Airline Travel and Your Pet
Traveling with or shipping a puppy can be a stressful event from all aspects – the breeder, the new puppy parents, and the puppy himself.
First, let me start by saying that the majority of all pets and animals that travel by air suffer no serious consequences – 99.9% of the time, there is never a problem. For example, Continental ship 6725 dogs in November 2010 with only one incident. Those are pretty good odds unless of course you are the owner of the one dog that had an incident. On the other hand, there are enough cases that people are hearing about injuries and death on a fairly regular basis according to the news. In 2012, there were 58 animals that were lost, injured, or died during air transportation. In 2011, there were 46 animals. In 2010, there were 57 animals injured, lost, or died.
However, there are some things that you can do that will help your pet with transportation on airline. Here are some of the things that we recommend.
Get your crate early. Make sure it is the right size (check with the airlines if you are unsure). The travel crate must meet the airline’s standards and be large enough for the pet to lie down comfortably, turn around, and stand freely. Mark the crate with “Live Animal — This Side Up” and include your name, address, and telephone number in case she gets lost or misplaced in transit. You also should include the name, address, and telephone number of your destination. The airlines require that the door must be constructed of welded or cast metal of sufficient gauge or thickness to prevent the animal from bending or distorting the door. The door hinge and locking pins must engage the kennel by at least 1.5 cm (5/8″) beyond the horizontal extrusions above and below the door opening where the pins are fitted. The crate must also be held together by metal screws and NOT any type of plastic clips. Finally, the crate must have 2 bowls attached to allow the dog to eat and drink should it become necessary.
Take the time to let your pup/dog become familiar with it before it’s time to travel. Start feeding him in the back of the crate. Put his favorite blanket or bedding in the crate for him to sleep on. Get him accustomed to going in and out of the crate as well as being locked in the crate.
Take your pet around town to help him get accustomed to the notion of traveling. It might be beneficial to also put his crate in the vehicle as well and allow him to travel in it. That will help him get accustomed to being confined while traveling.
Watch the weather. This is very important. The airlines themselves are careful when shipping dogs when it is either too hot or too cold, but, it is your responsibility as well. Make sure any layovers are only booked for cities that have a temperature controlled cargo hold. Federal regulations prohibit shipping live animals as excess baggage or cargo if an animal will be exposed to temperatures that are below 45°F or above 85°F for more than four hours during departure, arrival, or while making connections.
Do some research. To make sure everything goes smoothly, I recommend that owners also do some Internet research (or place a few phone calls) to confirm that they are in compliance with their destination state or country for their pets travel.
Trip the the Vet for a CVI. As the time gets closer to the actual travel date, make sure that you take your pet to your local veterinarian to get your CVI (Certificate of Veterinary Inspection). This is also known as a health certificate. YOU MUST HAVE ONE. Certification of health must be provided no more than 10 days before travel. Rabies and vaccination certificates are also required. Your dog should be at least 8 weeks old and weaned. Your veterinarian will most likely know what will be needed for your pet to travel depending on the destination. However, it is beneficial to call ahead so that they can check with the USDA or the State Vet to make sure they have everything they need. They will most likely want to double check YOUR RESEARCH (Step 4). With International travel, this is even more important. Even with some states, such as Hawaii, you will need special treatment. Often they will require extra steps such as rabies titers, tapeworm deworming, or possibly even tick control. Make sure you plan ahead! It will take your veterinarian a few days to get to titers back it those are needed.
Know your pet. If your dog suffers extreme separation anxiety, you might need to get something from your veterinarian to help with the stress of their travel. Keep in mind, this can also affect your animals ability to regulate his temperature. If you have an English bulldog for example, or any of the breeds with the “pug” noses, also called brachiocephalic breeds, they have a more difficult time cooling themselves off – especially if they’ve been sedated. If they suffer a panic attack or separation anxiety, their stress can cause an increased body temperature. Then, because of their breathing limitations, they may have a hard time cooling themselves back off through their panting. Though sedation can help with the stress, you can also contribute to the dog not “breathing” as well. KNOW YOUR PET!
