The Ultimate Guide to Flying With a Dog

5 min read
The Ultimate Guide to Flying With a Dog - Animals Matter, Inc.

If you are like many pet owners, you've considered traveling with your pet. Although pet travel can go smoothly, it takes careful planning. Even a simple road trip means finding pet-friendly hotels, scheduling frequent potty breaks, and giving them time to stretch their legs.

Flying with your dogs takes careful planning and thoughtful assessment of what is best for your pet's health. Most airlines no longer allow emotional support animals to travel with their owners. These animals are now classified as pets and must adhere to the airline policies for traveling with pets. Only documented service animals are allowed to travel with their owners.

The Ultimate Guide to Flying with Dogs

Flying has become more of a hassle. Canceled flights. Delays. Lost baggage. It's no wonder passengers are becoming more dissatisfied with air travel. But that doesn't mean people aren't flying. In fact, air travel has increased 78% in the last 12 months.

If you are part of the 78% increase and want to travel with your dog, read through our ultimate guide to flying with dogs. You'll learn the pros and cons of air travel and explore the rules if you decide to travel with your pet.

Should You Travel With Your Dogs?

Before you start the process of preparing to travel with your dog, weigh the decision mindfully. The ASPCA recommends leaving your dogs behind when traveling by air unless your pet is small enough to travel in the cabin.

If you think about your flying experiences, you can understand the stress air travel can create. Dogs must contend with loud noises, changes in temperature and air pressure, and unfamiliar humans. Unless your dogs are less than 25 pounds, they will be traveling in the cargo hold.

Most veterinarians do not recommend sedating your pet. There is a potential risk of cardiovascular or respiratory difficulties with altitude changes. A sedated pet already has a lower heart rate and slower breathing.

Cargo or Carrier

Airlines relaxed their policies for traveling with pets in 2020 but have returned to their original pet policies. Now, dogs weighing more than 25 lbs are considered cargo and will travel in the cargo hold with the luggage and other freight.

Traveling in the belly of an aircraft is sure to contribute to your pet's stress. Items shift while in flight and may even become dislodged, making frightening noises. If you can't book a direct flight, remember your luggage and your pet will be moved from plane to plane. Baggage handlers may have limited time to transfer cargo and can't give special attention to pets.

Approved Carriers

Regardless of where your dogs spend their flight, you will need a pet carrier or kennel. The carriers must comply with airline policies that follow the International Air Transport Association (IATA) guidelines.

The IATA also provides guidance on determining the appropriate crate size for your dog. Carriers should be large enough for the animal to stand and turn, sit, and lie down. Crates should be well-ventilated and durable. They need strong handles and a leak-proof bottom.

Finally, any pet container should have space for you to clearly mark it "Live Animal" with arrows indicating which way is up. As with any luggage, ensure you provide contact information on the crate. The information should be for your destination since you want your dogs delivered to where you are staying.


Every airline has a pricing structure that you should check before deciding to travel with your furry friend. Most US-based carriers charge $125.00 one way for an in-cabin pet. On direct flights, that's $250.00 round trip. Some airlines also charge an additional $125.00 for any layovers that exceed four hours.

If you're shipping your dog in the cargo hold is based upon weight and distance. Weight is calculated for your animal and its crate. Distance is based on air miles. The cost is determined when you drop off your pet; however, many airlines provide an online calculator to help estimate the cost.

Do You Know the Rules?

If you've decided to travel with your dog, your next step is to read the rules for the preferred airline before booking a flight. International flights have additional requirements, so review the rules for each carrier on your journey. Also, check on quarantine requirements at your destination. For example, the United Kingdom does not allow pets to enter the country by air.


Most airlines will not transport snub-nosed dogs such as Boston Terriers, Pugs, and Bulldogs as cargo. Some carriers also ban these dog breeds from in-cabin transport. Know whether your dog is allowed to travel on your selected airline.

Health Certificate

Airlines require a valid health certificate before accepting a pet for transport. The certificate must include an up-to-date vaccination record and a statement regarding the pet's health. The certificate must be from a licensed veterinarian and is only good for 30 days.

Make sure your health certificate is valid for both departing and arriving dates. If the certificate expires before your return, you must have your dog seen by a vet at your destination before boarding your return flight.


Pets and their kennels must clear security. If your dog is flying in the cargo hold, airlines want you to arrive at the cargo drop-off at least three hours before a domestic departure and five hours before an international flight. Your dog and your dog's crate will be screened before loading.

In-cabin pet travel begins at check-in. The agent will ask for the required paperwork before issuing boarding passes. Security screening requires that your dog is removed from the carrier so it can be scanned. Your dog will go through security with you, so make sure you remove collars or harnesses that might set off metal detectors.

Ask the Airline

While most airlines pet travel information on their website, you still need to speak with an agent. Airlines only allocate a percentage of their cargo hold for live animals. If no space is available, you will need to look for alternative flights.


Many airlines will refuse to carry sedated animals or require a vet's signed authorization for sedating your dog. Because risks are associated with sedation, be sure to consult your veterinarian before administering a sedative.

Talk to your vet about food, water, and medications when traveling by air. Ask your airline what, if any, accommodations they make for food and water in case of delays.


For pets traveling as cargo, the weather is an important consideration. If traveling to a warm climate, book early morning or late evening flights. Temperatures are coolest at these times and reduce the chance of your pet overheating.

Conversely, when traveling to a colder destination, look for mid-day flights when temperatures will be warmer. Be aware that airlines will not transport animals in extreme heat or cold. If any stop along your itinerary experiences extreme weather, your pet will be unloaded, and you will need alternative plans.

Flying with Your Dog

Although canine professionals do not recommend flying with your dog, there may be times when it is necessary. In those situations, know the rules to ensure smooth travel. Providing the best crate pads and covers can make your dog more comfortable. At Animal Matters, we know how important your dog's comfort is. Browse our website for the perfect beds, pads, and covers for your dog.


What is the best way to travel with a dog on a plane?

The best way to travel is to have your dog stay with you in the cabin.

What airline is easiest to fly with a dog?

According to Nerd Wallet, Alaska is the most pet-friendly of US carriers, followed by American and Hawaiian airlines.

What is the maximum weight for a dog to fly on a plane?

Dogs weighing less than 25 lbs can fly in-cabin. Dogs weighing more than 25 lbs must fly as cargo. Some airlines will not accept dogs over 100 lbs.

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.


Sign up to get the latest on sales, new releases and more…