Occasionally pet owners contact us with questions about specific incidents they've read about in the news, often involving a dog or cat being lost or injured during transit.
While many pet owners’ first instincts might be to react strongly against pet air travel in general, the impact of no longer having the option to travel by air could mean that pets would be left behind in shelters when their owners relocate for work or military reasons.
Instead of skipping pet travel altogether, we recommend doing some research first. The Department of Transportation does publish records of negative incidents, and as you'll see if you drill deeper, many of these are due to underlying health problems or pets who try to escape their travel crates.
Essentially, as this industry continues to evolve, it's always a good time to discuss the do's and don'ts of pet travel. The fact is that some pets shouldn't fly, and the ones that are cleared for takeoff require dedication and care from everyone involved in the process. While it's true that there's always an element of risk involved in pet travel, there are ways to effectively reduce those risks.
Here's what you can do to be smart about pet travel by air:
Plan early and plan well.
Think of pet travel as a major life event similar to undergoing back surgery or buying a car. Just as you wouldn't choose a random doctor out of the phone book to perform a serious operation or throw down thousands of dollars on a vehicle without reading customer reviews, you can't rush into pet travel without planning carefully. Talk to pet travel professionals and pet owners who have done this before, consider all viable options, and allow plenty of time to map out the best path for your pet.
Talk to your vet about whether or not your pet is safe to fly.
Just because you can't bear the idea of leaving your pet behind doesn't mean traveling is always the right choice, and an honest conversation with a trusted veterinarian is definitely in order before booking your flight. Age, weight, medical history, and even temperament all play a role in deciding if your pet is up for the traveling experience. Overweight and elderly pets are clearly at a higher risk, as are anxiety-prone animals or those with separation issues. Consider investing in a full vital organ screening at your veterinarian’s office to identify potential underlying conditions that could flare up during an air travel experience.
Take extra caution with snub-nosed breeds.
Pugs, Bulldogs, Boxers, Mastiffs, Persian cats, and other brachycephalic breeds are more susceptible to breathing problems and heat stroke in stressful situations such as air travel, and many vets would advise that you avoid flying these pets. If you do decide to move a snub-nosed pet, it's important to, among other things, choose a large travel crate that offers good ventilation, choose a pet-friendly airline, and work to make sure the pet is well-hydrated before, during, and after the flight.
Choose a large, well-ventilated travel crate.
It's actually important for all pets to be transported in a travel crate that is not only airline-approved, but roomy and well-ventilated. Good air flow is key in terms of your pet's comfort level and overall safety, as is proper hydration and working to make sure your pet is comfortable and familiar with the crate well before the day of departure.
As the airlines work to perfect their pet travel processes and as the Department of Transportation continues to examine and alter its pet air travel incident reporting policies, it's up to you to keep your furry family member's best interests in mind and to plan all travel details with care.
Please contact our team of Pet Relocation Consultants with any questions you have about how to plan the safest pet move possible.
Editor's Note: This post was originally published in October 2012 and has been updated with new information.