Hundreds of thousands of animals travel on a plane each year. So you would think it’s easy to find factual information to help you prepare for your pet’s travel. But unfortunately, myths persist. Lots of them. And when you can’t tell myths from reality, planning pet travel can be very stressful.
Here at Starwood Animal Transport, our job is to take the stress out of air travel – for you and your four-legged family members. With that goal in mind, let’s debunk some common myths about traveling with your pet on a plane.
Myth #1: It’s unsafe for pets to travel in the plane’s cargo hold
Pets travel in an area that is lit, pressurized and temperature-controlled, just like the cabin. Ventilation is good, but sometimes conditions can be difficult for snub-nosed cats and dogs, because they have more difficulty breathing in any circumstances. For this reason, many airlines have special rules regarding where snub-nosed pets can ride in the plane.
It’s true that occasionally bad things happen, but the odds are miniscule. In 2014, for example, more than two million pets traveled by air in the United States alone. Just 26 were injured, 17 died and 2 were lost. Choosing the right airline and itinerary for your pet will help keep her safe, as will ensuring your pet is a good candidate to fly. If she has certain chronic health problems or is elderly, for instance, flying might not be in her best interest.
Talk with your vet – you’ll need to do that anyway, to meet the pre-travel health requirements set forth by your destination country. Working with a professional pet transport company can also be a tremendous plus, because we are intimately familiar with airlines, routing options, etc. We can help you plan the most pet-friendly travel experience available for your destination.
Myth #2: Giving your pet a sedative before they fly will keep them calm
This is not a good idea, because the drugs reduce your pet’s ability to focus and maintain her balance, which can frighten her instead of relaxing her. Sedatives affect blood pressure, heart rate and breathing, too, all of which can increase health risks. For these reasons, veterinarians recommend against using tranquilizers, and reputable pet shippers and airlines will not accept drugged pets.
Myth #3: You should put food and water in your pet’s air travel crate
You must provide empty food and water dishes that attach to the inside of the crate’s door, where they are accessible from the outside. You may be asked to provide a small bag of food, taped to the crate’s exterior. Airline personnel will feed and water your pet if needed. Within two to four hours prior to departure, you should give your pet water and a small meal.
Myth #4: If your pet is purse-sized, you can just take her on board
Most airlines allow cats and small dogs to ride in the cabin with you. But even if your little dear is used to snuggling into your purse, she will need an approved carrier for plane travel. And it will have to fit under the seat in front of you. She’ll have to stay in it, too, though you can reach in to pet her along the way.
Be aware that you will need to make a separate (paid) reservation for your pet. You’ll want to do that as soon as possible, because all airlines limit the number of pets allowed in-cabin. Another reason to check into this early? Just because your air carrier allows cabin travel doesn’t mean it is allowed on every route, especially for international destinations. Don’t make any assumptions. And that brings us to . . .
Myth #5: Airlines all follow the same rules
Nothing could be farther from the truth. Every carrier sets their own policies, and they can be very confusing if the airline serves many destinations around the world. About the only thing that is identical from one carrier to another is the requirement that you place your pet in an IATA-approved carrier, whether they are riding in the cabin or the cargo hold.
There are more myths about traveling with pets than we have space to cover here. But we want you to have all the facts. If you’re planning a long-distance move with your dog or cat, give us a call. We have expert teams on the ground in the US and in the UK, to answer questions and help make every aspect of your travel plans simple and safe.