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Preparing your Pet for Flight

Wouldn’t you like to take your favorite lounge chair or even your own comfy bed with you on the plane for those long trips?  While we may not be able to do so for ourselves, we can for our pets. One of the most neglected but most important aspects of getting your pet ready for take-off is getting them comfortable with the carrier they will be traveling in.   When pets have time to acclimate to a carrier, it provides them with a place that feels like home and reducing stress during flight is critically important for our furry friends.  While we can’t simply explain to them what’s going to happen and expect them to understand, there are things we can do to prepare them to make it less stressful.

  1. Get them comfortable with their carrier

It takes 3-4 weeks for most pets to feel comfortable in a carrier.  Order your carrier well in advance of your planned departure so they have time to get used to it.  Your pet should fit comfortably in the carrier and have enough room to turn around in it.  For help in choosing the right carrier, see choosing the right carrier for air travel.


  1. The Day Before the Flight
      • Reduce the amount of food you normally give your pet but give them plenty of water
      • Give them a good brushing or have them groomed so they are comfortable
      • Give them plenty of exercise


  1. Day of Departure
      • For dogs, take them for a walk before you leave for the airport and again before you check-in
      • Feed them a light meal 2 hours before dropping them off at check-in. This will help to keep them calm. NOTE: this is a legal requirement in the United States
      • Provide water for them during the flight, but give them just enough so that their thirst is quenched; don't overdo it.
      • The hustle and bustle of the airport can be stressful to humans and pets.  Generally speaking, if your pet is traveling with you in the cabin, board the plane as late as possible.   However, if your pet is going into the cargo hold, check them in as early as possible so they can be placed in a quiet and place in the baggage area which will help them to relax a bit.  In either case, double check with your airline to make sure you’ve allowed enough time.   
      • If you have a stopover or two, take your dog for a walk outside the airport for as long as you can, to ensure they can exercise, stretch their legs and have enough time to do their necessities,

  1. Sedating your Pet

Generally speaking, sedation is discouraged due to its adverse affects.  For more information, please see Sedation and Alternatives for Pet Travel 



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