How to Prepare Your Dog for Airline Travel

Every dog owner should be conscious about checking that the health and temperament of their pet are compatible with the trip they are planning to take with their friend.
How to Prepare Your Dog for Airline Travel
Francisco María García

Written and verified by the lawyer Francisco María García.

Last update: 27 December, 2022

Fortunately for pet owners, airline companies are modernizing and improving the conditions for transporting pets. This means that more owners can choose to travel with their pets. In this article you’ll find some useful suggestions on how to prepare your dog for airline travel.

6 tips to prepare your dog for airline travel

Below, let’s see some tips on how to prepare your dog for airline travel so that you can both enjoy a stress-free trip.

1. Know the requirements for arriving at your destination with your dog

To start to plan your trip with your dog, firstly it’s essential to know the requirements of your country of destination. In this way, your animal will be able to enter without any problems. Of course, each country may have its own laws in this regard.

Along general lines, the documents you’ll need to travel with a dog and enter another country are:

  • Passport or certificate issued by the relevant authority in the dog’s country of residence.
  • Current medical record, where your dog’s vaccines, deworming and other treatments are recorded.
  • Animal health certificate – this should be issued by a licensed vet and can have a validity of between 7 and 10 days, depending on the country.
  • Microchip (with your and your dog’s details recorded). This isn’t necessary for entry to all countries, but is certainly highly recommended for the safety of the dog and its owner.

2. Choose the most appropriate airline company to cover your needs

Each airline has its own conditions, requirements, and limitations for the transport of pets. Before purchasing your plane ticket, remember to check the rules of each airline company that flies to your destination.

Many airline companies allow dogs to travel in the cabin with their owners, such as in the case of Iberia, Lufthansa or Air Europe. However, the maximum weight of the animal together with the pet carrier shouldn’t exceed 17 pounds. Also, the dimensions of the pet carrier shouldn’t exceed 20 inches in length, 16 inches in width, and 8 inches in height.

A dog in a pet carrier ready to enter the cargo hold.

Other airline companies only offer pet transport services in the cargo hold, as in the case of Singapore Airlines for instance. There are even certain airlines that won’t accept animals aboard, or that prohibit the transport of certain ‘dangerous’ breeds, such as pit bulls. Do your homework before setting out.

3. Prepare your dog for airline travel: choose the ideal pet carrier

To travel on a plane with your dog, it’ll be necessary to acquire a hardy pet carrier. It should be appropriate for your dog’s size and have adequate ventilation. In addition, the animal should be able to stand up in the cage and be able to turn around completely.

After choosing the most appropriate product for your friend, a very important step is to get it used to its new pet carrier. You should start the adaptation process at least four weeks before the date of your trip.

A dog being carried in a pet carrier.

Remember that each animal will adapt differently to a new environment, and in their own time. Positive reinforcement is the best way to help your pet to get used to the process of going in and out of the pet carrier.

4. Medical consultation and animal health certificate

Okay, so you’ve researched the entry requirements for your destination and reserved your plane tickets. Next, it’s time to start to prepare the documents you’ll need for your dog.

To start any kind of formal process, it’ll be essential to obtain an animal health certificate for your pet. You should check that your pet is up to date with vaccines and deworming tablets, and your vet can give it a general health checkup.

5. Starting the formalities for traveling with your dog on the plane

After obtaining its health certificate and updating its medical record, it should now be possible to start the formalities for traveling with your dog. You should know that the animal health certificate you got from your vet usually only has 7 to 10 days of validity. Make sure everything is well timed to avoid unforeseen complications before your trip.

You should go to the relevant authority in your country. They’ll be able to issue you with the relevant documentation to be able to travel with your dog.

6. Prepare your dog for airline travel

If your dog is traveling for the first time, this situation will be completely new for it. It’s normal for your dog to get a little nervous. Above all, d on’t give your dog any medication without consulting with your vet first. Remember to stay calm and help your dog to see your affection and calmness before and during boarding.

In conclusion, not all dogs get used to traveling on planes, especially if they have to stay a long time in the cargo hold. For many of these dogs, ground travel may be the best and safest option.

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The contents of My Animals are written for informational purposes. They can't replace the diagnosis, advice, or treatment from a professional. In the case of any doubt, it's best to consult a trusted specialist.