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If you’re like most people who share your home and heart with a canine companion, you undoubtedly want to include your dog in as many of your adventures as possible — but at the same time, you may have hesitation about taking your furry friend along with you when you fly to your destination. Although traveling with a dog can be a fun and rewarding experience for everyone involved, it also comes with a unique set of challenges. Fortunately, proper preparation and understanding the various rules and requirements helps smooth the way to a relaxing journey. Here’s how you can make flying with your dog easier:

1. Understanding Your Airline’s Pet Policy

Not all airlines have the same pet policies, so be sure to thoroughly research each possibility before you book your flight. Rules specific to pet travel include the types of animals allowed, size and weight limits, and documentation of essential vaccines. Key points to consider include:

Cabin vs. Cargo

Smaller dogs are often able to travel in the cabin with you as long as they’re kept under the seat in an airline-approved pet carrier. The cutoff point in weight is typically 20 pounds. Larger dogs have to travel in the plane’s cargo hold.

Breed Restrictions

Brachycephalic breeds, such as pugs and bulldogs, are prone to developing respiratory issues at altitude, causing some airlines to place restrictions on them. Even if the airline you choose allows these breeds to fly, you should check with your veterinarian before booking the flight.


Most airlines require a recent health certificate from your vet and

proof of vaccinations.


Some airlines tack on extra fees for those flying with pets. These can vary widely, so be sure to check the fine print when researching airlines.

2. Invest in an Airline-Approved Carrier

To ensure the comfort and safety of your pet during the flight, invest in a high-quality, airline-approved carrier that meets the requirements of the airline you’ve chosen to fly with. Features to look for in a pet carrier include the following:

Adequate Ventilation

The carrier should have ample ventilation on multiple sides that allow for air circulation.


Choose a sturdy, secure carrier to keep your dog from getting out.


A soft, absorbent lining in the interior of the carrier will help keep your dog comfortable.


Your dog should be able to stand up, turn around, and lie down comfortably inside the carrier.

Additionally, introduce your dog to the carrier several days before the trip to allow them to get used to it. Placing treats and toys inside helps create positive associations with the carrier.

3. Visit the Veterinarian

Schedule a pre-flight appointment with your veterinarian to ensure that your dog is healthy and fit enough for air travel. Your vet can give you advice specific to your dog’s needs as well as recommend vaccinations and/or preventive treatments.

Important steps include:

Health Certificate

Obtain a health certificate dated within the timeframe required by the airline, usually within 10 days of the flight.


Discuss the pros and cons of sedating your dog with your vet. Many veterinarians advise against it due to potential health risks, especially at high altitudes — and airlines often don’t allow sedated animals to fly.



If your dog isn’t already microchipped, now is an excellent time for your vet to perform that procedure. Many airlines currently require it.

4. Plan for Airport Security

Additional planning will help with navigating airport security with your dog in tow.Familiarize yourself with the process to minimize stress on the part of both you and your pet. Key points to consider include:

Arrival Time

Arriving at the airport earlier than usual to provide extra time needed for security checks.

Security Screening

You’ll need to remove your dog from its carrier at the TSA checkpoint while the carrier goes on the belt through the X-ray machine.


Your dog should be wearing a collar with an identification tag that includes your current contact information.

Leash or Harness

Use a secure leash or harness to keep your dog from running off during the security process. Even if your pet isn’t prone to running off, airport environments are typically crowded and chaotic, which can be overwhelming.

5. Prepare for In-Flight Comfort

Here’s what you need to know about making sure your dog is comfortable during the flight:

Pre-Flight Exercise

Making sure your dog gets plenty of exercise prior to the flight helps them expend energy and reduces anxiety.

Limited Food and Water

Provide your dog with a light meal several hours before the flight and limit its water consumption to minimize the risk of accidents.

Comfort Items

Your dog’s favorite toy or blanket will provide a sense of familiarity and comfort.

Calm Environment

If your dog is riding with you in the cabin, keep the carrier under the seat in front of you, and avoid opening it during the flight. Speaking to your dog in a calm, reassuring voice can help keep it

6. Plan for Arrival and Adjustment

There are a few more steps to take after you’ve landed at your destination to ensure that your dog adjusts quickly to the new environment.

Immediate Needs

As soon as possible upon arrival, take your dog to a designated pet relief area at the airport.

Hydration and Food

Offer your dog water and a light meal after you’ve reached the place where you’ll be staying. Avoid overfeeding as your dog might still be adjusting to the new surroundings.


Your dog will need a little time to acclimate to the new environment, particularly if you’ve traveled to a region with a different climate. Gradually resume everyday routines and activities as your dog becomes more comfortable.

Check for Signs of Stress

Signs of stress include excessive panting, pacing, or any type of unusual behavior on your pet’s part that just feels off. Provide reassurance and comfort as needed.

Remember, good pre-trip preparation can make all the difference in making air travel a pleasant experience for both you and your dog.

Written by Taylor McKnight, Author for Generali Global Assistance

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