Travel by plane with your dog

When we decided to take the leap and start this adventure, the option of leaving our dog behind was never on the table. In fact, what would Foot n Paw mean without the Paw? So before carrying on with the reservations and planning, there were several things to research and figure out: what do we need to do to take our dog on the plane? Is it safe for dogs to travel by air? What health issues should we be concerned about? Do we need to pay for the plane ticket? Should we call the airline in advance? So many questions.

So to make things easier for you, just in case you are thinking about taking your furry friend along with you, here are some tips. Please remember that it all depends on where you are flying from and where are you flying to. In our case we were flying from Argentina to Spain. So please be sure to check your country laws regarding flying with pets first.


THINGS TO DO BEFORE LEAVING

 

1. Check that your dog´s nose is not flat

San Juan de Gaztelugatxe with dogs

What? Yes, unfortunately, if you have a french bulldog, or a boxer or any other amazing looking flat nose friend (known as Brachycephalic Breeds), then you are off to a bad start. Due to health issues, if your dog has a short nose, it has a higher risk of suffering from a heat stroke or some breathing problem when exposed to stress in the plane cargo. Some planes even do not accept these dogs, so you should better check before with the airline. If you do want to carry on with your brachycephalic pet relocation, please check for airlines policies and health precautions. Then you should also be sure that your dog is older than 3 months and 21 days. That is the limit for taking your pet to Europe.

 

2. Legal stuff

OK, now let’s talk about legal things (remember, I’m talking about legal things in Argentina and Spain, so check your country laws first). First of all you should decide on your travel dates. Once you are done, before buying your tickets, be smarter than me and call the airline first to check if they have a place available for your dog in that flight (I bought our tickets first and later on I realized I had to check if they had a place for Tita, our dog. Luckily they did have. But if they didn’t, I was going to have to change my tickets. I was not going to send my dog on another flight of course).

Once you are 100% sure they do have a spot for your pet, go ahead and buy the tickets. That is: buy the tickets for yourself and for your pet. Yes. You do have to pay a plane ticket for your pet. Of course, it is not the same price as yours, do not panic. But still, it was around 10% of my plane ticket value. Oh, and they will ask for the size of your dog, its weight and the size and weight of the cage you are transporting your pet in. So you should figure that out first (unless your dog weighs less than 8kg (around 20 pounds) with the cage weight included. Then you can travel with your dogs in the cabin. That is if the cage fits under the seat).

3. Install the microchip in your dog

travel with your dog

So now you are done with your plane thing. But there are several things you need to do now if you are thinking about going to Europe.

Let’s go with the first step: your dog needs to become a cyborg. The laws in Europe regarding pets say that every single animal must have a chip installed under the skin. Why? This chip will have all the information regarding the animal owners. It’s not only compulsory but safe. So you should check your local veterinaries to see which one of them is allowed to install the microchip in your dog (not all of them are).

This process is fast and painless for your dog. The chip remains under its skin and does not bother at all. Your vet may forget to tell you, but the chip may move during your pet’s life (the chip lasts for 25 years, so unless your dog is a miracle of science then it should last for all its lifetime), so do not panic if it was installed in your dog’s back and after a while it’s near its belly.

4. The vaccine

Chip installed. Now what? The anti-rabies vaccine. Important: it must be applied after the chip is installed. There is not much to say about this. Even if you are not traveling with your dog, you must get the anti-rabies vaccine for your dog’s health and safety. So if you haven’t done it, stop reading this post and go to your dog’s vet.

5. The health certificate

hiking with your dog

Now you will have to wait until you have ten days before taking the flight. When there are ten days left, you must go to your dog’s vet again and ask for your dog’s health certificate. In it, the vet will confirm that your dog is healthy and with all the vaccines up to date.

6. Head to the National Health Service (check your country´s laws)

With the health and the microchip certificates now it’s time to finish the process. In our case, we had to go to SENASA (National health service and agri-food quality), which is the Government Entity in charge of authorizing your pet to travel (among other things they do that are not important for this post). Remember, SENASA is an entity from Argentina. So you should check your own country policies. We showed them all the papers and, after filling a form, paying a procedure fee, and waiting two days, we had everything we needed to carry on with our trip.

