Airlines and airports are reporting an upward trend in passengers flying with their pets, thanks in part to an increase in the number of pet-friendly airlines, airports and hotels.
Recently, New York’s JFK airport spent $48 million on a pet-friendly terminal that includes a 20,000-square-foot play area for dogs, a separate area for cats, and even a pet hotel where your animal can sleep over for $100 a night.
And Frankfurt International’s Animal Lounge covers 3,750 square meters and combines handling, animal coordination and veterinary services.
Before you fly with Fido or get mobile with Morris, here’s what you should know and do, courtesy of “How to Travel with Your Dog” on CNN.com.
Sniffing out pet-friendly airlines
Most North American airlines do allow small pets to travel with their owners in the plane’s cabin during flights — fees can be expensive, and keep in mind some airlines only allow pets in cabins on domestic travel.
Most airlines, including American Airlines, require a reservation for each pet, to ensure no more than seven pets are booked on any single flight.
Among the most pet-friendly airlines is Virgin Atlantic, with its Flying Paws plan that gives pets their very own reward scheme.
Air France says some pets are accepted in the aircraft cabin and in the aircraft hold, but has a rule against certain breeds of dogs. According to Air France, “dogs of the following breeds cannot be transported on any Air France flights, including by freight: Staffordshire terrier, mastiff (boerbull), tosa, pitbull. Ferrets and polecats can only travel by freight. Parrots must be transported by cargo.”
Singapore Airlines requires that pets have a certificate of good health but does not allow pets to travel in the cabin of the aircraft.
When booking a flight with your pet, book a non-stop flight whenever possible to avoid the stress of having to change planes and reduce the chance of delays and mixups. Make the reservations for you and your pet at the same time because airlines often limit how many pets are allowed on each flight.
Tip: For extensive information on airline pet travel policies, visit Petfriendlytravel.com
Getting a passport for your pooch
If you’re planning to fly overseas, make sure your dog has the necessary paperwork specific to your destination’s immigration laws. Pet immigration laws are specific to each country, but one way to help the process go more smoothly is to create a pet passport, which is a collection of all identifying and required documents for entering a given country.
A pet passport is an essential part of the Pet Travel Scheme, a system that allows animals to travel into the United Kingdom without undergoing quarantine if all the regulations are followed.
Tip: Pettravel.com has a full list of country-specific pet immigration rules, and you can also purchase the necessary forms online.
Preparing Fido for the flight
First, visit the veterinarian as almost every airline in the world requires documentation from a vet that your pet is in good health before it can board a flight.
A vet’s checkup should include a general physical examination to check for signs of illness, like coughing or diarrhea. The vet should also make sure your pet’s rabies vaccinations and other shots are up to date. Don’t visit the vet too early, however. Most airlines require that your pet’s clean bill of health be no more than 10 days old.
Also realize that your dog’s breed may not be suitable to fly. In July 2010, the U.S. Department of Transportation released statistics that showed short-nosed breeds of dogs — such as pugs, Boston Terriers, boxers, some mastiffs, Pekingese, Lhasa Apsos, Shih tzus and bulldogs—are more likely to die on airplanes than dogs with normal-length muzzles.
A number of airlines have bans on allowing snub-nosed dogs and cats to be checked in their planes’ cargo holds. However, traveling with one of those animals in a carry-on bag in the aircraft cabin should be just fine.
According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, short-nosed dog breeds are more prone to respiratory problems under normal circumstances, and not just during air travel. Because of their anatomical abnormalities, short-nosed breeds seem to be more vulnerable to changes in air quality and temperature in the cargo hold of a plane.
If given the ok to fly, start to get your dog used to a crate before the fight. Don’t start the day before the flight — ease them into it starting with a few minutes each day up to the number of hours they’ll be on the plane.
You’ll also need teach your dog to hold its bladder. Start to extend the time between trips outside to urinate. This will help train your pet for longer times between pee breaks.
Tip: Before you buy a pet crate, check out the International Air Transport Association’s list of pet carrier requirements, which most airlines adhere to.
Mentally prepare your dog
If you’re traveling with your dog, also keep in mind the possibility for separation anxiety. Getting your pet used to being apart from you for a number of hours will help them stay more relaxed on the flight, as well as in the hotel if you leave them to go out. It could also avoid the possibility of an embarrassing meeting with hotel staff and/or hotel room neighbors.
In the U.S., dogs are more likely to be around their humans day and night. In preparation for the trip, start to separate from them at different points in the day. Let them get used to the idea of being alone for a period of time, knowing that you will return. Don’t let them follow you everywhere — instruct them when they can and can’t.
This might seem “mean” at first, but lessening your dog’s attachment to you can go a long way in training them so they are well behaved on the road, and at home alone.
On tranquilizing your pet
If you’re considering tranquilizing your pet during the flight, reconsider. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), in most cases cats and dogs should not be given sedatives or tranquilizers prior to flying. An animal’s natural ability to balance and maintain equilibrium is altered under sedation, which can be dangerous when the kennel is moved. Whether flying as a cabin or checked pet, animals are exposed to increased altitude pressures, which can create respiratory and cardiovascular problems for dogs and cats that are sedated or tranquilized.
Finding hotels for pets
Before booking a hotel, make sure it is pet-friendly. Though North America has hundreds of hotels that accept dogs, some charge extra for pets while others have size limits.
One of the best resources for people looking to stay overseas with their pets is Bringfido.com which has a global database of pet-friendly hotels. Just click on the continent and the country you wish to visit and a list of cities with pet-friendly hotels will appear.
Another option is to find a host family in the area you are traveling to that will take care of your dog in their own home. DogVacay.com is like a doggy version of Airbnb or Couch Surfing, and costs an average of $25 to 30 a day.