Flying with Fido

Leave your pet home alone? For North Americans, this is becoming increasingly unlikely. A recent survey indicated that 84 per cent of dog and cat owners consider their pets as their children. Boomers, in particular, seem to display tremendous pet love with more empty-nesters lavishing the same care and attention on their pets as they once did their children.

The Travel Industry Association of America reported that more than 29 million Americans took trips of more than fifty miles with their pets over the past three years. 80 per cent of these travelers took dogs while about 15 per cent brought along their cats. (The rest were accompanied by their pet bird, ferret, rabbit or fish.)

In response, even luxury hotel chains such as the Four Seasons and the Ritz Carlton are accommodating pets with red carpet service. Tour companies from the French Alps and other European destinations are rolling out the welcome mat for people traveling with pets. Many accommodations for these pampered pooches include designer pet beds, gourmet room service and doggie massages.

And more than one million pets a year travel by air, according to aline estimates. While every year a few well-publicized accidents dominate the headlines, with proper preparation and planning, air travel for pets is considered generally safe.

Here are some tips from the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association to keep the skies pet-friendly for your favourite jet set pet:

• Do not sedate your pet on a flight, unless advised by your veterinarian. High altitudes and sedatives can be a dangerous combination, potentially inhibiting an animal’s ability to regulate its body temperature or causing breathing problems.

• Consider having your pet examined by your veterinarian prior to departure. This will ensure your pet is in good health and can withstand the rigors of air travel.

• Carry your pet’s certificate of health and immunization record with you. When traveling outside the country, contact the appropriate embassy for quarantine or health requirements.

• Book your travel well in advance, as most airlines accept a limited number of pets on each flight. Enquire about the airline’s procedure regarding pets as each one is slightly different. Some airlines allow for small pets to be taken on board, provided that the carrier fits underneath the passenger seat. Be aware that many airlines have recently raised fees for flying with pets.

• It is best to travel in off-peak hours and on non-stop flights. Ideally, your pet should be the last on and first off the airplane.

• Be sure your pet is secure in an approved carrier. It is best to purchase your carrier either from the airline, a pet store or animal hospital. The crate should be large enough for your pet to stand, sit, turn around and lie down comfortably. Additionally, before boarding ensure that all screws on the crate are secure. Carriers should be labeled “Live Animal” and “This End Up” in letters at least 3 cm high.

• To minimize stress, introduce your pet to the travel crate several weeks before departure to allow him to become used to it.

• Arrange for fresh water to be made available for your pet sometime during or directly after the flight.

• Keep your pet’s leash and collar easily accessible for walking prior to departure, but do not take your pet out of the kennel inside the airport.

• Be sure to have identification tags for your pet and travel kennel, including pet’s name, home address and phone number.

• Ask agents at the security check point to use the hand held metal detector.

And if you’re fortunate enough to be heading for a sunny destination, remember that too much sun exposure can be harmful not only to pet parents, but also to pets.

According to, certain breeds of dogs such as Dalmations and white bull terriers – as well as white cats – are particularly susceptible to sunburn. And pets who have been recently groomed and have a less protective hair coat are more at risk. As with humans, repeated sunburns can eventually lead to skin cancer.

Although sunscreen is not always practical (dogs, being dogs, tend to lick it off), try to apply some to your pet’s nose, ears and other parts of the skin which is not pigmented or well-furred. And the “stay in the shade” rule applies not only to us, but also to our animal friends. Try to keep your pet in the shade when the sun is strongest, from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

Jet Set Pets