Travelling with your dog on a plane
Whether you’re heading off to the beach or travelling to chillier climes, your dog will have a whale of a time exploring new environments and seeing new sights with you.
Of course, sometimes going on holiday involves getting on a plane. That doesn’t mean your canine friend can’t join you - dogs can be international jet-setters too! However, it does mean that you’ll have to plan a lot of things in advance to make sure travelling with your dog runs smoothly.
Before taking your dog on a plane, there are several things that need to be organised before you even get to the airport. Luckily, most of the things necessary when flying with a dog can be addressed a long time in advance; it’s best to get preparations underway seven to eight months before you go. In all cases, even if your dog is healthy, contact the vet before you go – some countries require vaccinations, health checks or certificates before your dog can come in!
How to prepare when flying with a dog
Many pet owners want to know how to travel with a dog on a plane without all the hassle, but the truth is, every journey will need a bit of preparation! However, if you organise things for your dog in advance, there shouldn’t be anything to worry about. Read our checklist to make sure you’ve got everything covered, then get ready for a holiday full of fun with the best travel companion in the world.
Things to organise in advance
Before the rest of your preparations get underway, contact the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) about your journey.
DEFRA can tell you about the dog travelling requirements for your destination. You might want to check out www.defra.gov.uk to get started.
When you book your flight, make sure the airline knows you want to bring your dog on the plane. They’ll happily give you advice. The IATA website also provides useful information on travelling with pets.
- Your crate will need to meet regulations for the flight, so make sure you’ve got one sorted – it will be stressful to rush and find one at the last minute!
- As well as this, consider food and water bowls that attach to the front of the basket and are less likely to spill and easier to top up from outside. The earlier you get them, the better.
- Make sure you’re familiar with your airline’s regulations. For example, prepare for the fact you might not see you pet all journey, as they can’t be in the cabin with you.
- Visit your vet a minimum of 7-8 months before the journey, as there may be specific vaccination requirements or certificates for the country you are visiting.
- Some destinations require a health certificate 24-48 hours prior to flying with a dog. If that’s the case, get your vet appointment booked to avoid last minute stress!
- Acclimatise your pet to the crate well in advance of flying with a dog to reduce their stress. Put it in their home environment with a nice bed and treats until they like being there.
On the day
- Before the flight, put a small luggage tag on your dog's collar displaying the temporary residence information for your destination – just in case something goes awry.
- Make sure that the information on your dog's ticket corresponds exactly with the information on yours. You don’t want to end up in different places!
- Inspect every tag attached to your pet's container before taking your dog on a plane and ensure it is marked with both your dog's information and your flight information.
- Include a food and water pack with the container – it sounds simple, but forgetting it could put a huge dent in your plans. Dogs on planes can get quite thirsty.
- Attach a feeding schedule for a 24-hour period and any other information for the travel carrier, just in case your pet doesn't make it to their final destination for some reason.
- Arrive at the airport in good time, having made sure that your dog has eaten earlier in the day, is relieved, well exercised, and comfortable – keeping stress to a minimum!
- When When thinking about how to fly with dogs, consider withholding food for a minimum of 2-4 hours before the journey to avoid travel sickness. That way once you get your dog on a plane and start travelling, they shouldn’t be ill.
Flying with an assistance/guide dog
Unlike most pets, assistance or guide dogs can travel in the cabin with you on the majority of flights. You will usually find that both you and your dog will be placed on the front row, leaving your dog plenty of space to lie-down. You do not have to pay any kind of fee to be able to have an assistance dog travel with you on a plane.
When arranging to have an assistance dog join you in the cabin, be sure to phone your travel provider and let them know, as this kind of request usually cant be dealt with online and must be confirmed plenty of time in advance of the flight.
For more information on travelling with an assistance dog on a plane, we recommend you check out the CAA website.
Other things to consider when flying with a dog
- If you think your dog will be very stressed by the journey, chat with your vet. They might be able to give you tips on keeping your pet more relaxed.
- Sedation may be possible, but some drugs affect how your dog copes with temperature changes; in the end, it could increase agitation. Your vet will tell you more.
- If sedation is being considered before dog travel, test the protocol before the big day to ensure your dog isn’t going to suffer any adverse effects.
- It’s not a good idea (and it may not be permitted) to travel with a dog under 3 months old, or an elderly, pregnant or ill dog. Think about how they will cope once you get your dog on the plane.
- If you have more than one dog, consider a crate each (the carrier may require this anyway). Even friends can become agitated with each other during a long journey
- Make your dog travel plans simple. Try and get your dog onto as direct a flight as possible to avoid them being moved between planes, which isn’t fun even for humans!
- Think about the timing of the flight to avoid arriving at very hot or cold times of the day. You want your dog to get used to the new climate, not be surprised on arrival.
- The Pet Travel Scheme (PETS) helps you travel with your pet in Europe. For further information on PETS read our Travel Checklist article.
- Not all flights are licensed to carry animals so you may need to travel on a different flight to your dog.
- When checking airline policies before flying with a dog, cover yourself by documenting all conversations. It’s better safe than sorry when your friend is involved.
For further advice about taking your dog abroad and pet travel, contact:
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
PETS Helpline: 0870 241 1710