Q: Should I feed my pet before their flight?
A: Pets do best when they fly on an empty stomach. Feeding between 5 and 6 hours before a flight will ensure your pet has the energy and nutrition they need for the journey and reduces the risk of vomiting from motion sickness or anxiety and there is less of a chance they will soil their crate.
Q: What can my pet travel in?
A: Ensure that your pet will be travelling in a crate that meets the IATA guidelines. These guidelines stipulate the size, design and arrangement of food and water bowls. If you are using a pet transport company, they will often build a crate to your pet’s specifications.
Q: My pet hates being in a travel crate – what should I do?
A: Cats, and to a lesser extent dogs, may associate being put in a crate with a trip to the vets and therefore may not have a positive association with their crate or travel box. If your pet experiences anxiety or fear at the prospect of being put in a crate and they are going to be a frequent traveller then consider starting the process of desensitization and counter-conditioning well before you travel. While this may work well for some pets, there are some cases where it wouldn’t be appropriate so consult your vet or behaviourist before starting.
The basis of desensitization is to train your pet into believing that the crate or box is not something to be feared. This is a slow and gradual process. Just being in the same room as the crate while distracting your pet with treats and play might be the first step. Alternatively, you could start by leaving the crate in a quiet room with the door open and some treats around and at the entrance to the crate. After a day or so, check whether your pet has cleaned up the treats and if so replenish them and place some further into the crate. The idea is to desensitize your pet to the crate and to counter-condition by replacing feelings of intimidation or fear with positive experiences. A good resource for this type of training can be found here. If your pet is anxious, perhaps try Adaptil or Feliway products. You can use these products to help your pet become familiar with their crate and relax while in it. A lot of pets will start to treat their crate like their kennel/bed – a safe sanctuary wherethey feel comfortable.
Q: My dog is anxious, can he/she be sedated for the flight?
A: Many Owners request that their pets be sedated for the duration of the flight. Although this might seem like a good idea (and for some humans can be very helpful in reducing anxiety) we do not recommend it. The reasons for this are;
- – Many commonly used sedatives have side effects such as lowering blood pressure and reducing the pet’s ability to regulate their own body temperature. At altitude, these effects may be exaggerated.
- – Your pet will be unaccompanied while on the plane and if they were to react unexpectedly to the sedative, there would be no one to assist.
- – Sedative drugs are not routinely tested on animals at the air pressures experienced in flight. Anecdotally, there have been reports of pets who suffer excessive sedation and in extreme cases have been unable to be revived after landing.
- – Sedatives or anti-anxiety medications rarely last beyond 4-8 hours meaning that in most cases the effect would not last the duration of the flight.
- – Once your pet has been loaded onto the plane, the environment is quiet and dark and they can settle down nicely.
Instead of sedation, you could discuss with your regular vet using products like Adaptil and Feliway sprays, DAP tablets or Zylkene. Don’t underestimate the benefit of good exercise. A good exercise session before being crated will mean your pet is more likely to settle in and rest.
Q: Can pets fly with medical conditions?
A: It depends. Conditions that are well controlled, non-infectious and where the patient can go without treatment from the time they depart their home/kennel to when they land and have cleared customs, are more likely to be able to fly. Each case is different and it would be wise to consult the veterinarian treating your pet and if of course you need any advice, we would be happy to discuss this with you. Bear in mind that a pet flying with a health condition will be a higher risk so think carefully about whether shipping your pet is in their best interest and if so, plan carefully and visit your vet for regular check ups.
Medications can sometimes be shipped with your pet however this again will differ with countries. If your pet will need to undergo quarantine at their destination then special paperwork may need to accompany the medication and it would be advisable to send a small amount only as this will likely not be returned to you after quarantine has ended. Keep in mind medications will need to be in appropriate containers and correctly labelled by a veterinarian.
Q: What goes in my pet’s crate when they travel?
A: Although our initial thought might be to make our pet as comfortable as possible on their flight, unnecessary items can significantly reduce the amount of space they have to move around during flight. The ideal bedding is that which wicks moisture away from the surface and provides a nice layer of comfort without being too bulky. We recommend using VetBed. Your pet can travel with an item of comfort such as a T-shirt or a small, thin blanket with familiar smells however this should not take up too much space.
Your pet will have one or two waterbowls attached to one side of the crate with a funnel to top water up from the outside pre- and post-flight. Consider the material the crate is built from as some pets may chew or scratch the bowls or crate doors/sides. If this is the case a plastic crate with stainless steel bowls may be safer than a wooden crate with plastic bowls.
Q: Should I be there to see my pet off?
A: Its true what they say about animals picking up on their owner’s feelings. You may want a friend or family member to drop your pet off at the kennel or airport or a driver to pick them up if you think it might be a teary and distressing farewell for you. You don’t want to leave your pet thinking that there is something terrible happening! Keep the goodbye as positive and happy as you can and as difficult as we know it might be, try not to fuss too much!