If your family will be moving overseas, it seems obvious that you will want to include your beloved dog or cat. But what if your four-legged family member is no spring chicken? Is international air travel safe for older pets?
It’s always best to book pets on a direct flight, but often that’s just not possible. If you’re moving from Houston to Mexico City, that technically constitutes international pet travel, but the flight isn’t all that long. On the other hand, if you’re moving from Atlanta to Singapore, it’s a different story. The farther you go, the more likely your pet will have to change planes, have an extended layover, or spend time sitting on the plane during a stop.
Plus, scheduling can depend on weather conditions, the size of the plane and individual airline policies regarding international pet travel. When you choose a pet-friendly airline, though, everyone is more likely to have your pet’s best interests at heart. Pet-friendly airlines take special precautions, such as loading animals last and unloading them first so they spend the least amount of time on the plane and caring for their basic needs during long layovers or plane changes.
When it comes to safety, your pet’s personal health is the overriding factor
Snub-nose dogs and cats are at greater risk on any flight, due to their inherent respiratory limitations. A number of carriers won’t accept them at any age. Often, older dogs and cats have one or more chronic health conditions which may or may not be affected by air travel. On the other hand, your pet may still be in excellent physical shape despite her years. Either way, does she take medications at intervals that might conflict with her flight schedule?
Look to your vet for advice
To determine if international pet travel is safe for your four-legged loved one, consult the medical professional who knows her best. Your vet is in the best position to help you evaluate the situation and find safe, healthy international pet travel solutions. As soon as you know you will be moving out of the country, schedule a time to talk with your vet about your pet’s stamina and any specific travel-related concerns.
Older cats and dogs tend to be more set in their ways. If your pet is moody about his or her feeding schedule, you’ll want to specifically talk to your vet about that. All U.S. airlines require you to feed a light meal two hours before your pet’s flight, but your vet should recommend what to feed and how much.
Ultimately, it is possible you may have to consider the unthinkable. Your vet may advise that air travel is too risky for your elderly dog or cat. If so, and your move will be permanent or at least too long for boarding or pet sitting to make sense, staying behind may be her safest option. But don’t assume the worst before you have explored every option and have every fact in hand. Millions of pets fly each year, many of them older, and they handle their trip just fine.
One thing you can be quite confident about: chances are excellent that you fill find a well-qualified vet to care for your pet in your new country.
The cabin may be a better choice than the cargo hold
If your pet is a tiny dog or a kitty, on-board “seating” may be the best solution if it’s feasible, especially if you’ll be able to deplane between legs of your journey. That way you can take your furry companion to the airport’s “pet relief area” for some fresh air and a potty break. Older pets may also feel less anxious in a carrier under the seat in front of you, where they can see and hear you.
That said, most countries and many airlines do now allow pets who are traveling on international flights to ride in the cabin. You will have to ask.
A couple of tips to help your older dog or cat travel more comfortably as well as safely:
- Since older pets have older, weaker bladders, it’s even more important to let her relieve herself at the last minute before loading her into her travel kennel.
- Stay cool. When you’re calm, your pet picks up on that. Even your grumpy old cat will be more apt to take the move in stride.
An international move is a lot more complex than moving from one city or state to another, even for families without pets. Adding the pet factor, and multiplying that in dog or cat years can put even more strain on your ability to plan effectively and confidently.
Why put yourself and your precious furry family member through that? Working with an experienced international pet travel professional can alleviate stress and worry by helping you optimal air travel solutions you won’t find on your own. You can all arrive safe and sound – ready to start your new life in your new home.