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Summer air travel and pets: What you need to know

Pets used to stay at home when you traveled. Not anymore: Dogs (and even cats!) are now frequent fliers on the major airlines. Thinking about taking your furball on a flight with you? Here are some things you must know first.

dog in carrier on plane

Find out which airlines allow pets

Pet travel may be more common these days, but that doesn’t mean every airline allows animals onboard. It’s important to check the airlines’ pet policy before you book your flight — otherwise, you might show up and get denied a seat because your fluffy friend is with you.

Also, don’t forget that pets have to “pay” for their tickets too. All airlines that accept pets charge a fee to bring an animal on board. Don’t expect to pay that fee at the gate though — most airlines also have a policy on the number of animals allowed in the cabin with human passengers. If they don’t know you’re coming with a pet, they might deny you.

Prep your pet for flight

Flying isn’t really that fun for humans, so imagine how our four-legged friends feel in-flight. To keep your pet’s discomfort at bay, try to book a direct flight whenever possible and get her plenty of exercise beforehand so she’ll sleep during travel.

Also, Dog Whisperer Cesar Millan recommends that you use an “associative scent” to train your pet into relaxation. Before walks and meals, place a drop of essential oil in your hand and let your pet smell it. Do the same thing before travel to mellow out your pet.

“The positive association will allow him to calm down and remain relaxed,” Millan told The New York Times.

Just say ‘no’

Think sedating your pet will keep her calm and quiet during a flight? Think again: Sedating your pet with a tranquilizer before a flight can pose serious risks to her health, due to the different air pressure during flights.

It’s also a good idea to have your vet do a full examination on your pet before you leave. The vet will be able to make sure she doesn’t have some underlying health problems that could jeopardize her life while flying.

Get the right luggage

Skittles might have to “pay” to fly, but that doesn’t mean she has the full run of the cabin. A pet must be crated for the entire duration of the flight, no matter if she’s in the cabin or in cargo. Cabin-based pets must be contained in a carrier that will fit under the seat in front of you. Many airlines — like Southwest — sell pet carriers for this specific purpose, or you can buy them at Petco.

Pets in the cargo-hold must be confined to a USDA-approved kennel (also available at Petco). It’s also a good idea to write “live animal” in large letters on the kennel and attach a photo of your pet for easy identification. Oh, and be sure your pet is wearing an ID tag with your current contact information.

For food and water, consider freezing a small dish of water the night before and put it — along with a baggie of food — in the kennel before the flight.

Still stressed?

If all of this pet travel stresses you out, consider flying your pet separately on the animal-friendly Pet Airways. Launched in 2009, Pet Airways only flies pets between several major cities across the United States for rates up to $199. The airline has had financial problems as of late, but co-founder Alysa Binder told The New York Times that they’re still growing to provide pet owners with a practical solution to travel with pets.

“We are a very new company that is pioneering, just as FedEx pioneered the overnight packaging business,” Binder told the paper. “We have ups and downs, but we are keeping our eyes on the long-term goal of providing a safe and comfortable transportation option for the pets.”

Learn more about Pet Airways

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