How Do I Prepare My Dog For Flight Cargo? A Step-By-Step Guide

Rochdi Rais Rochdi Rais · Updated February 12, 2024

Ensure Your Furry Friend's Comfort!

  • Fast and easy
  • Only pay when you book

Flying with your dog can be a daunting experience, especially when they must travel as cargo. Proper preparation is crucial to ensure your dog’s safety, comfort, and well-being during the journey. In this step-by-step guide, we will walk you through the process of preparing your dog for flight cargo, including selecting the right crate, acclimating your dog, and handling documentation.

1. Choose an IATA-Compliant Crate

The first step in preparing your dog for flight cargo is selecting an International Air Transport Association (IATA)-compliant crate. This crate should be sturdy, well-ventilated, and large enough for your dog to stand, turn around, and lie down comfortably. Many airlines also require the crate to have a secure locking system, metal hardware, and a leak-proof bottom.

2. Acclimate Your Dog to the Crate

Before the flight, it’s essential to help your dog become comfortable with their crate. Gradually introduce your dog to the crate over several days or weeks, allowing them to spend time inside it and providing positive reinforcement, such as treats or praise. This will help your dog associate the crate with positive experiences and reduce their anxiety during the flight.

3. Visit the Veterinarian

Schedule a pre-flight visit to your veterinarian to ensure your dog is healthy and up-to-date on vaccinations. Your veterinarian can also provide you with a health certificate often required by airlines and destination countries. Additionally, discuss any concerns you may have about your dog’s ability to handle the stress of flight cargo and ask for recommendations on calming techniques or medications.

4. Review Airline Policies and Documentation Requirements

Familiarize yourself with your airline’s specific pet policies, including any documentation or vaccination requirements, crate specifications, and restrictions on breeds or sizes. Ensure you have all necessary documents, such as a health certificate, vaccination records, and any required import permits for your destination country.

5. Provide Comfort Items and Essentials

To help your dog feel more comfortable during the flight, include a familiar blanket or towel in the crate and a favorite toy or chew. Additionally, ensure your dog has access to water throughout the journey by attaching a spill-proof water dish to the crate.

6. Exercise Your Dog Before the Flight

Before you fly with your dog, ensure they get plenty of exercise. A long walk or play session can help burn off energy and reduce anxiety during the flight. Keep in mind that you should not sedate your dog before air travel, as it can increase the risk of respiratory and cardiovascular issues.

7. Arrive Early at the Airport

On the day of your flight, arrive at the airport well in advance to give yourself ample time to check in and handle any last-minute issues or concerns. This will also help reduce stress for both you and your dog.

8. Label Your Dog’s Crate

Properly labeling your dog’s crate is essential for their safety and well-being during flight cargo. Attach a sturdy, visible label to the crate that includes the following information:

  • Your name, address, and phone number
  • Your dog’s name
  • A clear “LIVE ANIMAL” label
  • Information on any special requirements or medical conditions your dog may have
  • Arrows indicating the upright position of the crate

Additionally, consider attaching a copy of your dog’s health certificate and vaccination records to the crate in a secure, waterproof pouch. This will ensure airline personnel can easily access important information about your dog during the journey.

Consider Ground Transportation as an Alternative

With many restrictions around pet air travel, ground transportation is often a better solution. If your pet has to fly in the cargo area, you must choose ground transport – you wouldn’t put your children in the cargo area, don’t do it with your pets either! It’s the safest, most humane way to send a pet long distances.

FAQs: How Do I Prepare My Dog for Flight Cargo?

We’ve compiled a list of frequently asked questions about preparing your dog for flight cargo to provide additional guidance and clarity.

What is the cheapest way to transport a pet?

Typically, ground transport is the cheapest way to transport a pet.  Longer trips using a transportation service, like CitizenShipper, typically average around $1.00 per mile.  Using a pet transportation service ensures your pet arrives in your new location safely, while minimizing stress and overall cost. 

How much does it cost to ship a pet internationally? 

While shipping your pet domestically is a relatively straightforward process, international shipping can be more complicated.  Hiring a pet transport service to help with international logistics can save a tremendous amount of stress and time.  

Each country of arrival will have specific regulations regarding pet health checks, necessary vaccination, and possible quarantine requirements.  The cost to ship a pet internationally can vary, especially if you need to board your pet for an extended quarantine. 

How much does it cost to transport cats?

The cost to transport cats will vary depending on the transport method.  Cats can be transported via ground or air transit, and are often small enough to be considered a “carry on” item.  Transporting a cat can cost as little as $25 on Amtrak, or as much as $125 to fly in the main cabin of an airplane.

How much does it cost to travel with a small pet?

Traveling with a small pet, compared to a large pet, is much cheaper.  Smaller pets can fit under the seat in front of you and can often qualify as a “carry on” item.  Traveling with small pets on Amtrak can cost $25, while airlines can charge around $125.  Keep in mind certain companies will only allow cats and dogs to travel.  

What does it cost to ship a puppy?

While puppies are small enough to fly in most airline cabins, they can incur additional costs.  Puppies generally require more attention, and therefore can be more expensive than shipping an adult dog or cat.  

Many breeders will utilize an air nanny service to accompany your puppy.  If the air nanny is experienced, or a regular, certain airlines may provide discounted rates or waive certain fees.  Breeders regularly ship puppies to their new homes and are well-versed in arranging transportation.  

Conclusion: How Do I Prepare My Dog for Flight Cargo?

By following the steps outlined in this guide, you can effectively prepare your dog for flight cargo and ensure their safety and comfort throughout the journey. Proper preparation, crate acclimation, and familiarity with airline policies are critical components in ensuring a smooth and stress-free flying experience for your canine companion.