Escapes

Q:

What's the Best Way to Fly With a Dog?

My husband and I are going to Florida this winter for a two-week trip. We want to take Tico, our Golden Retriever, with us. What’s the best way to fly with a dog?

You may want to consider leaving your dog at home.     Photo: WilleeCole/Shutterstock

A:Is it really important to bring Tico with you? United Airlines charges $279 each way to check an animal and its crate (between 71 and 100 pounds). For the cash you’ll be doling out to take him on the plane round-trip, you could board him at the nicest doggie spa in town, where you won’t have to worry about his health and safety—or any travel hassles that might arise—and he can get a bath and manicure to boot. If you're absolutely determined, I'd offer these travel tips.

CARRY IT ON
Checking a dog as baggage can be risky. Though plane luggage compartments are pressurized, heated, and cooled, malfunctions can happen. Your animal can also get over-exposed to weather extremes on the tarmac, not to mention the chance that it can escape from the crate, or miss getting placed on your connecting flight. For that reason, the safest way for your dog to travel is beneath the seat. The generally accepted dimensions for an in-cabin dog carrier are 17 inches long, 12 inches wide, and eight inches high. Plane travel can be stressful on dogs, so you might want to discuss sedatives with your veterinarian.

VISIT THE VET
Get your dog a clean bill of health from the veterinarian no more than 10 days before you travel. Many airlines require it.

FLY DIRECT
When you’re traveling with a dog—no matter if you’re going the carry-on or checked route—fly as directly as possible. That way, you’ll minimize the potential for missed flights and airport delays.

THE BIGGER, THE BETTER
Smaller commuter planes leave less room under the seats and aren’t as well-equipped in the luggage compartment to handle pets comfortably.

AVOID MIDDAY FLIGHTS
Heat stroke can be a danger for dogs who sit in their crates on the tarmac for too long. Some airlines won’t fly pets in the summer. Others won’t do it when the outdoor temperatures in the arriving or departing city rise too high (or even too low). By avoiding the midday sun, you minimize the health risk to your dog—as well as the chance that the airline will refuse to transport the pooch altogether.

USE ID TAGS
Your dog should always be wearing a metal ID tag with your cell phone number etched onto it. The pooch could break free from the crate at the airport or somehow get loose when you reach your hotel or campsite. I also strongly advise an implanted microchip, which a vet can usually put in place for under $50.

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