Tips for advising owners about to fly with their pets

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Dr. Bryant
Dr. Nelva Bryant, Delta Cargo's in-house veterinarian (Courtesy of Delta)

Aside from filling out the certificate of veterinary inspection and any other forms required by an airline within the required deadline, veterinarians should take time to talk with owners planning to fly with their pets about some precautions they should take.

Delta Air Lines hired Dr. Nelva Bryant last summer as the airline's first consultant veterinarian. She gave the following tips for how veterinarians can help owners prepare their animals to ride on an airplane:

  • Make sure that pets are transported in crates approved for air travel. The specific requirements are covered by the International Air Transport Association's Live Animals Regulations. See crate requirements for pets (PDF).
  • Make sure that the crate is the appropriate size for the animal. Pets should be able to sit, stand, and turn around naturally in the crate. Choosing an appropriately sized kennel is even more important during warm weather to ensure proper airflow and temperature regulation during travel.
  • Make sure that the pet is acclimated to the confinement of a crate. Pets that are not acclimated to a crate can undergo stress in flight. This could compound preexisting medical conditions or cause a pet to attempt to escape from the crate.
  • Make sure the pets are healthy enough for air travel. During the air travel process, pets are confined and exposed to strange noises and smells, temperature fluctuations, altitude and atmospheric pressure changes, and new environments. These compounded stressors can have an effect on pets that are aging, have preexisting medical conditions, are pregnant, or are underweight.
  • Advise clients that when booking their pet, they should always request the most direct route possible. Even if the owner's itinerary does not exactly match the pet's, it is in the best interest of the animal to be in transit for the least amount of time possible.
  • Recommend that clients check the weather in the days leading up to and immediately before departing for the airport. They should verify that temperatures for all cities along the route will meet the airline's temperature guidelines. If the forecast temperature in one or more cities is not within the guidelines, they should contact the carrier's customer service for assistance in re-booking the pet.

Related JAVMA content:

Navigating the pitfalls of pet air travel (July 1, 2019)