Pets in the Air

Air travel with your pet can sometimes be like air travel with your three year old child, except their version of “are we there yet!?” manifests as barking, howling, meowing and general anxiety.

I’ve had many of my clients opt for a long road trip (sometimes coast to coast) with their pet because of uncertainties of air travel. If you’re a true road warrior then march on, but I prefer to get it over with. All things considered, it usually goes fairly smooth if you keep a few things in mind. Here are some helpful tips if you plan to take to the friendly skies with your friendly companion:

Pet Carriers

  You will need to purchase an approved pet carrier for travel. These are commonly found in pet stores with a label marked “approved for air travel.” Since most airlines allow your pet (cat or small dog) to travel in the cabin with you, many of these carriers are designed to fit in the seat in front of you. It should be large enough to allow your pet to stand up and turn around.  Hint: If your pet is afraid of the carrier or never been in one, spend the week before your trip randomly placing him/her inside for short periods, preferable with a treat. This will lower the anxiety level when it’s no longer a drill.


  Most airlines require a certificate by a veterinarian stating the pet is healthy for travel. Additionally, many airlines may ask for an Acclimation Certificate which states your pet can withstand temperatures under 45 degrees. It’s basically a liability release for the airline and therefore some vets are reluctant to sign it. If your traveling outside the country you will need a special microchip (called an isochip) and be sure to check into quarantine periods and rabies vaccine requirements, as some countries are very strict.


  The question of “to sedate…or not sedate” is often asked. I personally am a proponent of tranquilizers if you’re pet is the “stressed-out” type. The adverse affects of long term anxiety can certainly outweigh the risk of the medication, but there are a few things to consider: 1) Is your pet riding in the cargo area and therefore subject to temperatures less than 45 degrees? Sedatives can inhibit the ability to properly regulate body temperature. 2) Is your pet sick or geriatric? 3) Have they ever been given a sedative before and if not are you able to monitor them.

Benadryl is the best and safest OTC (over the counter) sedative. It also helps with nausea associated motion sickness. But as always, you should check with your vet before giving your pet any drugs.

   I’m not going to paint a picture that air travel with pets is easy. The first time is always the most nerve-racking. But after you do a little homework and get prepared you’ll find it’s not so bad. Before traveling you will want to contact the Air Cargo Department of your airline and have a look at, it’s a great resource. Safe Travels!

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