Traveling with Pets

Traveling By Air

Pre-Flight Checklist

Here are some simple rules for preparing for air travel with pets:

  • Make your flight reservations well in advance, and double check crating requirements and rates with individual airlines. We recommend planning your trip with as few stops, layovers and transfers as possible, and avoid traveling in extreme temperatures, as this can induce additional stress to your pet.
  • Cats and dogs must be at least eight weeks old at the time of the trip and hold a current Certificate of Health, completed by your veterinarian within 10 days of travel. For more information about these requirements, visit the USDA website for interstate travel (within the United States) or for international travel (outside of the United States).
  • Please contact your country of destination’s embassy or consulate for more specific information not contained on the website.
  • Plan to arrive no more than four hours before your scheduled departure time; additionally, we recommend withholding food for approximately six to twelve hours before the flight.
  • Only travel with animals that are in excellent health and that have no significant underlying health problems. You should discuss with your veterinarian to determine whether your animal is healthy enough to travel by air.
  • If your pet is traveling in the baggage compartment of the plane, we recommend using a hard, plastic, leak-proof carrier with plenty of ventilation and absorbent bedding. Additionally, the crate should be clearly marked “LIVE ANIMAL” with arrows indicating the “TOP”. For longer trips, you may need to provide food and water, along with feeding instructions.

More Air Travel Rules

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has a complete list of regulations governing the transport of animals by air, available on their Traveling with Pets website. We highly recommend that you carefully research these regulations, and contact us if you have any further questions regarding air travel with your pet.

Should I sedate my pet when traveling?

Generally, we do not recommend the routine use of sedatives or tranquilizers for animals being transported by air. Sadly, the most frequent cause of animal death during airline travel (involved in almost 50% of investigated cases) involves accidental over-sedation. Little is known about the effects of sedation on animals that are under the stress of altitude and temperature extremes that occur during air transport, and some animals react unpredictably to sedatives in any environment. You should discuss with your veterinarian if you think your animal needs sedatives for air travel.

For additional pet travel guidelines, please visit the USDA website.

Pet Care

In order to meet the needs of San Francisco Bay Area pet owners, Pets Unlimited is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Our excellent and compassionate veterinary, technical, and ICU staff is available at all hours of the day and night and throughout weekends and holidays to evaluate, diagnose, and treat critically ill, sick, and traumatized animals.

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