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Traveling Internationally With a Dog

So, you are planning on taking a vacation abroad, but what do you do about your dog? Sure, you could leave your pooch with a friend or with family, but you might not always have somebody you trust or who is capable of looking after your pet.

Moreover, leaving your dog in a boarding kennel for weeks or months is not a great option either. Those places are horribly expensive and often don’t take the best care of dogs.

This is why you might elect to bring your dog with you, which for traveling internationally means that you will most likely be traveling by airplane.

Now, with that being said, there are certain tips and precautions that you must follow when traveling internationally with a dog. Here are the most important considerations that you should keep in mind if you plan on taking your dog on a plane and traveling internationally.

Some Dogs Should Not Be in the Cargo Hold

One of the most important things that you need to keep in mind when it comes to traveling internationally with your dog by plane, is that some dogs are not designed to fly in the cargo hold.

The dogs which should never be allowed to go into the cargo hold are those which are brachycephalic.

This means that they have shortened snouts with compacted nasal passages, which means that they have trouble breathing as is.

The air pressure and other factors in an airplane, which occur in a cargo hold, can make it increasingly difficult for these dogs to get enough air.

In other words, they may actually suffocate in a cargo hold. Pekingese, Chow Chows, Bulldogs, Boston Terriers, Pugs, and all other such dogs with pushed-in snouts should never be allowed to travel in the cargo hold.

Always Choose the Cabin Whenever Possible

Related to our first point, whenever possible, even for dogs without breathing issues, you should elect to have them travel in the passenger cabin with you.

It’s a lot less noisy, there is more light, and the temperature is better regulated, not to mention that there are actually people around as well.

Allowing your dog to travel in the passenger cabin is a more comfortable experience for the dog, and it will probably help keep your mind at ease as well.

Now, there are certain things to keep in mind when planning to have your dog travel in the cabin with you, and different airlines have different rules to consider.

  • Some airlines will allow dogs to be in the passenger cabin with their owners, whereas some will not. Most airlines will allow dogs in the passenger cabin, but there are usually always size restrictions. Very large or heavy dogs will most likely not be allowed in the passenger cabin
  • Keep in mind that in most cases, service dogs will be allowed to travel in the cabin with their humans. Most airlines are forced to make special exceptions for service animals
  • If you plan on having your dog travel in the passenger cabin, you are most likely going to be paying a fee for being allowed to do so
  • Most airlines will also have specific requirements regarding the health of your dog, as well as its immunizations too.

Traveling Internationally With a Dog

Direct Flights and the Same Flight

Next, flying can be extremely stressful, more so for dogs than for human beings, and therefore, the less time your dog spends on an airplane and in transit, the better.

Yes, this means that whenever possible, your dog should be on a direct flight.

Layovers and switching planes can often take several hours, and each hour is one where your dog is anxious.

Remember, your dog doesn’t know what is going on, what a plane is, why it is being moved from one to the other, and it doesn’t know where you are either.

On that same note, you always want to be on the same flight as your dog, not on a different one, because this causes huge problems. Just think about what happens when your luggage is on a different flight, now think about your dog that is scared, confused, and anxious.

Once again, the less time your dog has to spend in transit, especially without you, the better off everybody will be.

All About the Carrier

Now, whether your dog is traveling with you in the airplane’s cabin or in the cargo hold, one of the most important things to keep in mind is the carrier.

You obviously need a dog carrier, because the animal is not allowed to just roam free. There are some specific notes and tips to follow when it comes to your dog’s carrier for airline travel.

  • Certain airlines may have very specific requirements concerning dog and pet carriers, so always be sure to look these up first
  • The carrier in question needs to be of a decent size. This means that your dog should be able to fully stand up and stretch its legs, and there should be enough room to fully turn around
  • When it comes to the collar, always choose a flat collar with as few clips, buckles, and rings as possible. You don’t want the collar getting caught in the grates or openings of the carrier, as this may cause serious injury or even suffocation
  • On that same note, always make sure to clip your dog’s nails before the flight, because long nails can also get caught in the grates of the carrier, and may also cause serious injury and pain
  • Never forget to attach a travel label or sticker to your dog’s carrier. Always include the pet’s name, breed, age, and any relevant health concerns, as well as your own name, address, email, and phone number. It’s always better to be safe than sorry
  • The final thing to keep in mind is that many dogs are anxious of traveling in carriers, which only becomes worse when they are flying solo in the cargo hold. Therefore, you want to start getting your dog used to the carrier weeks in advance, preferably even months before the flight. You don’t want your dog being scared or anxious during the flight due to it not being familiar with the crate or carrier.

Finally, on that same note, it doesn’t hurt to include a nice blanket, a couple of your dog’s favorite toys, a little bit of water, and a couple of bones or treats to chew on.

You want to do anything and everything possible to keep your dog comfortable throughout the flight.

Feeding Pre-Flight

A big mistake which many people make when it comes to traveling internationally with a dog by plane is to give their dog lots of food and water before the flight.

It’s not unreasonable to think that your dog might get hungry or thirsty on the flight, especially if it’s a long one.

However, this is not really true. Your dog can survive for a day without much food or water, and when it comes to airline travel, it’s probably best that way.

It is recommended that you not give your dog food for at least 4 to 6 hours before the flight, and only very minimal water.

Simply put, you don’t want your dog urinating or defecating in the carrier. Moreover, due to the increased stress which occurs with airline travel, dogs are prone to vomiting.

Therefore, anything you can do to avoid a mess should be done, which is especially important if the dog is going to be in the cabin with you.

Other Important Tips

  • Always carry a current photo of your dog with you. This way you can identify and describe it in the event that it somehow gets lost in transit
  • Unless otherwise told by your vet, do not give your dog any kind of tranquilizers before the flight. This should be avoided at all costs for a variety of reasons
  • As soon as you get your dog back, open up the carrier and examine the dog to see if everything is in order
  • Baggage handlers are known for being very rough with baggage at times, and yes, even with live animals. If there is any evidence of bad handling or abuse, or if you catch a handler in the action, don’t be afraid to speak up and complain.

Conclusion

You really want to keep all the tips we have outlined today in mind. If you do so, it will ensure that your dog is as safe and comfortable as possible for the duration of the flight.

Remember, your dog can’t speak up if something is wrong, so you, the owner, needs to take all possible precautions to ensure safety and comfort at all times. After all, your dog is part of your family and they need to be treated as such.