An Essential Guide On How to Fly with a Dog in the USA

Patrick MacFarland Patrick MacFarland · Updated February 23, 2024

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A dog is sitting inside a suitcase, ready to fly.

You’re going on vacation out of state and don’t want to leave your cherished Cheerio alone or at an uber-expensive dog-sitting place. So what do you do? The next step is researching how to take your doggo with you. You have found various methods, but you’ve decided the option to fly with a dog to its ultimate destination is the best fit. You can travel with your dog in the main cabin if they meet requirements, or you can have them transported in the cargo hold.

There are various logistical steps you have to take care of prior, during and after your flight with your beloved Fido. We’ll make sure you have all the information to determine which airline can take your dog, what paperwork and equipment you need to have for your flight, and everything in between you need. In this article, we’ll go through everything that encompasses flying with a dog via and how much it will cost, too.

Researching Airline Pet Policies

Each airline has specific details on which pets are allowed on their aircraft. You can visit each airline to see what requirements they have for both dogs going in the main cabin and dogs going in the cargo hold. As of 2023, only three airlines allow pets to go in the cargo hold on domestic flights — Hawaiian Airlines, Alaska Airlines, and American Airlines. And both Hawaiian and Alaska Airlines are by far, the most pet friendly airlines in the United States. When it comes to international flights, most airlines do allow pets in the cargo hold of airplanes.

Here are the specific pages of each airline and their pet requirements:

Please note that snub-nosed dogs, like boxers for example, are not allowed on aircraft because of the health risks they pose on those particular dogs.

Researching Your Destination: Which Destinations Allow Travel with Pets?

Not all destinations are created equal. When it comes to dog traveling, airlines will have a list of cities or destinations that have restrictions for pets entering that particular destination. You should do your research beforehand, though, because you don’t want to be surprised after purchasing your ticket that there’s a ban on pets entering the destination you are traveling to.

For example, if you are traveling to Puerto Rico, pets are only allowed to enter from Monday to Friday and if you’re traveling to Hawaii, you should know that your pet could be quarantined for up to 120 days.

When you’re traveling internationally, make sure you check with the airline to see which countries allow pets to enter, as well as the individual country’s entrance requirements.

Verifying Dog Breed Restrictions

Most breeds are accepted by all airlines, but if you are the unlucky minority with a brachycephalic (or snub-nosed) breed, like boxers, bulldogs or pugs, they aren’t allowed on flights at all. The reason? The flight poses a significant health risk to your dog.

Before purchasing a doggie ticket, you should research the airline you want to purchase your ticket to verify which dog breeds are not allowed to board the plane.

Here’s a list of some snub-nosed dog breeds:

  • Boston Terrier
  • Boxer
  • Brussels Griffon
  • Bull Terrier
  • Bullmastiff
  • Chow Chow
  • Chinese Pug
  • Dogue de Bordeaux
  • Dutch Bulldog
  • English Bulldog
  • French Bulldog
  • Japanese Chin
  • King Charles Spaniel
  • Mastiff/Old English Mastiff
  • Neapolitan Mastiff
  • Pug
  • Shar Pei
  • Shih Tzu
  • Small Brabant Griffon
  • Staffordshire Bull Terrier
  • Tibetan Spaniel

Health Considerations: Visiting Your Vet Before the Flight

Before flying with your dog, you have to make that appointment with the veterinarian. You should ensure the veterinarian is accredited by the USDA. Your pet will not be allowed to travel if the vet’s not registered with the USDA.

Obtain a Health Certificate

The vet will fill out a Certificate of Veterinary Inspection (CVI). The health certificate must be completed with the veterinarian 10 days before travel in order for them to be up-to-date. You’ll be asked at the gate for this health certificate and the immunization paperwork.

The health certificate will also include the required vaccinations you need prior to travel. All pets have to have the required vaccinations to be allowed to travel to another state. Your pet should be immunized no more than 21 days before travel.

Vaccinations For Dogs

The list of required vaccinations for dogs:

  • Canine parvovirus
  • Distemper
  • Canine hepatitis
  • Rabies

Most states require the CVI and an up-to-date list of vaccines, but there are states that require more paperwork. You can find a list of Department of Agriculture pages by state on the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture website. You can also find a list of requirements for animal transportation from each state on the USDA’s page for interstate pet travel.

Check Airline Requirements Before Purchasing a Kennel

You should always check the airline requirements before purchasing a kennel. There are many airline-approved kennels for purchase.

Choosing the Right Kennel: Soft Sided vs Hard Sided Kennels

The right kennel is essential to ensuring your dog’s flight is as comfortable as possible. There are two types of kennels — soft sided kennels and hard sided kennels. Let’s go through the two options you have, so you pick the right one for your dog.

