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Flying with Your Dog

Holiday season is in full swing and even in the midst of a heatwave Brits are escaping to the continent for some well deserved rest and relaxation. For those wishing to embark with their pampered pooch in tow, this blog will help you get started prepping your pup for their big holiday adventure. I’ll be focusing on air travel to Europe and crating your dog in cargo as the vast majority of commercial flights do not allow your pup to travel in the cabin.

Assess your dog with your vet

Before you jump ahead googling the best dog-friendly hotels and resorts San Sebastian has to offer, your first stop should be your veterinarian. Once there discuss your travel plans, assess your dog for cargo-travel and acquire a pet-passport – more on travel documents and vaccinations later. Travelling by air is stressful for dogs, it’s not something familiar with most and not usually something they have been habituated (socialised) with from a young age. Moreover, depending on their age, breed and general health, air travel can not only be dangerous but deadly. Contrary to popular belief and recent headlines most in-transit pet deaths are not down to mishandling but instead can be attributed to an underlying health condition exacerbated by the journey.

Brachycephalic or flat-faced breeds, in addition to any dog with other breathing difficulties are at particular risk. Cargo temperatures an vary greatly depending on the weather and can become uncomfortably hot depending how far south you are going. Combine this with the stress of a foreign environment and heat stroke can become a likely scenario. Due to dogs regulating their body temperatures through their respiratory system any breathing issues / concerns should be carefully considered before attempting to travel.

Upon moving to the UK my family was forced to make the hard decision to leave our beloved Pug-cross behind. After multiple surgeries to lessen his breathing issues we decided it just wasn’t worth the risk for him to attempt the journey. Don’t worry he was left with close family friends who adore and pamper him in his new forever home. As a pet owner you are responsible for your furry friends well-being and their needs should be paramount. I’m not advocating leaving your dog up for adoption so you can enjoying sunbathing on foreign shores, just evaluate if boarding your pet would be the best option for them. On that note dogs prone to anxiety and especially separation anxiety are not recommended for cargo travel due to the aforementioned conditions.

flying with dogs

Shall you use sedatives?

A word of caution the administration of sedatives is not recommended as a significant number of in-transit deaths have been attributed to them. Moreover, delays upon take-off might render them useless as they might pass through your dog’s system before the flight even beings!

If you’d like a more in depth study of the effects of cargo-travel on dogs check out this study.

Dogs not allowed to travel

Dogs not allowed to travel:

  • Females with unweaned puppies
  • Unweaned puppies
  • Females in the final third of pregnancy
  • Females within one week of giving birth
  • Puppies under eight weeks

It is also strongly advised that females in season not travel.

Take into account if you are the owner of a small breed, a puppy of eight weeks might still be too small to travel due to the risk of dehydration and hypoglycemia, Chihuahua and Yorkie puppy owners I’m talking to you!

Vaccinations and other requirements

So you’ve been given the green light by your vet and have decided your holiday would not be complete without your four legged friend! To get to your destination you must travel an approved route, a list of which can be found here. This list is regularly updated but do check with the individual airline.

The travel documents and vaccinations your dog will need include:

Pet passport: many vets issue them, if you are having difficulty contact the Animal  and Plant Health Agency.

Up to date rabies vaccination *This in in addition to their yearly parvovirus and distemper vaccinations.

Worming treatment suitable against the Echinococcus multilocularis tapeworm to be given prior to your return to the UK (exceptions include direct travel from Finland, Malta, Ireland and Norway)

Microchip: Its prudent to ask the vet to check its location prior to travel as they often migrate.

You might also want to do your own research about the diseases and parasites particular to the region you are visiting, as they are foreign, your pup might not have as much of a natural resistance to them, a good place to start is this guide provided by the Animal Welfare Foundation.

Crate Requirements

The crate you choose to place your animal in must comply with International Air Transport Association’s stringent regulations, which can be found here.  Make sure you select the correct size, your dog should be able to comfortable stand, lie down and turn around comfortably. A full sizing guide can be found on pages 4 & 5 of the IATA’s guide. These guidelines do allow two dogs weighing up to 14 kg each to travel together, however this is not suitable in most cases. I love my family but I don’t want to share a seat with my brother!  An in depth read of the guide covers correct labelling of the crate, water and food requirements and other flying/preparation advice.

Legally you can only take up to five dogs with you, although most commercial airlines impose a lower limit. There are legal exceptions for those travelling to dog shows and other similar events (proof of registration will be required). However, this means you must comply with additional commercial dog transit regulations.

The first time your dogs steps into a crate should not be just before they are boarding a plane. Crate training, especially with puppies is fairly common these days. However if its been a while since your dog has been crated start getting them used to it in advance so the crate becomes a place of calm and relaxation, before they are locked in it for hours in cargo. A good guide to follow is the Humane Society’s guide to crate training.

Before flying make sure they have a chance to go the bathroom and stretch their legs!

flying with dogs

A special note for assistance dogs

If you happen to be the proud owner of an assistance dog most commercial airlines will make exceptions for you, allowing them to travel in the cabin, by your side, at no extra cost! They must still comply with the above travel documentation and vaccination and it is advised to carry proof of their training as airlines can and often will request this. A more in depth guide can be found here.

Not following these guidelines can result in you pet either not being allowed to travel or potentially shipped back to your holiday destination upon your return to the UK, and you will foot the bill. A wise idea is to also check with the embassy or consulate of the country you are visiting and the airline you are flying with to see if they have any extra guidelines or advice you should follow. With all of this in mind I hope you and your pup have a great holiday!

Olivia Chuah