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A black and white dog sits on concrete in front of an airplane in The Dig’s article how to fly with a dog or cat

Health & Wellness

How to fly with a dog

And what to pack for their travels

Flying can be stressful for pups. It can be tough for them to stay in a crate for long periods of time and the unfamiliar sounds and smells of a plane don’t help with the uneasiness either. Fetch’s on-staff veterinarian Dr. Aliya McCullough shares tips on making your dog feel comfortable both when in the cargo area or the main cabin. 

How to fly with a dog

Make sure air travel is safe for your pup before securing a spot for them on your flight. Pets are most likely OK to fly if they meet these requirements: 

  • Have a good health status
  • Feel comfortable in new settings
  • Don’t startle easily
  • Are not easily stressed
  • Get along well with strangers and other pets
  • Are comfortable in their carrier for long periods

Overweight, younger and older dogs, along with brachycephalic breeds (like pugs), are more at risk of developing health complications while flying. After confirming with your vet that your pet has the right temperament and health status for flying, there are a couple of ways to prepare your dog for your adventure: 

Prep early

You should start prepping your dog for air travel at least 1 week before your flight, but the earlier, the better. Make sure your dog’s crate is a safe space for them. Your dog should be familiar with their crate, and it helps to include their favorite toys or blankets. 

Visit the vet

Before traveling, ask your vet if your dog is healthy and has the right temperament for air travel. Make sure your dog is up-to-date on their preventive care like vaccinations, medications or deworming. Depending on where you’re traveling, it may be wise to get a health certificate for your pup and any necessary travel documents. Health certificates show that pets are in good health, have all the required vaccines and aren’t showing any signs of transmissible diseases. 

If it isn’t safe for your dog to travel, make other boarding arrangements for them while you're away. You can talk to your veterinarian about options or research doggy daycare centers that may offer boarding services. 

Know the rules

Research the airline and destination pet policies (and fees) before flying. Ensure your dog has the required vaccinations, correct carrier, documentation and signed forms. Depending on your destination, your pup may also need to be quarantined or wait out testing periods, so it’s key to factor that in when making your travel arrangements. 

Here’s what to expect when you’re at the airport

Factor in time at the airport before your flight to make sure your dog gets their steps in. Walking your dog will help them to feel more comfortable with the sounds, smells and sights of the airport. Keep in mind that there’s nowhere for dogs to go to the bathroom on airplanes. So, limit the amount of food or water you give them before flying, and guarantee they’ve had enough time to use the bathroom before boarding. 

Here’s a list of things you’ll need to fly with your dog

A big part of making your pet comfortable and safe while traveling is making sure they have everything they need. Here’s what you should make your packing list: 

  • Travel documents
  • Pet carrier
  • Leash
  • Collar
  • A sealed bag of their food (and a dish)
  • Chew toys for potentially unsupervised playtime (talk to your vet about safe options first)
  • Medications 
  • Blanket or towel that smells like home (but make sure your dog won’t eat it as it’s a choking hazard)
  • Waste bags for when your pet goes to the bathroom

A sedative, like Benadryl, for your pet to take on the flight, should never make your packing list without your vet’s permission. 

How much does it cost to fly a dog?

The cost of traveling with your dog depends on the airlines and the destination. Still, it generally costs between $25 to $250 each way without the cost of the vet visits and necessary items like the airline-approved carrier. 

Pet policies by airlines

Bringing your dog on an airplane depends on the airline you’re flying. Every airline has a different pet policy, but some pet-friendly airlines to check out are American Airlines, Delta, Southwest and United Airlines. 

When planning your next vacation, be sure to follow our travel tips to make the journey as easy as possible. Following your airlines’ pet policies ensures a comfortable and stress-free trip for you and your pet. If you're not traveling by plane, we have an article covering all the things you should know before your next trip with your pet.

The Dig, Fetch Pet Insurance's expert-backed editorial, answers all of the questions you forget to ask your vet or are too embarrassed to ask at the dog park. We help make sure you and your best friend have more good days, but we’re there on bad days, too.

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