Health Topics

Pets Travelling By Air

(Information taken from the Ontario Veterinary Assossication (OVMA) website)

The danger of air travel is not in the flying but rather during "down time" while your pet is loaded, unloaded or waiting in an unsheltered area exposed to the elements. Hazards are usually caused by delays which result in time spent on the runway before take-off or after landing when the plane's cargo areas are not air pressurized. During that time your pet is confined in the cargo hold without fresh air and temperatures can fluctuate from very hot to very cold in short periods of time. To avoid exposure to extreme temperatures some airlines won't permit pets to fly at certain times of the year. Due to the uncertainty of departure times and weather conditions, unless it is absolutely necessary for your pet to travel by air, we recommend that you leave him/her at home with a trusted friend or family member or at a reputable boarding kennel.

If you do decide to transport your pet by air, the following guidelines may help to make the trip a safer experience.

  • Purchase an approved carrier from an airline, pet store or veterinary hospital weeks before your trip and allow your animal to become familiar with it.
  • Make sure all screws on the carrier are present and tight. You don't want your pet running around loose in the cargo hold. Most pet travel accidents are a result of poorly constructed carriers. Don't lock the door in case of emergency, but consider adding a snap closure for security. A familiar blanket or toy in the carrier may make your pet more comfortable and less frightened. A container for water should be secured to the inside of the carrier and positioned so that it can be filled without opening the cage. A drip bottle is preferable to an open bowl, but your pet must be trained to use this type of bottle prior to the flight.
  • Carriers must be clearly marked "LIVE ANIMALS" and "THIS END UP" in letters at least 1" high. The animal's name and destination, the owner's identification and address, should also be secured to the carrier.
  • Travel at off peak hours. Try to take nonstop flights. If you are taking multiple flights, ensure that your pet has been transferred by confirming this with your flight attendant.
  • Sedate your pet only on the advice of your veterinarian. Sedation may lead to serious complications, such as inhibiting your pet's ability to regulate body temperature or by making it more susceptible to breathing problems.
  • Inform flight attendants that you have a pet on board, especially if your flight is delayed. If your pet is small enough, carry it on board. Many airlines will allow this if the pet carrier fits under the seat in front of you, but reservations for this must be made early.
  • Make sure your pet has received the appropriate vaccinations for the country you are visiting and that the necessary veterinarian-certified papers accompany the pet. Consult the customs/immigration department for local vaccination requirements.