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Dog Stress and Anxiety Tips

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Flying With a Dog: How To Prepare Your Pet for Holiday Travels

Posted by Dr. Roth on November 18, 2022

Wellness Care
Training & Behavior
Stress & Anxiety
Flying With a Dog: How To Prepare Your Pet for Holiday Travels

While flying might be the ideal mode of transportation for pet parents, the time between Thanksgiving and New Year's is one of the busiest travel seasons of the year. Airports may be fuller and more chaotic than usual, leading to higher stress levels for everyone, canines included. Flying with a dog can be a lot more taxing, so what can pet parents do if they want or need to make their holiday trip by plane? 

3 Tips for Flying With a Dog During the Holidays

Knowing how to fly with a dog is crucial to a safe trip. There's more to it than making sure they have all of their dog's essentials for the flight. Minimizing stress for both pet parents and canines can allow for a smoother travel experience and a more enjoyable holiday overall. 

1. Research Travel Policies

Pet parents can't just book airline tickets and show up with their dogs. Airlines have different pet travel policies. Some allow small dogs and emotional support animals to fly with their owners, while others allow only service dogs on board or ban certain breeds. To avoid any unwanted surprises, pet parent parents should research the airline pet policy of their prospective flights before they book their tickets. 

Pet-friendly Airlines

Searching for pet-friendly airlines can help pet parents narrow their flight options. From there, they'll want to spend some time reviewing each company's specific pet policy. The following are some of the top pet-friendly airlines:

  • Jet Blue

  • Alaska Airlines

  • American Airlines

  • Delta Air Lines

  • Frontier Airlines

  • Southwest Airlines

  • United Airlines

These airlines charge varying fees for canine passengers, ranging from $95 to $125 per carrier one way. Some airlines (American and United) add a second charge if a pet parent has a layover lasting more than four hours, while Frontier charges the fee for each leg of the journey. That means finding direct flights may be the most affordable way to fly with a dog. Most airlines don't charge these fees for service dogs, but emotional support animals may not fly for free. 

On top of the additional cost, many airlines that used to carry dogs and other pets in cargo no longer do so. Only a select few, including Alaska, Delta, and United Airlines, allow dogs to travel under the plane. They may also restrict certain breeds from flying this way. Some airlines may let dogs fly on domestic flights but have specific route restrictions. For instance, pet parents traveling to Hawaii won't be able to fly Delta, Southwest, or United.

Weight Limits and Health Requirements

A dog's weight can affect which airlines a pet parent can use. Alaska Airlines allows a maximum of 150 pounds (pet and kennel combined). American, Delta, and Jet Blue allow a maximum weight of only 20 pounds. Flying with a large dog can be more of a challenge, but some airlines don't have any weight restrictions. Regardless of weight, many airlines may also limit the number of pets that can travel with a pet parent or have limits on the total number of pets per flight allowed.

Another factor pet parents will want to keep in mind is that many airlines require valid health certificates and updated vaccine records. The health certificate, which they typically need to obtain no sooner than 10 to 14 days before their scheduled flight (depending on the airline), comes from their primary vet. It states that the dog is free of disease, meets vaccination requirements, and is healthy enough to fly safely. 

2. Utilize the Right Size Pet Carrier

Even if an airline doesn't have pet weight restrictions, a dog must travel in an approved carrier. Each airline has specific kennel requirements travelers with pets must meet, regardless of whether the canine is traveling in the cabin with their pet parents or under the plane in cargo. Dogs also typically need to stay in their kennels unless pet parents need to bring them to a pet relief area. 

Note: Some airlines don't require service animals to be in a kennel for the entire flight. However, the canines do need to sit on the floor space in front of their pet parent's assigned seats. They also can't occupy another seat, the floor space in front of another seat, or the aisle.

Make Sure Your Dog Fits Comfortably

No one wants to feel cramped and uncomfortable on a flight, dogs included. Before leaving, pet parents should make sure their dog has enough space to stand in a natural position and turn around in their carrier. 

Carry-on Kennel Rules

Carry-on pets must remain in their carriers at all times. Even on airlines with no maximum weight limit, a dog's kennel must fit in the space under the seat in front of their pet parent. In most cases, the carrier will count toward the pet parent's carry-on bag allotment. This rule doesn't apply to pet parents flying with a service dog.

If pet parents have questions or concerns about carry-on kennel rules, they should contact the airline before booking tickets. 

3. Manage Pet Stress Levels During Air Travel

Air travel can be stressful for dogs, whether they stay with their pet parents or not. One way pet parents can make the ordeal easier is to place one or two of their canine's favorite toys in the kennel with them. A blanket or shirt with familiar scents may also provide some comfort. 

Feeding a dog a small meal before the flight may help soothe frazzled nerves. Some airlines may require dogs to eat before boarding, especially if it's a long flight or the canine will be under the plane. Pet parents should avoid overfeeding their dogs and giving them too much water or new foods. 

For more anxious dogs, pet parents may also consider giving their dogs calming supplements or treats before they get on the plane. The natural ingredients in these products may help ease a dog's stress, making the flight more bearable. However, they should research their anti-anxiety product options and make sure their dog tolerates the treats first. 

Make Holiday Travel a Breeze With Your Pet

With proper research and preparations, flying with a dog for the holidays can be much less stressful for everyone involved. For any additional questions, concerns, or recommendations for stress and anxiety supplements, Fuzzy is here to help. Pet parents can reach out at any time during the planning process (including the day of travel) to speak with professional vets online, with no appointment required. Fuzzy makes celebrating the holidays with pets a whole lot easier.

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