There are quite a few things you need to consider and plan ahead of time if you plan to take your hunting dog on the plane to your next bird hunting adventure. Flying with dogs is problem-free if you know the airline regulations. Below are a few points we will cover and links you may find more detail for specific airlines:
- Airline pet policies
- Info needed to be provided to the airline about your pet
- When flights should be booked and why
- When to arrive to the airport
- What your dog will need to be in when you arrive to the airport
- Pet relief areas
- Sedate or not to sedate?
- Alternative calming methods
- List of all supplies you should have for the trip
Things to consider before flying with a dog:
The number one thing you should do before you book your flight is to figure out what airline you will be using and their pet policies (see list of links at the bottom of this post).
There are a few airlines that do not allow animals to be stored in the cargo hold and the carrier dimensions are much smaller than most hunting dogs. (17”x10.5”x10” and to a max of 18.5”x8.5”x 13.5”)
Once you have found an airline that will accommodate your animal make sure you call and reserve a spot as far in advance as possible, before you buy your own ticket. Airlines only allow a limited number of pets in the cargo hold at a time.
You should also identify your airlines weather restrictions, they all have guidelines they have to follow. Many airlines do not allow pets in the cargo hold when it is 45 degrees or less and 89 degrees or more, but you may be able to get past this if you have a veterinarian’s note approving your breed to travel in these conditions.
Recommendations for booking flights with your dog:
It’s best to fly your dog during the cool times of the day like a red eye during the summer or during the day in the fall or winter when it may not be as cold. Be sure to watch the weather changes closely on the days leading up to the trip. Book direct flights or the least amount of connections possible, flying can be a traumatic experience for dogs especially if this is his or her first time.
It’s important to know if you are traveling in the contiguous 48 United States and or Canada an animal may not be in a cargo hold for more than 12 hours without a break. If you are traveling overseas then keep in mind to book your flights with long enough layovers to get your animal and take them to a designated pet relief area. Pet relief areas are more often than not outside of the security area. I would advise a relief break before you cross the pond and one after you land since your pet will be pushing an easy 12 hours since last break from the kennel.
Get a Certificate of Health from your Veterinarian
Once you have checked all of your airline requirements you will need to go to your veterinarian to get a certificate of health. The certificate may not be issued no earlier than 10 days before the flight. I would recommend that you make sure your dog will pass the health check then buy your tickets and finally get the certificate during the 10 days before you leave. The USDA requires the certificate to state the following:
- Your name and address
- Your phone number
- Dog tags or Age tattoos that are assigned to that dog of good health
- Any medication your animal may be on
- A signature of the veterinarian animal
- Statement that the animal is in
- The date the exam was performed
I would recommend if traveling out of the country to also check with the foreign country on health and pet travel policy!
Pet Carriers and Kennel Requirements
To fly your pet as cargo, you must use an approved shipping kennel, and it must ship in accordance with the USDA guidelines. The pet carrier must provide enough room for your pet to stand and sit erect — without the head touching the top of the container — and to turn around and lie down in a natural position.
Approved pet carriers are available for sale at some airline locations as well as many pet supply stores. If you would like to purchase a kennel from the airline you may check with the local cargo facility for availability of the kennel size you need in advance of your travel date.
All kennels must be capable of loading upright in the aircraft bin as required by the Animal Welfare Act and the International Air Transport Association Live Animal Regulations.
In addition, USDA rules state that the kennel must:
- be constructed of rigid plastic, wood, metal or material of comparable strength with solid roofs; no cardboard kennels
- have ventilation openings on three sides, in addition to the door opening
- have functional handles on the kennel’s exterior to prevent tilting and any direct contact with the animals
- close securely, but not lock, to allow personnel to open it in case of emergency
- display labels with the words “Live Animal” in 1-inch letters on the crate’s top and on at least one side
- display upright arrow labels indicating kennel’s correct position; Delta Cargo can provide these labels
- contain bedding, shredded paper or towels to absorb “accidents”
- contain two dishes (one for food and one for water) attached to the inside of the kennel door
- display feeding instructions and food, if applicable — these instructions should be affixed to the top of the kennel, along with shipper and consignee information
All animal kennels must display the following; some airlines provide these display items when your kennel is accepted for transport:
- Live Animal Checklist (includes feeding and watering instructions)
- Live Animal label
- Your pet has been fed and offered water within 4 hours (with the specific time noted) before you deliver them to the airplane
- Is securely and visibly attached to the outside of the kennel
- Has your signature with the date and time you signed it
- You’ll also need to provide feeding and watering instructions for a 24-hour period. Unless specified by a vet, you cannot leave instructions saying “no food or water.”
- Kennels made entirely of welded mesh, wire mesh, wicker, cardboard or collapsible materials are strictly prohibited
- Kennels with opening doors on top
- Kennels with plastic front doors and/or plastic side latches that secure the top and bottom together without hardware, such as metal nuts/bolts
Making your dog more comfortable
Your buddy may become agitated during flights especially if it is his first one. I’m sure you have heard the idea of sedatives for this problem, however the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) says in most cases you should not give sedatives to them prior to flying, because they can create respiratory and cardiovascular problems as the dog is exposed to increased altitude pressures. Sedation drugs are just too unpredictable when not being monitored. Another aspect to keep in mind is a sedatives can alter the animal’s natural ability to balance and maintain equilibrium, which could cause him to hurt himself during the trip.
One method that can work ever well and I would recommend is using DAP, DAP is a spray you can use in the kennel to help your dog relax. It is a synthetic version of a pheromone produced by nursing dogs. When using it I recommend spraying it and waiting 5 to 10 minutes at least before you put your dog in. Lavender oils can be used as well to help keep him calm; other uses are pain relief, disinfectant, enhance blood circulation and help treat respiratory problems. Lavender oils are an all-natural and cost effective way to keep your buddy in good shape for your next hunt.
Packing list for your dog
- Disinfectant wipes to clean kennel
- Pooh bags
- Leash and spare collar with tags
- Bottled water
- Food in ziploc bag for travel period
- Food and water dispenser for kennel
- Paper towels
- Contact info and emergency info for you and your vet taped to the kennel.
I hope this has helped with your plans to enjoy another day in the great outdoors with man’s best friend. Below are a few links to main stream airlines and their policies.
Airline pet policies for the major airlines:
- Alaska Airlines
- Allegiant Airlines
- American Airlines
- Continental Airlines
- Delta Air Lines
- Frontier Airlines
- Hawaiian Airlines
- Jet Blue Airlines
- Sprint Airlines
- United Airlines
- Virgin Airlines
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