10 Tips To Prepare Your Pooch For Air Travel
So you’ve got your brand new ESA Letter for air travel clutched in your grubby little hands, and so now you are ready to embark upon your next great adventure in life: traveling by air with your newly appointed ESA.
But wait! There is one thing you forget about… Your dog.
Preparing Your Dog For Air Travel
Your dog is not like you. He does not understand that, while on the plane, that this moment isn’t going to last his lifetime. Dogs have no sense of time, and so some form of difficult situations might seem interminable to him. So let’s try to figure out a method to make him more comfortable during his flight.
Exhausting Your Dog
One of the most loving things that you can do for your newly appointed ESA is to exhaust him several days beforehand to ensure he is appropriately calmed before boarding the flight with you.
Take him for extra walks. Play Frisbee with him, take him on the run with you. Throw the ball really far for him to chase. All of these activities will help calm Fido down for his big day and will help him to sleep through much of the flight, hopefully.
Dealing with Anxiety
Yes, Fido might be anxious on the flight despite how vigorously you exercised him in the days before his flight. If you think your dog might be overly concerned before flying, you might think about visiting your vet beforehand and asking for some medication to help Fido calm down on his big day.
The list of medications your vet might choose a remedy from are all quite harmless in small enough doses. You don’t want a hefty dose because you don’t want your dog so drugged that he cannot get up from where he lies, but you do want enough of the medication to reduce Fido’s anxiety noticeably.
Your vet will weigh your dog and prescribe a dose suitable for the situation. Whatever you do, NEVER try to medicate your dog’s anxiety (or any health issue he might have) with over-the-counter medications.
Over-the-counter meds can easily kill your dog.
Monitor Fido’s Food and Water Intake
Watch Fido closely in the two days before boarding the plane. This is the time you will need to be exercising strenuously, but also the time you will want to restrict his food intake. The reason for this is because air travel can make us sick to our stomachs, so even our pets. Flying may not agree with Fido’s tummy all that well. And if he vomits inside his carrier, then he has to live with that until you arrive at your destination and have time to clean it up. On the day of travel, Fido should eat a light meal about 6 hours before the journey, if possible. Restrict his water, starting about 4 hours before boarding. This will enable him to urinate it all out before he ever has to squeeze into his carry kennel.
Get a Good Kennel
You will need one that matches the airline’s specifications for in-cabin kennels. Each airline has certain specifications for enclosures that must be met, or they might refuse your dog entry on the flight.
Usually, they are looking for a kennel with hard walls and roof and large enough for the dog to comfortably stand up inside.
In the weeks and maybe even months you should be crate training your dog not to be afraid of his kennel and to rest comfortably inside.
It is cruel to buy a kennel and shove your dog inside for a flight when he’s never had the time to acclimate himself to resting inside it adequately. Doing this to any dog can cause extreme anxiety in them. Why do that?
One last thing. Place some puppy training pads inside on the bottom of the kennel — just in case Fido has an accident during the flight.
Make Sure Fido is Comfortable
Look at Fido’s kennel you just bought. What is the first thing that you noticed about it? No, it’s probably not the color. It is that it is made out of hard plastic.
So throw Fido’s favorite blanket in there with him! He will be thanking you for it during that long and uncomfortable flight.
Most airplane cabins tend to be on the cool side, but not too cold for most dogs. In fact, the cabin temperature will likely be quite comfortable for Fido. But bring an extra small blanket or big Terry towel with you in your carry-on luggage if you can use so that you can provide extra warmth if needed. Also, this extra will help tremendously if your dog accidentally puddles or pukes inside his kennel.
You might want to bring a green garbage bag with you too to hold the sopping mess away from the rest of your belongings.
You must provide proof of a clean bill of health.
To do this, you will need to visit the vet within two weeks before your flight. Always Make sure that your Fido is up to date on ALL his shots, especially rabies. Ask your vet for a letter clearing Fido for flying. Veterinarians are used to drafting these short letters, and you won’t be able to get your dog on the flight without one.
Don’t ever forget to throw in a few of Fido’s favorite toys and chew things to keep him amused during the flight. He will be much better off if you do.
After Your Flight
First things first: get that dog out of his kennel as soon as you are outside and let him piddle!
He’s been locked away in that kennel for hours without being able to relieve himself comfortably. Give him that chance now.
Also, make sure you bring lots and lots of treats with you because let’s face it — Fido deserves them. He deserves a lot of them. Remember, he hasn’t eaten in hours, either, so he is liable to be very hungry for his next meal. Giving him a handful of cookies right after getting off the flight will help assuage those hunger pangs. When you arrive at your destination, take some calm time just helping Fido get used to his new surroundings. Maybe the weather is different. Perhaps the humidity is thick. Maybe everything is different, threatening to destabilize your pet even further. Recognize what your pet is going through and then help him get through the first hour or so as he acclimated to his surroundings and begins to calm down.
And then, last, of all, have some fun together. Play Frisbee together on the beach. Take him shopping in the open-air market. Take him for a run-down Museum Mile (that is in New York, for anyone interested). Whatever you do, make sure it involves both of you in some form of fun and strenuous experience.
After all, you’ve done to prepare for this trip, you both deserve it.
Darren M. Jorgensen
About Post Author
Darren M. Jorgensen has a fondness for all animals, though dogs especially, have a huge home in his heart. He enjoys quilting, making handcrafted soap and bodyworks and anything that produces practical products. Jorgensen lives with his own service dog who doubles as an Emotional Support Animal. He gets it.