7. Head to the airport

travel with your dogs abroad

Now the day has arrived and you are heading to the airport. In our case, to Ezeiza International Airport. Before checking in, you have to go to the SENASA Airport Office to pay another fee, show them your dog’s certificate (the one that SENASA gave you a couple of days before) and then you are ready to check in your dog. They will take you to the place you are going to have to leave your friend.

 

PRECAUTIONS TO TAKE BEFORE THE FLIGHT

 

1. Sleeping pills? No, thanks

Should we give our dog a sleeping pill? No. If you want to take a sleeping pill to sleep during the flight, it’s up to you. But your dog will be rather stressed out during the process so you don’t need to give him/her something to make them feel stranger. Dogs need to be alert just in case there is turbulence. Imagine your dog is dozed and the plane moves a lot. Your dog will be bouncing up and down its cage, hurting itself if he/she is not able to be in control of its own body. So instead of dozing your dog, you can try an anti vomitive to prevent him/her to feel nauseous during the flight. Ask your vet about this.

2. Water? No, please

Should we leave water inside the cage? No. Airlines do not authorize this because the water will most probably spill, wet your dog and may cause him/her to suffer from cold-related health issues. Try to give your dog water a couple of hours before the flight and take your dog for a walk so that he/she can pee before going on the plane.

travel with your dog

3. Food? Way before the flight

Should we feed our dog before taking the flight? Six hours before. You should try to avoid problems related to motion sickness and stress. You will not want your dog to get sick and throw up during the flight.

4. Pee and Poo

What if my dog does number 1 or 2 during the flight? Chances are that it will happen (though our dog hanged for over 16 hours without doing anything). So our advice is to get a good dog diaper and put it as a soft floor blanket. Not only it will make your dog’s cage floor softer but it will also absorb the pee and avoid your dog from getting wet. Number 2? Well, it will smell. But nothing that a good bath after the flight won’t cure.

motorhome with your dog

5. Make the flight easier for your dog

What can I do to make my dog’s flight easier? First of all, take your dog to a nice a long walk, throw the ball, make your dog run and have fun. This way your dog will get a bit tired and will have a better chance of relaxing and sleeping during the flight. Then you can grab one of your t-shirts (if you wore it the night before, even better) and put it inside the dog’s cage as a blanket. Your dog will love to have something that smells like you. It will make your dog feel a bit like home. And last but not least: when you wave your dog goodbye before checking him/her in, please, do not talk to your dog as if it was the last time you will see him/her. You don’t need to tell your dog by the tone of your voice that you are going to miss him/her, or that you are afraid of what is going to happen to him/her. Dogs recognize the tone of your voice, so be sure to just say goodbye as you would on a regular “I’m off to the office” day. And try to let your dog go inside the cage by its own; do not force your dog in (to make that happen, try to have the cage at your house a couple of months before your trip so that your dog get used to it. You may want to leave a pillow inside and invite your dog to sleep inside the cage, with the doors opened of course).

6. Health concerns

Should I be concerned about my dog’s health? You should be as concerned as you are every single day of your dog’s life. If you have followed all the steps, your dog should be fine. They travel cargo, yes. But the environment they are traveling in is also pressurized, with a temperature that will not make your dog cold nor hot. They travel safely inside a cage that is safely locked and immobilized. Of course, everything depends on your dog’s level of anxiety and stress managing. But hey, you have decided to travel with your pet, so there is no other way. So just relax and think positively. 

 

CONCLUSION

Anyway, here I am writing this post with Tita laying on her bed, sleeping comfortably near the stove and she is just as fine and happy as she was before taking the flight. So if you want to take your dog with you, do not hesitate at all. They will love to experience new places and adventures with you. I don’t recommend taking your dog on a plane for a one week vacation. Avoid your dog the stress and leave him/her back home with someone who can take good care of him/her. But if you are off for the long ride, then your dog is part of your family. Don’t leave him/her behind. 


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Travel with dogs on a plane

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Written by Pie & Pata
Happy is he/she who enjoys family travel.