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Fly the friendly skies with your pets: advice from your pet’s vet

Aug 17

Categories: Blog

According to the American Animal Association AAHA Pet Owner Survey, 53% of pet owners vacation or travel with their pets. In many cases that means airplane rides for dogs, cats, and other animals. Planning and preparation is essential for making the trip safe and positive for both pets and their people.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) regulates the transportation of animals such as dogs and cats, so airlines generally have the same requirements for safe pet travel. However, beofre making a trip, travelers should contact the airline in advance for specific travel information. If you are planning travel outside the US there are some additional plans and information yoiu will need based on the country or countries included in your travel plan. A valuable website is www.aphis.usda.gov/animal_welfare/pet_travel which we access at Animal Health Care each and every time a pet is intended to travel. It is also important that, if required, a federal veterinary endorsement in addition to the accredited veterinarian accuracy in completing the appropriate forms takes time and planning.

Not all veterinarians are accredited to sign health certificates and transportation documents, so ask your pet's vet. Both Dr. Steven Tepper and Dr. Deborah Breitstein are accredited by the State of New Jersey to complete and sign the initial forms needed for federal endorsement. Dr. Linda Morrone , our new associate is completing the paperwork for her updated accreditation. We are often asked by our neighborhood colleagues to complete the necessary paperwork for their pet parents, and we are happy to act in their behalf. We also have an animal transportation service, Airborne Animals at www.airborneanimals.com, to whom we can direct travel need and transportation requests for pets. Under the leadership of Sally Smith, a credentialed veterinary nurse and owner /operator of this pet travel business, we should be able to provide the most up to date and accurate information, forms, and documentation needed to transport your pets safely and properly either with you or to follow you in your travel plans and needs to almost anywhere in the world. Right now, drdeb is completing paperwork for a pet parent to relocate to North Africa.

Reservations for travelers and their pets should be made at the same time since only a certain number of pets are allowed on each flight. A direct flight or one with minimum stops is best. Consider the time of day if possible and destination as many animals may be transferred between flights and be exposed to temperatures on the tarmac. It is also important to have an acclimation certificate for travel which states the temperatures both high and low to which your pet is accustomed and that they cannot be exposed to above or below these temperatures for a length of time. If your pet is small enough and can fit comfortably in an airline- approved carrier placed under the seat in front of you, your pet may travel in the passenger cabin. Also, the cargo hold must be kept at temperatures in keeping with acclimation and pressure controls so your larger pet can travel safely as well.

Most airlines have a health examination requirement usually within 7-10 days of travel. This requirement is for the pet to examined by a veterinarian within that set time period prior to each flight. Current health, age appropriate vaccination and usually parasite testing and prevention, including Rabies vaccination and certificate from the veterinarian will be required at the time of departure: this paperwork is basically your pet's "passport" for travel! The age and size of the pet, the time and distance of the flight, and regular dietary routine must also be considered.

Regulations state that dogs and cats must be at least 8 weeks old and weaned at least 5 days before flying. The pet should be exercised as to their normal routine and capacity, placed in the cage with complete identification: many countries and airlines also require a microchip identifier for travel, with a license tag and be picked up promptly upon arrival.

The proper transport cage, available from most airlines, pet stores or online should have the following features:

  • Large enough to allow the animal to stand, turn and lie down (wish those were the same standards for their people to travel!)
  • Strong, free of interior protrusions, with handles or grips
  • Leak-proof bottom covered with plenty of absorbent material
  • Ventilation on opposite sides, with exterior rims or knobs to prevent blocked airflow
  • Label with "LIVE ANIMALS", including arrows indicating upright position and the owner's name, address, and phone number

Travelers should be aware that if the final destination is a foreign country, or even Hawaii, there may be quarantine or other health requirements to consider. Travelers are advised to contact the appropriate embassy, consulate or department of agriculture of their destination country at least 4-6 weeks in advance of travel plans.

Finally, owners should consider whether the pet is comfortable with traveling. Some animals do not even like a short car ride, are unable to function well in unfamiliar surroundings, and an unhappy pet can make a trip miserable for everyone. Some ill or physically impaired dogs and cats cannot withstand the rigors of travel. If this concerns you, ask your pet's veterinarian. At Animal Health Care of Marlboro we have boarding options for dogs, cats, and our small furry friends. We have had some of your "kids" stay as long as 3 weeks. Our veterinary team take the care of those in our care very seriously and aim to play, socialize, feed well, exercise and love them while they are on "vacation" with us. We also have pet sitting services that we recommend if you prefer to have them stay in their own homes.      Got To Go and PetCare Unlimited are two services that have been veterinary tested: they have taken care of Dr.  Breitstein's and Dr. Tepper's "kids" so you know at ahc we don't just recommend a name but a tried and true pet sitting service: Clem, Mia, Lucy and Tommy-cat all give their 2 paws up for them!

So travel safely with your pets: be informed, have the proper documentation, be prepared and make flying friendly for you and your pet! Anyone have any experiences to add, recommendations, travel tips, pet friendly travel ideas... please comment... we may bark but we won't bite!