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Tips for Traveling With Your Dog By Air
Many vacation spots are dog-friendly, which means that more and more people are traveling with their dogs. Furthermore, rescue groups working in areas with high-kill shelters often pull dogs and foster them until they find a forever home for the dog -- sometimes hundreds of miles away. While ground transport may be arranged, often the dogs' new families fly the rescued dogs. The best way to travel by air, whether you are flying with your dog or flying a new dog to your home is to be aware of all rules and requirements by airlines and their destinations; and to be prepared for the unexpected.
Alternatives to Transporting Your Dog by Air: Certain dogs should not fly and are not allowed to fly. You may have a short-nosed (brachycephalic) dog, such as a pug, all bulldog types, Shih Tzu, boxers, Boston Terriers, and King Charles Spaniels or a restricted breed. If a dog cannot fly -- for whatever reason -- you can still bring it on vacation with you. You may be able to take a train, drive, take a bus or take a ship. As with the airlines, you must check the rules and regulations for the different modes of transportation and their companies before you make travel reservations.
Specific Requirements of Airlines: Each airline has its own rules and regulations for traveling with dogs. If you check with one airline and are not comfortable with their requirements, check with another airline, especially if your dog is traveling alone.
Types of Carriers/kennels: Always check the airline's rules for types of carriers. Most airlines require you to use a carrier with vents on the door and on the sides. Airlines may also require the carriers to be made of a certain kind of material. Some airlines have restrictions on top-opening carriers. For example, American Airlines states that a series 700 kennel is not allowed on any aircraft. Furthermore, each airline has its own size restrictions for carriers, especially in-cabin carriers. Major airlines' cabin carrier/kennel requirements.
Bathroom Breaks at Airports: Check with the airlines -- many have dog walk areas. Some airports will not allow dogs to travel over a certain number of hours. Some airlines also require that you use absorbent material in the bottom of carriers in the event that the dog cannot "hold it" for the length of travel time. Check each airline's crate restrictions for more information on crate preparation.
Medicating for Calmness: Some airlines will not accept a dog for travel if the dog has been medicated to keep it calm. The dog must be well-behaved on its own. This is because medications have different reactions to each dog -- just as with humans -- and the medication may cause a different reaction at different altitudes. Airlines do not want to be held responsible for the death of a dog due to adverse reactions of medications. If an airline does allow you to medicate for calmness, do not choose a medication yourself. Always check with your vet and use a veterinarian-prescribed medication as dogs react differently to different medications.
Airsick Dogs: Dogs can get airsick, just like they can get car sick. Ask your veterinarian about giving your dog Dramamine to combat airsickness. Do not give your dog any travel sickness medication without the supervision of your veterinarian. As with all medications, some dogs may have an adverse reaction to the medication.
Duration of Stay: Before you start making reservations in places that allow pets, you need to check each country's regulations. If you are bringing your pet on a vacation, you may not run into much trouble unless that country requires quarantine. If you are planning on an extended stay in a country because you are military and have been transferred, because you are a civilian working on a government post or because you plan to stay in a country on other type of work or an extended stay for other reasons, you may want to check as to the requirements to get your pet back into the United States. Airlines require health certificates, so you must be able to find a vet in your country of choice to sign off on the certificate.
You should also be aware of whether the United States requires pets to be quarantined when returning from certain countries.
Other things that factor into duration of stay are food and medication for your pets. If you feed a special diet, is that diet available overseas? Is the medication available? Can you bring the medication with you or are there restrictions on certain types of medication? If you are living on post while overseas or in a commune, be sure your pet is welcome before you make plans. Some places may have breed restrictions and some may not allow pets at all.
Quarantine: Each country has its own quarantine rules. When returning your dog to the United States http://www.cdc.gov/animalimportation/dogs.html or importing a dog that has never been in the country, the dog may be subject to quarantine if it has not had a rabies shot at least 30 days prior to the date of travel. Authorities may hold pets until the appropriate age for rabies shots plus 30 days after the shot is administered unless the dog has been in a rabies-free country for at least six months.
Dog Illnesses While Traveling: Before you leave on your trip, be sure you know where to find a veterinarian in the area where you are staying. While you hope your dog doesn't get sick, you never know what could happen. If you need to get to a veterinarian in a hurry, you don't have time to locate a vet. You should know the location of two emergency vets that accept pets after hours because inevitably, Murphy's Law strikes and dogs will get sick on a weekend, a holiday or after hours when no veterinarian is open.
Losing Your Dog: Losing your dog can be devastating, especially in a strange place. You can maximize the chances of finding your pet by having dog tags created with a local phone number and your contact information, including your hotel's address. Though it is a good idea to microchip your dog, it is best to have the tags as not all veterinarians or shelters carry the reader that may be required to read your dog's chip.
With two methods of identification, you have a better chance of finding your lost dog. An additional method would be to sew your information to the inside of your dog's collar in the event that a tag gets lost or the microchip cannot be read.
Vaccinations: Check vaccination regulations at least three months prior to leaving on your trip. If the host country requires that your dog is up to date on vaccinations for at least 30 days prior to your entry date, you will have time to get the appropriate vaccinations. If you are of the mindset that prefers minimal or no vaccinations, you may not be able to travel with your pet unless you get a signed statement from your veterinarian that due to health reasons, your pet cannot be vaccinated. Even with the signed statement, you may not be allowed to bring your pet into a country with strict requirements. You should also check with your state's regulations before coming back from a trip. According to the CDC, different states have different requirements (http://www.cdc.gov/features/TravelWithPets/index.html).
Buying a Dog in Another Country: If you buy a dog in another country, be sure to check the restrictions for travel. The dog must be up to date on shots or it may be quarantined. Most airlines will require a health certificate. Some airlines require that you fly with the dog. When making arrangements for flight travel, check with several airlines to find the best deal with the least restrictions. Because dogs must have rabies shots to come into the United States -- in most cases -- you may not be able to bring a puppy younger than four months back with you without having to go through the quarantine process. http://www.cdc.gov/animalimportation/dogs.html
Countries That Are Not Dog Friendly: If you know that the country you are traveling to is not dog-friendly, you may want to leave your best friend at home. You'll have a better time if you do not have to worry about leaving your dog in the hotel all day because the country you are visiting does not allow dogs in most places -- that is, if you can find a hotel that accepts dogs. Watch for countries such as Turkey and other countries where a person's religion or the social norm considers dogs "dirty." http://www.theroadunleashed.com/posts/the_are_we_insane_moment
Conclusion: Always check and double check everything before you leave for the airport. Make sure you speak with someone at the airport about pet restrictions, whether your pet is flying in-cabin or in the hold -- long before you leave. If your dog is on their banned breed list, it won't do to have to change airlines at the last minute.
Double check size and crate restrictions. And most importantly, check and double check that you have your dog's health certificate and the country's quarantine regulations before you leave. You can save yourself a lot of heartache, time and trouble by ensuring that you can travel from place to place with your dog.