Traveling by Plane
Q: What can I do to prepare my pet for air travel?
A: The following preparations will help both you and your pet:
- Check with airlines because they may have restrictions on breed and size.
- Most airlines also require a Certificate of Veterinary Inspection (health certificate) issued within 10 days of travel.
- Federal regulations require pets to be at least 8 weeks old and they should be weaned at least 5 days before flying.
- Talk to your veterinarian about feeding schedules. It is usually recommended that pets fly on an empty or nearly empty stomach. The pet's age, dietary needs and size, and the time and distance of the flight should all be taken into consideration.
Q: What is the best way to choose flights appropriate for my pet?
A: The following will help you choose flights that are appropriate:
- Reservations should be made for you and your pet at the same time because airlines often limit how many pets are allowed on each flight.
- Try to book a non-stop flight and avoid plane changes when possible.
- When possible, avoid flying during busy holidays.
- In warm weather, choose early morning or late evening flights.
- In colder weather, choose mid-day flights.
- Reconfirm flight arrangements the day before you leave to minimize the chance of unexpected changes.
Q: What should I do on the day of the flight?
A: On the day of your flight:
- Arrive to the airport early so you have time to exercise your pet.
- If your pet will be in the cabin, check in as late as possible to reduce the time your pet will have to wait in the terminal.
- Place your pet in its crate and pick it up as soon as you arrive at your destination.
- Notify the flight attendant that your pet is in cargo hold.
Q: What is an acclimation certificate?
A: This is a form from your veterinarian that will waive the low temperature Federal regulation as stated in the Animal Welfare Act.
- If the airline cannot guarantee that the animal will not be in temperatures lower than 45°F (7.2°C) for more than 45 minutes when the animal is moved between the terminal and the plane, or for more than 4 hours when the pet is in a holding facility, and you don't have an acclimation certificate, the airline will not let your pet fly.
- Airlines cannot ship animals if temperatures will be higher than 85° F (29.5 C) for more than four consecutive hours while in animal holding areas of airport terminals or for more than 45 minutes while transferring the animal between the aircraft and the animal holding area, under any circumstances.
Q: Do I need to get an acclimation certificate?
A: Some airlines will require an acclimation certificate in order to let your pet travel.
- Acclimation certificates are written at the discretion of the veterinarian, and are based on the veterinarian's assessment of the pet's health.
- There are no acclimation certificates that allow pets to be shipped when conditions are above 85°F (29.5°C).
Q: Should I tranquilize or sedate my pet for long flights?
A: It is recommended that you DO NOT give tranquilizers to your pet when traveling by air because it can increase the risk of heart and respiratory problems. Short-nosed dogs and cats sometimes have even more difficulty with travel. Visit our FAQs about short-nosed dogs and air travel for more information.
Airlines may require a signed statement that your pet has not been tranquilized prior to flying.
According to Dr. Patricia Olsen with the American Humane Association, "An animal's natural ability to balance and maintain equilibrium is altered under sedation and when the kennel is moved, a sedated animal may not be able to brace and prevent injury."
Q: What are crates approved for air travel?
A: It is best to purchase an approved crate prior to travel (at the airline or local pet store) so you have time to let your pet get used to the crate and be comfortable. If your pet is small and can fit comfortably in an airline approved carrier, your pet may be able to travel with you in the cabin.
Approved crates should:
- Be large enough for your pet to stand (without touching the top of the cage), turn around and lie down
- Be strong and free of interior protrusions, with handles or grips
- Have a leak-proof bottom with plenty of absorbent material
- Be ventilated on opposite sides, with exterior knobs and rims that will not block airflow
- Be clearly labeled with owners name, home address and phone number, destination contact information and a sign stating "Live Animals" with arrows showing which way is upright
Information Provided By AVMA - American Veterinary Medical Association - Traveling with Your Pet