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How to Prepare Your Pet for Air Travel

Booking flights, dealing with TSA and navigating an airport can make for a jam-packed travel day, but what if you’re bringing your pet? If you’re planning to fly with your pet on your next trip, you’ll need to take extra measures to ensure you’re prepped and ready for the flight.

Start Flight Preparations Early

Traveling with your pet takes early planning and preparation, so starting as soon as possible is best. Depending on your destination, airline regulations and fees may vary. Before you fly, you should do the following:

  • Take your pet for a wellness visit. Most countries require an updated vaccination and microchip if you’re flying internationally. Be sure your pet is in good health before your trip.
  • Schedule shipping for your pet in advance. For larger animals, your pet will need to be stored in a separate area of the plane. Not to worry, they’ll be treated as very special cargo!
  • Ensure carriers or kennels are IATA-compliant. Be sure to measure your pet’s carrier or kennel before you buy. Check your airline for carrier specifications.
  • Know where your pet can use the bathroom pre- and post-flight. Identify pet relief areas on airport maps for each destination.

What to Do Before Flying with Your Pet

Now that you’ve made arrangements for your pet, it’s time to start preparing them for the flight. Getting your pet as comfortable as possible helps to create a less stressful situation for everyone.

Practice Crate Training

Whether you’re on a quick domestic flight or traveling across the Atlantic, your pet must be kept in their carrier. Crate training your pet early familiarizes them with the process. Extending the crate time little by little each day builds endurance and prevents accidents from happening while in the kennel.

Reduce Their Separation Anxiety

If you’re shipping your pet, it’s hard to completely remove stress from the day of your flight. While we love to keep our pets close, reducing their separation anxiety makes the flying experience a bit easier for everyone.

Desensitize Them to Loud Noise

We know how stressful flying can be, especially with the loud noises associated with takeoff. Loud, strange noises in general can help desensitize your pet. Some pet owners opt to play the sounds of planes taking off over in-home speakers to introduce the sound to their pets.

The Day of Your Flight

The day has finally arrived, along with a few extra steps before your pet enters the airport. Your pet’s comfort should take priority—do whatever you can to make them as happy as possible before boarding the plane.

Monitor Your Pet’s Food and Water Intake

Before entering the airport, ensure your pet gets enough food and water before the flight. Traveling on a full stomach can be uncomfortable, so aim to feed your pet 4 hours before takeoff. You should be providing water to your pet more frequently, which may require a pee break in the airport!

Give Your Pet Plenty of Exercise

If you’re traveling with a dog, make the day of your flight the best play day ever. Take an extra long walk or play tug-of-war—anything to tire your pet out as much as possible. After a hard day, your pet will want to get some well-deserved rest during the flight.

Let Your Pet Use the Restroom Beforehand

Reduce the possibility of accidents by allowing your pet to fully empty their bladder. This may require you to spend a little more time outside, but it makes for a less messy cleanup once the plane lands.

Make Sure Your Pet is Comfortable

Your pet’s container should be large enough for them to stand and turn around comfortably during flight. While your pet can’t have their favorite toy, you are required to provide absorbent bedding in your pet’s kennel. For an extra level of comfort, purchase the bedding a few weeks before your flight so it absorbs the familiar scent of your home.

Additional Tips for Air Travel

With the right preparations, you can make your pet’s first flight less stressful. When flying with your pet, remember to:

  • Check to see if your pet is eligible for flight
  • Ensure all carriers and/or kennels are IATA-compliant
  • Pay any booking fees ahead of time
  • Prioritize making your pet as comfortable as you can
  • Consult your veterinarian about possible medications to calm your pet during the flight

How Care First Animal Hospital Can Help

Does your pet need updated vaccinations before your trip? Schedule your pet’s wellness visit with one of our trusted veterinarians today. 

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