Safe flying with your pet
In our previous blog post we mentioned that under certain circumstances, you can take your pet on board an airplane. This is great if you're planning on being away for an extended period of time, such as when (temporarily) emigrating for example. However, flying with your pet is not recommended for shorter trips, because it can cause considerable stress. If you do intend to fly with your pet, always notify the airline well in advance. A dog can travel in the luggage hold, or on a separate cargo flight. Some dogs with flat noses are only permitted to fly in the cabin, as they may suffer from respiratory problems. Regardless of how your pet will travel, it's important to thoroughly prepare him for his flight.
Start your preparations early
If you wish to avoid any unwelcome surprises or last-minute cancellations, it's important to begin your preparations at least 3 months in advance. Check with your airline to determine exactly which type of kennel or travel crate you require. The specifications and dimensions will not only vary per dog, but also per airline. Once you've purchased the correct kennel, allow your dog to gradually get used to it. A few weeks prior to travel, place it in your home with the door open and leave something tasty inside. That way the kennel will become a safe haven in which your pet feels totally at ease. Additional tip: attach a label to the kennel that displays your dog's name and information, any health and nutritional instructions, as well as your own name and contact details. Provide your dog with a collar containing the same information.
Your pet's travel documents and vaccination records must be current and complete for him to be permitted to board the plane. Although requirements differ between destinations, a recent health certificate from your vet, a rabies certificate and a properly registered microchip are generally a must. Special quarantine regulations may also apply to certain destinations. Always check the information provided by the embassy at the destination thoroughly, as a quarantine provision may stipulate that your pet remains in quarantine for several weeks or months before being allowed to join you.
Take your dog for a long walk prior to departure: this will not only allow him sufficient opportunity to do his business, it will also burn off any excess energy and increase the likelihood that he'll sleep soundly on the plane. Provide a supply of water right up until the moment of departure, but give his last meal at least 4 hours in advance. In order to prevent nausea, it should also be a readily digestible meal that your dog is already accustomed to. Don't place a water bowl in the travel crate, as this will only end up spilling, making the journey extremely uncomfortable for your pet. Most dogs will be too stressed to drink in any case. If you do want to provide your dog with a little liquid refreshment during his flight, hang a water bottle for rodents in his crate instead.
During the flight
Unfortunately, your pet won't be able to leave his travel crate or basket during the flight, even in the cabin. If your pet is traveling as hand luggage, you may of course place his travel crate on your lap to reassure him. Naturally, you won't be able to do this if he's traveling in the hold. In this case, make sure that his travel travel crate contains a favourite toy, stuffed animal or an of item of your clothing with your scent on it, as this will help to calm him.
After the flight
Your pet will have been unable to eat or drink throughout the flight. So have his water bowl and a preferred treat ready for landing. And, take him for a thorough walk as soon as you get the opportunity. But don't expect your dog to immediately wag his tail and resume his normal cheerful and energetic behaviour. A flight is a major event for a dog and it can really take him a few days or even weeks to get over it! He might not want to eat, drink or do his business at first. Don't try to force him. Allow your pet to quietly recover and be extra nice to him instead. Don't get angry, but rather give your dog time to adjust. It is important to give him a health check though. Notice anything unusual or suspicious? Then take him to a vet for a professional examination.
Reeling from all the advice? Hardly surprising! Indeed, flying with an animal is a complex operation that requires meticulous preparation. If you prefer to travel without your pet, then make sure you book a loving pet sitter well in advance. That way both pet and pet sitter can quietly get to know each other beforehand.
Have a good trip!