Pets are members of the family—owners dress them up, make home-cooked meals for them, and take them along when they travel. Airlines are used to pets accompanying their owners on flights and have come a long way in making air travel accessible to their four-legged customers. If you plan on taking to the skies with your furry friend soon, our travel guide will ensure you’re prepared.


Do your research ahead of time

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure… Researching travel requirements of airlines as well as your travel destination will be well worth the time investment to ensure a smooth trip. Some things to consider:

  • What health documentation does the airline require? All airlines require dogs and cats to be up-to-date on core vaccines, including rabies. A recent health certificate will also be needed to prove that a veterinarian has deemed your furry friend free of infectious disease.
  • Are there country-specific health requirements your pet must meet? Some countries have specific requirements pets must meet before they are permitted to enter. Thoroughly research the entry conditions of your destination. Although Hawaii is part of the U.S., it also has stringent rules about pets arriving from the mainland.
  • Is your pet on the no-fly list? Many airlines blacklist certain breeds for health or safety reasons. Brachycephalic (short-nosed) breeds, such as pugs, Boston terriers, and Himalayan cats, have hereditary respiratory problems that prevent them from flying in the poorly ventilated cargo area of the plane. Some airlines also restrict them from flying in the cabin. Many airlines will not allow historically aggressive breeds aboard. Check your airline’s website for a list of excluded breeds.
  • Is there an open spot for your pet? Airlines limit the number of animals aboard each flight. Book your flight early to secure a spot.
  • Will Fido travel in the cabin or cargo area? Cabin travel is limited to cats and dogs small enough to travel in a carrier that can fit under the seat in front of you. Dogs larger than approximately 15 pounds will travel in the cargo area of the plane. According to the Animal Welfare Act, if temperatures will be above 85° or below 45° Fahrenheit before, during, or after your trip, it is not safe for him to fly in the cargo area. Check out Pet Airways, an airline for pets where “pawsengers” travel in a specially equipped cabin area with on-board pet attendants.


Visit your veterinarian several months before your trip

Our veterinary health care team will perform a thorough examination to determine whether your pet can safely travel. Animals who are very young, geriatric, pregnant, or suffering from disease or illness are not good travel candidates. If your veterinarian gives your pet the green light, make sure her vaccines are up-to-date. If they need boostered, now is the time to do so. If your pet has not previously had a microchip implanted, it’s also a good idea to add this to your list. A microchip provides permanent identification that can make a reunion more likely if your pet gets lost in foreign territory.


Pack your pet’s bags

As your travel date approaches, gather travel supplies your pet will need. Your list should include:

  • Carrier — Research airline-specific carrier requirements for your travel buddy.
  • Food and water bowls — Most airlines require special bowls that attach to the cage door and that can be accessed without opening the carrier.
  • Toys — If you are delayed and your pet has to spend longer than planned in her carrier, you will need to keep her occupied.
  • Medical records — Make sure to include all required documentation, such as proof of vaccination and health certificates.
  • Medications — Pack enough medication to last the entire trip, plus a few extra doses in case of delay.


Obtain a health certificate

A health certificate is a legal document testifying that your pet has been examined and is free from signs of infectious disease. It is only valid for 10 days from the date of examination, so you will need to visit us in the days before your travel date. All U.S. airlines require a U.S. health certificate for travel; international travel may also require additional country-specific documentation.


Relax and enjoy your trip

After all of your research and preparations, you can confidently board with your pet and enjoy a stress-free trip. Questions about how to get started? Contact our office.