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4 things you should know before flying with a pet.

As you guys know, we are from the beautiful island of Puerto Rico, and every winter we travel with the dogs back home. Yes! we would fly all nine dogs and, although it is expensive, we wouldn't have it any other way.

Part of The Canine Experience pack.

So, we thought we put together a short list to help anyone that's planning to travel with their pet. It took us a while to get the hang of it. Let's face it, traveling with one dog is not the same as traveling with nine. But in no time we became pros. It may look and sound very overwhelming and complicated, but it's not as bad as it sounds, we promise!

1. Airline

Choosing an airline is probably the hardest part. The main ones are Delta, Jet Blue, United and American Airlines. Prices vary according to airline and the weight of the pet plus the kennel. So make sure to have all that information in hand when you call to make the reservation, along with the breed, age of your pet(s) and size of kennel (example: 100, 200, 300, 400, 500 series).

Out of all these airlines, Jet Blue is the only one that does not fly animals cargo. Unless your pet will fit in a small carrier bag (weight limit of both bag and pet cannot exceed 20 pounds), you can cross out Jet Blue from your list.

The other airline that stands out, but for a completely different reason, is American Airlines. This is the ONLY airline that will allow you to check your pets with your luggage when you go check in to your flight (the pet will travel in the same plane as you). WIN! You can do it this way (which is cheaper if you have a big pet) or go with American Airlines Cargo.

Here's what you need to know if you choose to fly with American. You are only allowed 2 pets per person at $200 each, in a kennel no bigger than a Series 500 (XL). We suggest you call before hand to let them know, but it's first come first serve. So make sure to get there early!

Ok. Here's where it gets complicated, so stay with us. When you book your flight you have to make sure that the plane will allow checked pets. Checked pets cannot travel on A321, A321S, A321H, A320, A319 aircraft and all flights operated by Air Wisconsin, it can only be a BOEING. This is very very important! Boeings are the only planes large enough to fit checked kennels. If your plane is not a Boeing, your pet will not be able to fly on the same plane as you and it will have to fly through AA Cargo.

How can you get this information? Make your reservation calling the airline directly or you can check the flights through Google Flights.

Google Flights example, with the type of plane highlighted.

2. Temperatures

This is important, since it's the one you can't control or predict.

Every single airline has heat and cold restrictions when it comes to flying pets cargo. You cannot travel with a pet if the current or forecasted temperature is above 85 degrees Fahrenheit (29.4 degrees C) or if the ground temperature is below 45 degrees Fahrenheit (7.2 degrees C) at any location on the itinerary.

Before you book your ticket keep in mind the places you are traveling to and their temperatures at different times. For example if you are planning on traveling to Miami, FL in August, most likely the temperatures will be above 85 degrees Fahrenheit during the day. You will want to book your flight very early in the morning or very late at night.

Example of an AccuWeather monthly prediction.

If for some reason the temperature will not allow your pet to fly, what the airline will usually do is change your flight for a different day, but this decision is completely up to the airline.

3. Paper work for your pet

When you travel with your pet there's some paper work you're going to need at the time of the departure. A Health Certificate issued by licensed veterinarian within ten (10) days of departure is the most important one. This piece of paper must be signed by a licensed veterinarian after examining your pet and determining that it is free of infectious diseases and satisfies all import requirements of the receiving state, territory, or country. Also ask your veterinarian for an Acclimation Certificate for air travel. This certificate is only required by some airlines, but it doesn't hurt to have it. Each country has certain specifications for importing or exporting pets depending on the species. Check the APHIS web site for more information on what are the requirement for the country you are traveling to.

When putting together your pets documentation you must have:

  • Health Certificate

  • Record of its vaccinations, specially rabies.

  • Acclimation Certificate

We also recommended to always have an ID on your pet.

4. Kennel

The kennel you'll use will depend on the size of your pet. The pet must be able to stand up, turn around and lay down comfortably. According the airline's guidelines the pet's ears must not touch the top of the kennel.

The kennel must be plastic with a metal door and it must be put together by bolts. It must also have 2 dishes securely fastened to the door yet accesible from the outside without opening the door.

On top of the kennel you will place a water bottle and small bag (zip lock) with food. These two should be securely taped to the top of the kennel. We also like to place a picture of the pet with it's name and information, including phone number and address on top of the kennel, and a leash. That's just us, we are little freaks when it comes to our "kids".

The kennel must contain absorbent material or bedding. Towels, blankets, and shredded black and white newspaper are good choices.

Some airlines have special kennel requirements depending on breeds, be sure to check those out before you purchase your kennel.

All airlines have breed restrictions, make sure to check them too before you book the flight.

Additional Information:

A lot of people ask if there's something they can give their pets when they travel to keep them calm. WE DO NOT RECOMMEND sedating pets that are flying. Tranquilizers can alter your pet's natural ability to balance and maintain equilibrium, which can be dangerous when there is turbulence or the kennel is moved. But the decision on whether or not to give a sedative to your pet should be made only by your veterinarian. We do recommend exercising your pet, this will make him tired and keep him more relaxed.

Ultra getting her exercise. Playing disc is a great way to exercise your dog.

Buy the kennel before hand and help your pet get used to it. You can set it up with the door open and throw some treats in there once in a while. Also, feeding your dog in the kennel will help it associate it with something good and when its time o travel it will be easier for the both of you.

Remember: airlines may change their guidelines and policies at any time, always double check before booking any flight.

Flying with your pet is not easy and it's always nerve wrecking. We do it at least twice a year and we get nervous every time. But know this. We had never had a issue or incident happen. Pets are part of our family and as such, they should go where we go, specially if we are moving. With these tips you are ready to go. Good luck!

If you have any questions about this blog post, please feel free to contact us. We'll be happy to help you out and guide you in the right direction!

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