Unless you’re among the super-wealthy with your own private jet on standby, you’ll no doubt be aware of how stressful preparing to fly with your dog can be. Then, there’s the flight itself – which for nervous flyers and pets can be an ordeal. 

But at least we understand what’s happening and the reasons behind it: your dog has no idea. It’s up to you to find out what you need to do to make flying less of a frightening experience  for your pooch and make your travels a dog-friendly travel experience. 

Before your flight

You’ll need to make sure your dog’s pet passport and vaccinations are fully up-to-date or you won’t be allowed to fly. Make sure your dog is microchipped and contact your vet about arranging vaccinations and a pet passport at least 21 days before you travel. A rabies jab is necessary for most countries in Europe, as is tapeworm treatment. If you are traveling elsewhere abroad, then a rabies vaccination must be given 30 days in advance. Ask your vet for advice on which vaccinations are necessary for the country you’re traveling to and do this in plenty of time! It’s a good idea to book your dog in for a thorough health check as well to ensure they are fit enough for the journey.

Bear in mind that pet travel rules in Europe may change after Brexit though, so be sure to check the government’s website regularly for advice.

Choose your airline

Find out beforehand if your preferred airline accepts pets, as many budget airlines such as EasyJet and Ryanair don’t. Some accept only small pets which can be taken into the cabin with you as a companion animal. Others will take large animals but only in the cargo hold. Airlines that allow dogs to travel all have strict guidelines on the size and weight of the animal and on which type of transport carrier you can use. 

In all other cases, assuming your pet weighs more than the allotted amount, they will probably have to travel in the cargo hold. Whichever airline you choose, always contact them beforehand to clarify their rules on transporting animals are, plus any additional charges you may face.

tips for flying with a dog patrick hendry
Photo by Patrick Hendry.

Get the correct carrier

If your pooch must travel in the cargo hold, you must purchase or borrow a crate which complies with the International Air Transport Association’s Live Animals Regulations. The crate must be of a robust construction, without wheels or casters, and must be one that your dog is unable to escape from. Travel crates are generally made from rigid plastic or fiberglass. Your dog should be able to stand, lie down, and move around in it when necessary. However, it should not be so big that they can be tossed from side to side in the event of turbulence. See IATA’s website for more information.

Food and water containers must be fixed to the crate so they don’t fall off or out. Make sure to calculate how much food and water your dog will need to sustain them throughout the journey. You will have to supply your own dog food and ensure full feeding instructions are given to the airline – tape a copy of these to the crate along with their leash.

Is sedation necessary?

tips for flying with a dog leio mclaren
Photo by Leio McLaren.

Many airlines don’t allow you to tranquilize your pet for a flight. This is because high altitudes can lower blood pressure, and an elderly or sick dog could be affected by heavy sedation. With this in mind, it’s vital that you take your vet’s advice on the subject – they may be able to recommend whether natural calming remedies such as those containing valerian could be suitable for your dog. Ask also whether travel sickness remedies are advisable if your dog tends towards travel sickness.

There are other steps you can take such as:

  •       Keeping your dog as calm as possible when at the airport
  •       Covering their crate with a heavy blanket to block out noise
  •       Making airline staff aware if your dog is nervous or has any special needs
  •       Arriving for check-in early

On the flight

It will help your dog to have familiar things around them in their crates such as their favorite chew toy or blanket. Anything that smells like home will help to soothe them. If they’re traveling in the cabin with you on a short-haul flight, then try not to feed them while in the air in order to avoid any embarrassing accidents!

Finally, remember to pack everything you and your dog need and try not to worry too much. Providing that you have made the effort to prepare beforehand, the flight should be a piece of cake!

Have you ever flown with your pet? Check out some more of our tips for taking your dog on your adventures.