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Whether you’re relocating abroad, going on an extended holiday or for any other reason, occasionally, dog owners find that they need to transport their dog by air. Airplane travel and its associated issues can be stressful for dogs, and the chances are that your dog will not be allowed to stay with you for the duration of the flight, so transporting your dog by air should be avoided if there are any viable alternatives on the table. However, if you do find yourself in the position of having to take a flight with your dog, here are the main points that you will need to consider and arrange to take care of your dog for the flight itself, in order to make the trip as safe, stress free and simple as possible.
The Pet Passport Travel Scheme for animals is the only way in which you can bring your dog in and out of the UK freely and without having to subject him to quarantine at the UK end (and in some other countries too) for protracted periods of time. More information on the Pet Passport Travel Scheme and rules for transporting your pet across international borders and the quarantine rules in different countries are covered in detail in this article on emigrating with your pet. But in terms of arranging your pet’s flight itself and how to manage it, it would be foolish not to make reference to the need for a passport for your dog!
Your dog must be at least eight weeks old and have been weaned no less than five days before your intended flight, or they will be refused passage by the inspecting veterinary professional at the airport. Similarly, your dog must be in good health in order to fly, and you will need to present his full veterinary records and evidence of a recent check-up from your own vet to back this up. The airline that transports your pet and the airport’s regulations themselves will insist that your dog and his cage are inspected by an on-site vet or animal welfare officer prior to being permitted to board, and this is usually charged for in addition to your flight and your dog’s subsidiary fee.
Not all airlines will carry pets, and some will only transport your dog on certain routes. This being the case, do not book your own ticket on the assumption that you can then contact the airline and have your dog added to the booking, as this may not be possible. Some airlines that will carry pets have restrictions as to the maximum number of animals allowed on any given flight, so even if your route is covered, book well in advance to ensure that your dog gets his place!
If your dog is very small (under 15lb generally) they may be permitted to travel in the cabin with you, provided that they are secured in an airline- approved cage of the appropriate dimensions for both the dog and the plane, and remain within it for the duration of the flight. However, in the vast majority of cases, dogs fly in the cargo hold of the plane, often even if they are of a small enough size to fit into the cabin. It can be worth shopping around if several different airlines cover the route that you intend to fly, because as mentioned, different airlines have different rules. If your dog does have to travel in the cargo hold, bear in mind that this area is often dark but will have a specially designated area for pets that will be both heated to ambient temperature and air conditioned. Also it is not a given that anyone will be able to check on your dog’s welfare and condition during the flight. This is one of the main reasons why it is vitally important to consider if there are any viable transportation alternatives, particularly for longer flights.
1. Before you even get as far as booking your flight, check for any viable alternatives, and also shop around to make sure that you book the fastest possible flight, avoiding any layovers or changes. 2. Confirm your flight schedule, the rules for checking in your dog and that your flight is running on time before you leave for the airport. 3. Walk your dog thoroughly before leaving for the airport, and give them as much opportunity as possible to stretch their legs and go to the toilet as near to check in time as possible. 4. Feed your dog at least two hours before the flight- pets can get travel sick in the same way that people can, and vomiting in transit is likely to be distressing for your dog on top of the unavoidable stresses that the flight itself will place on him. 5. Ensure that your dog has free access to water, both before and during the flight. You will need to make provision for water within his cage or crate, but remember that a regular dog bowl is likely to tip over and slop around, so you will need to consider a suitable alternative and get your dog used to using it in good time. 6. Get your dog used to the crate that he will be travelling well in advance- don’t force him into a strange crate at the last minute. Ensure that he has ample blankets and bedding to keep him warm and safe from any knocks, and that he has a favourite toy and something that smells of home with him. 7. Keep your dog with you for as long as possible and have him loaded as close to boarding time as is permitted. Load your dog yourself rather than handing him over to airline staff. 8. Let the in-flight staff know that your dog is on the flight (assuming that your dog is not already with you in the cabin) and find out if there is any means of checking on him during the journey, although don’t be surprised to be told that this is not possible. 9. When you land safely at the other end, ensure that the very first thing that you do is collect your dog- before collecting your baggage or anything else. Your crated dog will not appear on the conveyor with your standard baggage- animals are the last items to be loaded onto a flight and the first to be taken off, and will be taken to the airport’s holding area for animals. Check your dog over carefully and do what you can to settle him down. 10. Make arrangements to have your dog checked over at the end of their flight by a local vet or the destination airport’s on-site animal welfare team if possible. If this is not possible, give your dog a couple of days to settle in and then get them checked over by a local vet, for your own peace of mind.
As mentioned, flying with your dog can be stressful- both for dog and owner. A lot of carriers and vets may suggest sedating your dog for the journey, but this is not always advisable, for a wide range of reasons, including your dog’s comfort and because some airlines will refuse to carry a sedated pet. Plan your flight and all of the details well in advance- remember that it can take around six months to get a pet passport issued, among other things- and ensure that you have taken appropriate advice from the airline carrier, your dog’s vet, and the animal welfare authorities in both the take off and destination country before you arrange transit.
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