Sitting in the departure lounge waiting to fly home from a December sunbreak in the Caribbean, I was indulging in one of my favorite airport pastimes, people watching. Among the returning holidaymakers with varying degrees of sunburn and suntan, the harried mothers with bored and impatient children, and the young twenty-somethings texting on their phones, I noticed something I had not seen before. There were dogs.

Joy Allast Prestige Harris(Dogs name) and the plane Yak-32 RA-0225G (9013133182)Credit: Aleksandr Markin. licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.

It seems that there are a lot of dogs flying nowadays. According to the US Department of Transportation, over two million live animals are transported by air every year in the United States alone3.  58% of these animal travelers are dogs. It has been estimated that 40% of US homes have a dog and that 6% of pet owners take their pet on a plane at least once a year. This percentage is believed to be lower than it could be because of the difficulty of finding a pet-friendly airline4.

The airline I had chosen was obviously dog-friendly. However, some carriers are more pet-friendly than others, so if you are planning to fly with your dog you need to do your research. Some airlines do not carry animals at all, while others require all dogs to travel as cargo or as checked baggage. Some carriers allow only small dogs in crates to travel in the passenger section. Age and size restrictions  vary with the airline, and fees range from $75 to $400 depending on the size of the dog and the destination. Some airlines allow service animals to fly with their owners for free. Others welcome cats and sometimes other animals and birds.2

Be Prepared

If you are flying internationally, you should research regulations at your destination with regard to pet importation. Each country has different regulations concerning vaccination, quarantine and identification chips. Hawaii, for example, requires dogs to have implanted ID chips and up-to-date vaccinations, including a rabies vaccination given at least 90 days before arrival1. To enter the UK a pet dog must be vaccinated against rabies, have been treated for tapeworm, microchipped and accompanied by a pet passport. A blood test is required for dogs traveling from an "unlisted country" (one from which a pet passport is not recognized). Failure to comply will result in your dog being put into quarantine at your expense6.

If you have a small dog, you will need to get a carrier that conforms to the regulations of your chosen airline. The dog carrier will generally count as your personal carry on item.

It also goes without saying that you will need to make sure that your dog is crate trained before the flight. If you are not sure how to do this, check out the video below.

Please confirm with the airline at the time you book your seat that you will be bringing your furry companion with you as they generally limit the number of animals allowed on each flight. You also need to have everything handy that you will need for your dog during the flight, such as treats, chews, a collapsible water bowl and your buddy's favorite toy. It is also a good idea to exercise your dog well before the flight to get rid of excess energy and, naturally, to make sure he or she has had plenty of opportunity to go to the bathroom. Many airports have dog bathroom areas available for the comfort of canine passengers.

Airlines do not generally allow dogs to be sedated during the flight. However, if your furry companion tends to be on the hyper side, you might consider a natural anti-anxiety product such as Rescue Remedy5. (I can personally vouch for this product because we used it with great success when we had an agility papillon).

 

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At the Airport

At the security checkpoint your dog will need to come out of its travel carrier because the carrier will have to go through the x-ray machine with your other personal effects. Dogs can be carried through the screening archway or walked through on a leash. Collars or leashes with metal components will set off the alarm, in which case you will need to keep your dog calm while the customs officer uses a detector wand. Also, please be aware of and keep your dog away from security or detection dogs working in the airport, especially around security checkpoints[7].

Security in Wilmington International AirportCredit: EoRd06 Own work. Wikimedia Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.

On the Plane

Dog ears are much more sensitive than human ears, so your dog will definitely be affected by changes in air pressure on take off and landing. A dog chew to chomp on will stimulate saliva and encourage your dog to swallow. This should help to equalize the pressure in her ears. If a dog's ears pop because of the pressure change, this will be a frightening sensation which could result in some unexpected barking or howling8.

There will be no opportunity to potty your four footed companion on the plane. While you can limit food before and during the flight, it is not such a good idea to limit water because of the dangers of in-flight dehydration8. For a long flight, you might want to consider dog diapers.

After the Flight

Just as your bodily rhythms are disrupted when flying across time zones, so are your dog's. After arrival at your destination, be prepared to deal with an extremely tired animal who may wake up at strange times during the night and want to eat at odd hours9.

Immediately after the flight, give your dog plenty of water, but only provide a light meal because eating too much could trigger vomiting. Be alert for any unusual behavior or physical symptoms after the flight, and pay a visit to the vet if you sense there is a cause for concern10.

Contentious Issues

When flying, it is important to keep your dog under control at all times and be considerate of other passengers. While animal lovers may be delighted that they can bring their loved ones into the cabin with them, they also need to be aware that not everybody shares their enthusiasm.

Airlines are concerned about the potential for conflict. The rights of people with serious, even life threatening, allergies to pet dander, for instance, need to be balanced against those of people traveling with service or emotional support animals.

A Psychiatric Service Dog in TrainingCredit: By <a href="//commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=User:Crjs452&amp;action=edit&amp;redlink=1" class="new" title="User:Crjs452 (page does not exist)">Crjs452</a> - <span class="int-own-work" lang="en">Own work</span>, <a href="https://creativecommons.o

Also, while service animals may be allowed to travel for free, many people seem to be abusing that privilege. There have been reported instances of people fraudently claiming emotional support status for poorly trained pets so that they do not have to pay for their flights. In addition, a poorly trained or stressed animal in a limited space such as an airline cabin is a safety concern because there is a potential that it could attack other passengers11.

However, if you are the responsible owner of a well trained dog and take reasonable precautions for your dog's health and safety, you should should not experience any problems and be able to enjoy a wonderful vacation with your favorite companion.