. It is difficult to define which is the best as every pet and travel situation is different.
Q: How much does it cost to get the health clearances you need to fly?
celestial stick: Health certification costs may vary depending on the number of forms required and destination.
International health certificates usually cost more due to stricter requirements and longer forms to fill out. A domestic travel certificate is usually a single form required by the airline to ensure the pet is healthy enough for air travel.
At Bond Vet, health certificates can range from just under $200 to around $600, depending on the variables above. It is also important to remember that this cost does not include any additional items that may be required by the destination country, such as: B. rabies or deworming.