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Keep Your Pet Safe During Air Travel - Follow These 7 Rules

Published on: July 13, 2022  |  Author: Starwood Pet Travel

dog in bed closeup

The thing about air travel that most worries pet owners is the fact that you cannot control every detail. It’s likely you’ll have to hand over your beloved four-legged family member to strangers. Fortunately, pet-friendly airlines have special procedures to ensure cats and dogs stay safe while in their custody. Of course, there are still things you can do yourself to keep your pet safe during air travel.

Rule #1: Microchip your dog or cat.

For a pet parent, there are few fears worse than your precious pooch or feline escaping or getting lost. This can happen at home as well as on the road. A microchip is your best chance to recover your pet, should the unthinkable happen. It’s quick to administer, and not expensive.

The microchip is your pet’s unique identifier, linking them with your contact information. It is universally readable, regardless where you are in the world. For that reason, pets traveling internationally are required to have a microchip. Make sure you register the microchip with your information so that you can be reached if someone else finds your pet and scans the microchip.

Remember, though, that the microchip is not a replacement for a collar and tags that also carry your pet’s – and your – personal information. It takes a special electronic device to read the chip, but anyone can read your pet’s tags.

Rule #2: Visit your veterinarian as soon as possible.

Your pet’s safety starts with a clean bill of health so you know they're fit to fly. Your pet’s age, breed, weight, general physical condition and overall temperament can affect their safety and comfort during air travel. If you’re traveling from one state to another, you’ll need proof of current rabies vaccination and a domestic health certificate issued by your vet. If you’re flying out of the country (or to Hawaii), you’ll need additional documentation, and your pet may need additional vaccinations, blood tests or treatments.

Rule #3: Choose a direct flight (when possible).

This isn’t always possible, but the less time your pet has to spend on an airplane, the less stressed they will be. Multiple flights that require plane changes increase your pet’s time in their kennel, perhaps waiting on the tarmac where the weather might be less than ideal. A professional pet transport expert can help you make the best flight arrangements for your pet, choosing the best airline as well as the best itinerary.

Rule #4: Consider in-cabin travel.

This isn’t always available, and it’s not possible for larger dogs, but riding in the cabin is sometimes considered safer for snub-nosed pets. Cats and dogs traveling in the cargo hold ride in a special area that is pressurized, oxygenated and temperature-controlled like the cabin, but at altitude pets with short snouts may still have more difficulty breathing.

Rule #5: Get your pet’s airline travel kennel right away.

Pets traveling by air require an IATA-compliant travel kennel for their journey. Since they will be spending a fair amount of time inside the kennel, you want them to think of it as a positive, desirable space – a place that they recognize as theirs. Buy it as soon as you can so they can become familiar with it. Never use it as a place for “time outs” or banishment. Instead, encourage your pet to play in it, eat treats in it, snooze in it – whatever it takes for them to get comfortable.

And speaking of comfortable, you’ll want to line the bottom of the kennel with something soft and absorbent (in case of an accident). Your pet can travel with a crate pad, thin blanket, t-shirt or towel that smells like home and a pee-pee pad. The familiar smell of home can further reduce their anxiety throughout their journey. Just don't send any thick bedding (more than 3 inches thick), litter boxes or other personal belongings as these won't be allowed to travel on the plane with your pet.

Rule #6: Don’t forget the leash for your on-board pet.

Just because your pup or kitty will travel in their carrier under the seat in front of you doesn’t mean you do not need a leash. The last thing you want is for them to escape in the airport, and you’ll have to remove them from their carrier to go through security. You may also want to visit the airport’s pet relief area, especially if your itinerary involves multiple flights. So you’ll need a collar or harness plus leash.

Rule #7: Treat your pet to a pre-travel grooming.

Who doesn’t feel more comfortable when they’re freshly bathed? A bath might not make your pet safer, but it will make them happier. If your pet has longer fur and they're traveling to a warmer climate, it doesn't hurt to get them a haircut as well. Lastly, a fresh nail trim will also keep them safe and comfortable.

Hundreds of thousands of pets experience air travel every year, and mishaps are rare. Following these rules can help ensure your pet travels safely and comfortably, no matter where you’re headed.

Starwood Animal Transport has rebranded to Starwood Pet Travel. We are still the same great company with the best team, just now with a slightly different name.