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Is Air Travel Safe For Pets?

Published on: June 16, 2022  |  Author: Starwood Pet Travel

golden retriever getting petAt some point in all the excitement of learning you are moving a long way from home – perhaps to a far-away foreign country – you have probably stopped to wonder if air travel is safe for your pets. You certainly want to take your four-legged family members with you, but will they be OK with the journey? In general, yes air travel is safe for pets. It's just important to do your research and ensure your pet is healthy to fly.

Pet-friendly airlines make special accommodations for pets.

Pet-friendly airlines know how important your pets are, so they understand how concerning it can be to entrust your pooch or kitty into their care. They have put in place special procedures and precautions expressly to protect traveling pets.

Not all airlines are equally pet-friendly, but the good ones will load your animals onto the plane last and take them off first, so they spend the least amount of time onboard. They also place live animals in the baggage compartment or cargo area, which is pressurized, oxygenated and temperature-controlled. When weather conditions are dangerously hot or cold, airlines can prohibit pet travel altogether, or they may allow departures and arrivals only during certain times of the day, as a safety precaution.

Some airlines have special rules regarding snub-nosed or brachycephalic dogs and cats, because these breeds can have respiratory issues, especially in the heat or in stressful situations.

You may be annoyed at having to purchase a special IATA-approved travel kennel for each pet, but these carriers are specifically designed to be extra-sturdy while affording plenty of ventilation. They are sized to give animals enough room to move around and get comfortable without giving them too much room that would be unsafe.

You can make your pet’s kennel more comfortable with a create pad, pee-pee pad and thin blanket, t-shirt or towel that smells like home. Keep in mind that your pet cannot travel with a thick bed or comforter or anything more than 3 inches thick. As a safety precaution to stay “connected” with your pets, clearly mark the kennel with your name and contact information and your pet’s name. If you work with a professional pet transport company, all this will be done for you – they can even provide you with the correct kennel so you can skip the research and shopping.

Sedation is not allowed for pets traveling by air. While you might think using a tranquilizer might seem like a good idea, these drugs impair an animal’s ability to remain alert and properly balanced, which puts your pets at greater risk for injury or anxiety. Sedatives can also cause respiratory or cardiac problems when your pet is up in the air at high altitudes. If the airline believes your pet has been sedated, then they can refuse them for travel.

The statistics are in your pet’s favor.

There are times when pets become ill or die because of air travel. The US Department of Transportation has required airlines to report pet-related problems since May 2005. According to a Forbes article, the DOT reports from 2019 show 11 animal deaths, 8 injuries to other animals, and no lost animals. "But in 2019, a total of 404,556 animals were transported by airlines, for a rate of 0.47 incidents per 10,000 animals transported." As you can see, the rate of death, injury or loss is very low compared to the number of pets that fly every year.

Consider your pet's overall health and well-being.

While air travel is statistically safe for pet travel, you also have to consider the question of whether air travel is the best choice for your pets. It is essential to talk with your vet as early in the moving process as possible. Aside from the paperwork and required exams or additional vaccinations and treatments your furry family may need, your vet knows your pets as patients, so he or she can advise you knowledgeably and compassionately about whether or not your pets are appropriate candidates for air travel.

You should take into consideration your pet's age, breed, overall health and pre-existing conditions. Sometimes your pet's breed or pre-existing conditions can be exacerbated by air travel. Some animals just don’t travel well, no matter how far you’re going. Some airlines or countries don’t allow certain breeds of dogs or cats, and in some places cats must be kept indoors.

How long are you likely to stay in your new home? If you’re moving for a one-year assignment to a country that has a lengthy quarantine requirement, perhaps your pets would be better off waiting with a friend or relative at home for you to return.

Once you’re confident your pets are capable of traveling safely by air, doing everything you can to prepare them will ease the process, so their airplane trip can be safe and comfortable and you can retain your peace of mind.

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