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Transporting Your Pet by Airplane

Diana Delmar
Editor Kathleen Cavanagh, DVM

Some airlines allow pets in the cabin if they are very small and can fit into a carrier under the seat. This may be an acceptable way to transport your pet if he or she is easy-going and travels well. If the airline you will be using does not allow pets in the cabin or you have a medium- to large-sized dog, transportation by plane can be a bit of a risky business.

The care of animals on airplanes is regulated by the United States Department of Agriculture, and it is true that many pets travel safely by airplane. Others, however, have been lost, become ill, and some have even died. Regulations are currently being updated to reflect the needs of traveling pets.

Pets shipped on airplanes must be at least 8 weeks old and fully weaned. If they are not with you in the cabin, they are transported as checked baggage or cargo. If the plane gets stuck on the runway and it is very hot or cold outside, your pet is at risk of overheating or hypothermia (low body temperature), respectively. According to the Air Transport Association, there is no guarantee that your pet will travel on the flight you book if shipped as cargo.

Short-nosed dogs such as the pug, chow chow, Lhasa apso, Pekingese, shih tzu, Boston terrier, and boxer, as well as flat-faced cats such as the Persian or Himalayan, do not breathe as efficiently as pets with longer noses and should not routinely be flown on airplanes.

Generally, pets should not be sedated for air travel, say experts. The effects of sedation at high altitude may be unpredictable, and sedation can interfere with the pet's ability to balance, which could lead to injury. More research is needed on the effects of sedation on the body at high altitudes.

If you have questions about whether your pet should be flown, check with your veterinarian.

If you decide to fly your pet, the trip must be carefully planned and coordinated with the airline of your choice.

Making Air Travel Safe for Your Dog

Make sure the airline you plan to use will transport your pet when you book your flight. Ask about specifics such as the kind and size of the kennel your pet must have, which might vary with the type of aircraft, and where you should take your pet when you check in for your flight.

If your trip includes a connecting flight, you will likely need to claim your pet at the connecting stop and check your pet in for the next flight, the Air Transport Association says. The Association also recommends that you do the following:


Larry Tilley's Recommended Info site (www.VetMedCenter.com)