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How to fly with your dog on a plane

Jack russel wearing glasses and about to travel on a plane advice
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Can you take a dog on a plane? Where do they sit? Do they need a passport? Will they get through immigration? Do dogs like flying? Read on to find more about flying with a dog.

By Ashley Murphy

Can you take a dog on a plane?

Yes, but it depends on the airline. Some companies will let you bring smaller dogs into the cabin, although any pooches weighing more than 6-8kg will have to travel in the luggage hold. Other airlines won't allow any dogs into the cabin, while some won't accept dogs at all. The only exceptions are guide and service dogs. These are allowed in the cabin, and they can usually travel free of charge. Whatever airline you're thinking of travelling with, it's best to contact them directly.

Taking a dog on a plane

Even with airlines that allow pets into the cabin, you can't just walk your dog onto a plane. They’ll need to be kept in a carrier or a secure basket for the entire flight. This means it's really important to make them feel as comfortable as possible. If your dog isn't used to being in a carrier, you’ll need to go through some crate training. Start as soon as possible; it will make your journey much easier.  You need to make sure your dog isn't hungry, but don't overfeed them. You don't want a dog throwing up on the plane (and neither do your fellow passengers!) And avoid any “accidents" by restricting their water intake during the hours before take off. One of the best things you can do is take them for a very long walk before travelling. Tired dogs make much better travelling companions.  

Flying with a dog

Here's a few more tips about flying with a dog:

Try to avoid flying with puppies, elderly dogs, or pregnant dogs. Flying can be very stressful; they may not be strong enough to travel.

Speak to a vet. They can prescribe sedatives, but make sure you get all the information about possible side effects.

Keep your plans as simple as possible. Avoid transfers and stopover if it's possible. 

Check out some pet travel guides. They give you all the important information on travelling with dogs inside the EU.

Dogs on planes

Some dogs just aren't suited for air travel, and certain breeds shouldn't travel in cargo holds. Dogs with flat faces and a snub nose, like the Pug or French Bulldog, are prone to breathing difficulties and the cargo hold is likely to aggravate their condition. The consequences for your dog can be very serious, and even fatal. In fact, some airlines will refuse to take short-headed breeds as cargo. If you find one that does, think very carefully and definitely consult a vet before travelling. You should also take particular care if your dog is suffering or recovering from a heart condition, Addison's disease, seizures, diabetes, and anxiety orders.

Taking a dog on a plane: the dangers of flying cargo

Flying cargo means that your dog travels with the luggage at the bottom of the plane. Cargo holds are cold, noisy, and dark places. Most dogs will not have a very pleasant experience. They also pose a few health and safety risks. These include:

  • Dehydration
  • Escape from carrier
  • Heart failure
  • Hypothermia
  • Injury from carrier toppling over
  • Injury from objects falling on the carrier
  • Paw and jaw injuries from trying to escape from the carrier
  • Respiratory failure

These are some of the worst-case scenarios, and it's important to point out that most dogs arrive safely. Still, it bests to be aware of all the factors before making any final decisions.

Taking a dog on a plane: Do they need a passport?

Unless you want your dog to spend a few months in quarantine, they'll need two things: a microchip and a “doggy” passport. Countries outside the EU may also need documentation that confirms recent vaccinations against rabies and tapeworms. Do as much research as you can before travelling. You don't want to arrive in a foreign country and then be separated from your beloved pet.

Ask a local vet about microchipping. In most case, they can also issue a passport. If not, contact the animal and plant health agency.

Summary

Dogs weren't designed to fly. Neither were humans, but we've had over a 100 years to get used to it! Try your best to make alternative arrangements. However, if it's absolutely necessary, it's time to get your dog ready for the experience! Take extra care with anxious dogs, older dogs, and dogs recovering from a recent illness or injury. And do plenty of research on the airline. Contact them directly and explain your situation. Don't just rely on websites or terms and condition documents. The more information you can get, the easier the journey for and your dog.

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