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Pet Travel Myths You Can Forget About

Published on: June 23, 2022  |  Author: Starwood Animal Transport

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Some people don’t give a second thought to pet travel. Your dog loves to ride around with you, so it seems only natural to take them on vacation, even if it means traveling by air. Your cat isn’t big on change, but, hey, put them in a carrier and they'll be fine, right?

There is more to taking your pet on a trip than you might think, especially if it involves flying. Unfortunately there are many pet travel myths that just won’t go away, perpetuated by people who don’t know any better. There’s no need to fall into any of these pet travel traps, though. Read on, as we debunk several common myths you have probably run across.

Myth: Traveling by car is less stressful than traveling by air.

Not necessarily. This depends on your pet’s attitude toward traveling in general as well as the length of your road trip. On the plus side, you can stop whenever you like to let your dog or cat have a little fresh air and stretch their legs. On the down side, you have to find pet-friendly accommodations, and spending several long days cooped up in a carrier in the car may ultimately put more stress on your furry companion than spending a few hours on an airplane.

Taking a long road trip with an unhappy pet won’t be much fun for you, either.

Myth: It’s a good idea to give your cat or dog a sedative before they travel.

NO. The American Veterinary Medical Association strongly recommends against this practice, because it can do more harm than good. You’re worried your dog or cat will be scared, so you want to help them relax. But sedatives can affect their coordination and balance, their heart rate, blood pressure and breathing. The best way to ease your pet's travel anxiety is to acclimate them to the travel kennel and provide a thin blanket, t-shirt or towel that smells like home.

Myth: All airlines have the same rules for pets.

Not so. While airlines do have general requirements they must comply with, some of them have an extra set of rules that they enforce or they may have added restrictions that other airlines do not. If you and your pet are headed to a foreign country, note that every country has their own rules as well, and the airlines must also comply with the country's pet import requirements.

Myth: You can just carry your cat or small dog in-cabin with you.

Not so. While some airlines do allow small pets to ride under the seat in front of you, some have added restrictions or won't allow it at all. Some airlines limit the number of pets they will allow onboard and certain flights or seats won't allow it. If you’re traveling internationally, some countries require incoming pets to travel as cargo regardless of their size.

Myth: Pet air travel is very dangerous.

Not so. More than 600,000 animals travel on airplanes each year, and the number of injuries and deaths is very, very small. Cargo compartments in which pets ride have the same pressurization and temperature controls as the cabin in which humans ride. Nonetheless, there are a few things to be aware of:

  • Snub-nosed dogs and cats innately have breathing difficulties. For that reason, some airlines have rules about where these pets can ride in the plane or complete embargoes.
  • The risk to animals is greater on the tarmac than on the plane, from weather or handling problems. Ask about your airline’s specific requirements and procedures for loading and unloading animals.
  • Pets who are elderly or have pre-existing health conditions can be riskier to travel by air. Always check with your vet to make sure your pet is truly healthy to fly.

Myth: All I need is a current rabies tag and identification.

Not so. Even if your dog or cat is not leaving the country, all airlines require pets to have a health certificate. Additionally, it is not the rabies tag that is needed, but an actual rabies certificate. If you’re going to Hawaii or a foreign country, you will need considerably more health-related documentation. It can take weeks or months to complete the required tests and treatments and obtain the paperwork.

Without the proper documentation, your pet could be refused entry or put into quarantine. This is not something you want to treat lightly.

Myth: There’s no reason to spend money on a “pet moving company.”

Maybe not. If you’re sure you understand the airline/country rules completely and your travel plans involve just one, relatively short flight, you can probably handle the arrangements yourself. On the other hand, the majority of pet travel experiences are pretty complex. The time and frustration involved in researching and following the rules can be exhausting, not to mention every additional detail brings new opportunity for mistakes.

Besides, some airlines and destinations require you to use a professional pet shipper. And if you want to be certain you aren’t inadvertently misled by any other myths, consulting a reliable expert is the way to go.

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