In one case, records show, an English bulldog died after its owner administered a dose of Xanax before a flight in late December from Orlando, Fla., to Seattle.
On the other hand, there have been many reports filed during the last few years that involve dogs injuring themselves while trying to chew their way out of their crate. One case in particular included a case of a dog getting his mouth stuck on the metal wires of the kennel door. Workers had to cut some of the wires to free the dogs mouth. We recently had one of our pups shipped back for some training and when he arrived we found a chewed up crate but luckily no injury.
Most veterinarians (and airlines too) do not recommend sedating your dog if you can help it. Proper planning will definitely help out here.
Book your flight.
All dogs are required to be pre-booked prior to arrival at the airline.
International flights must be booked a minimum of 3 days in advance and a maximum of 14 days in advance.
U. S.-based flights must be booked a minimum of 24 hours in advance and a maximum of 14 days in advance.
Make sure you get to the airline early. Because your pet will have to wait to be loaded on the airplane, you want to make sure you walk them for their potty break right before they are taken back.
The airlines will require an absorbent material in the bottom of the crate. You can use a towel, newspaper, or even “litter”.
Towels, blankets, and shredded black and white newspaper are good choices.
Organic materials like straw, hay or wood shavings are prohibited outside of the contiguous 48 United States and Alaska.
If using newspaper, use non-color newspaper as the ink used in color printed paper may be toxic to animals.
The AVMA recommends only newspaper or thin material be placed on the kennel floor to keep the pet from accidentally inhaling some during flight or from keeping the pet so insulated that they over heat.
Upon Arrival: Once you arrive at the airline and have a chance to walk your dog, you will have to present him to the check-in location. They will want to inspect the crate prior to your dog being loaded inside. Then, they will ask to have him placed inside and they will zip strip the door shut as a extra safety precaution.
Most airlines will then provide you with a number that will allow you to follow your dog’s flight until he reaches his destination.
Choose a direct flight whenever possible.
Bring a leash and collar for walking your pet prior to departure. Do not place the leash inside the kennel.
Adequate Hydration: Your pet should be offered hydration prior to going to the airport. Freeze a small dish of water the night before the trip so it won’t spill while loading. It should be melted by the time your pet is thirsty. Ice cubes work too but not as well. The crate bowl can be removed from the freezer and attached just before shipping.
Water bottles are permitted provided they are firmly secured to the outside of the kennel and are refillable without opening the door. A separate dish for food as described above is also required.
Make sure that you place either some treats or some of his food in a plastic bag and tape it to the top of his crate – that way it will be available should he need to be fed during transportation.
Also, place his leash in a bag and tape it to the top of the crate as well.
Include identification tags with home address and telephone number, as well as the address and phone number of the person receiving the animal at the destination.
Give your pet a nice, carb-heavy meal and plenty of water the night before. Don’t feed them at least 4 hours prior to flight to reduce the risk of nausea.
Consider sleeping in an old t-shirt, which you can then place in the pet’s crate for the flight. Your scent helps calm the animal.
Never send your pet wearing a muzzle or choke collar; both can be dangerous when an animal is alone.
Pets can sometimes be shipped COD if needed.
Additional fees and charges that could apply: Terminal handling charges, customs clearance fees, veterinarian service, and/or kennel storage fees are in addition to shipping rates and will be charged to the shipper or pet owner upon arrival at destination airport. All fees and charges must be paid in full prior to the release of animal.
You may want to consider a permanent form of ID (such as a microchip or tattoo) that can increase the likelihood of reuniting you with your dog if it gets lost far from home.
Carry recent pictures of your dog with you. If he is accidentally separated, these pictures will help local authorities find your dog.
When making your travel plans, keep in mind that extra large and giant kennels will not fit on some aircraft. The maximum weight allowed per piece may also be limited.
Traveling can be stressful for everyone – your pet is family, so take the extra time to make sure that the flight is as easy as possible on everyone.