Soft Sided Kennels: Lightweight but Less Protective

Soft sided kennels are perfect for dogs that go in the main cabin. Because your dog has to be in its carrier underneath the seat in front of you, soft-sided kennels are the right choice because they’re compact and flexible. A hard sided kennel and isn’t as user-friendly and can only be jammed under the seat.

Hard Sided Kennels: Durable but Heavy

If your dog needs to be in the cargo hold, airlines’ carrier requirements prescribe a hard sided kennel.

  • Your dog should be able to stand up, turn around in the crate and not touch the top.
  • The crate should be able to lock securely with pins that extend past the extrusions above and below the door. The pins should be metal instead of plastic.
  • It must be ventilated on all sides.
  • Your pet’s name and your contact information must be easily visible.
  • Water and food bowls need to be attached to the door and accessible from outside the crate.

Preparing Your Dog for the Flight: Keeping Your Pup Calm During the Flight

It’s important to prepare your dog for the flight so the trip goes smoothly. Your pup can get anxious during a flight. Preparing them for the flight helps ensure things will go well for you and your dog. Here are a few tips to ensure a safe and stress-free flight.

Familiarize Your Dog with the Carrier

During the flight, your dog can become restless and anxious, so it’s important for them to be comfortable with the carrier. You should start putting them in the carrier weeks before departure until they’re comfortable being in a close enclosure for long periods of time.

Exercise Your Dog Before the Flight

When you take a flight, your dog will most likely be sitting for a long period. This means, they won’t be able to exercise or go potty for the duration of the flight. It’s always smart to exercise your dog right before the flight so they have an energy release, making them tired enough to sleep during the flight. It’s also important that your beloved doggy go potty right before the flight, as well.

Consider Using Calming Aids

Another great tip you should consider is having a calming chew to aid your dog during the flight. Anxiety can loom over your dog like a pesty, recurring cold. It’s best to have all the bases covered so that your dog is as comfortable as possible. By giving your dog a calming chew, it will get him to be less anxious and less stressed throughout the flight, especially if they’re in the cargo hold.

Tips for Bringing Your Pet Through Security Screening

Everyone dreads passing through security. You have to take off your shoes, your jacket, your hat and your laptop has to be in a separate container. It’s annoying, but it’s a requirement for your safety. When it comes to going through security with your pet, there are rules in place to follow.

The TSA has offered some essential tips to make security screening more smooth for owners with small pets. There’s also a funny article the TSA made just for pets, so take out their reading glasses and make sure your dog sees this funny blog.

Make sure you check with the airport beforehand just to ensure that they don’t have extra requirements.

Here are some essential tips to follow:

  • All pets have to be in a hand-held travel carrier if they’re going with you in the main cabin. Remove your pet from the carrier just prior to the beginning of the screening process.
  • Put the empty travel carrier on the band so it can be X-rayed.
  • Do not put your pet through the X-ray tunnel. The X-ray at the security checkpoint is used only to screen passengers’ personal property and carry-on luggage only.
  • If you can, you should carry your pet during the screening process. They can also walk through the screening process if the pet is on a leash.
  • A TSA officer will give the pet owner’s hands an explosive trace detection swab to make sure there is no explosive residue on the owner’s hands.
  • Once the process is complete, owners have to return the pet into the travel carrier to ensure safety of the pet and other passengers.

Pet delivery service helps you get your furry friend from point A to point B.

Dangers of Flying Your Pet in a Cargo Hold

There are various dangers to flying your pet in the cargo hold. Your pet can experience discomfort, lack of oxygen, air pressure changes and respiratory distress. On top of that, because cargo holds are not climate controlled, there is the possibility of heat stroke or hypothermia.

Your dog can also experience extreme stress or trauma that can have long-lasting effects on your dog’s emotional and physical well-being. Some will experience more stress than others, so it’s always best to have chew toys, a security blanket, food, and water so your dog can feel more comfortable.

Using The Alternative

If you’re concerned about placing your dog in the cargo hold and are seeking other alternatives, consider using a two-way marketplace like CitizenShipper. It’s trustworthy, safe and affordable. All you have to do is plug in your pet’s transport info and you’ll get quotes immediately. And because drivers bid for your business, you can save a whopping 60%-70% compared to a traditional pet transportation company.

We truly work hard to ensure your peace and tranquility throughout the entire process. CitizenShipper also provides added benefits for you so you’re even calmer — up to $1,000 Pet Protection, Booking Assurance Guarantee, a messaging system where you can communicate directly with the driver and 24/7 TeleVet access through our partner FirstVet.

As the #1 pet transportation marketplace in the USA, CitizenShipper will save you money, time and hassle. Don’t hesitate and post your pet’s transport to get free quotes now!