f you’d like to travel with your dog or maybe import a dog from another country you may be wondering whether your dog can survive a long flight. Most airlines will fly accompanied pets in-cabin or as checked luggage. In the US, data from the Department of Transport shows that in 2017 airlines flew 506,994 pets and 24 died in transit.
Dogs do survive long flights. On all flights, statistics show airlines lost less than 0.005 percent of the pets they flew. Fliers haven’t reported any behavioral effects resulting from long flights. However, some flight experiences such as cargo handling can be traumatizing and even dangerous.
When planning your next long flight, if you’re considering bringing along your dog, consider the following:
How Long Can a Dog Be on A Flight?
Flying can be a frightful and stressful experience for your dog. The loud engines, pressurized cabins, unfamiliar surroundings, and turbulence can all contribute to the distress of your dog. Additionally, the limited ability to go potty and lack of exercise can add to the stress.
Nonetheless, dogs can manage a 10-hour flight. If your dog is traveling in-cabin and there are stopovers, the dog may even withstand a much longer flight.
For example, a few airlines have transported dogs from Sydney, Australia to New York, USA. A straight one-stop flight would take 21 hours, but due to stopovers, normal flights take 51 hours. The flight is made easier on passengers due to long waiting times at intermediate airports where the dogs get to rest and exercise.
Can Dogs Survive Long Flights?
Dogs can survive long flights depending on the care and attention provided by the owner and cargo handlers. There are three ways an airline could transport your dog.
If you have a small dog, then in-cabin would be the best way to fly with your dog. You get to have your dog near you, under the seat in front of you. Your dog inside the carrier will count as hand luggage. You won’t be allowed to open the carrier once inside the plane but you can interact with it through the vents.
This is one of the worst ways to transport your plane. The area is dark, the luggage is unsecured, and the noise levels are high. Additionally, there’s not as much breathable air as under the seat or in the cargo hold. If you transport your dog in the overhead bin, this is where they’re most likely to die in transit. Most airlines have stopped transporting pets in overhead bins.
If you have a big dog, then the cargo hold may be your only option. Your dog will have to travel as checked luggage. While airline policies try to make for safe pet travel, the cargo hold can be a scary place for your dog.
Loose luggage could be flying around mid-flight, the noise levels are higher than in-cabin, and the temperature and pressure are not always well regulated. Your dog can get lonely in the cargo hold and have a miserable flight without you in sight.
How Do You Prepare a Dog for A Long Flight?
When going on a long flight with your dog, planning is critical. How you prepare your dog can make the difference between whether your dog hates the experience and feels traumatized, or is at ease and snoozes all the way.
Before you book your pet on the flight out, do your research on any special requirements at your destination. For example, some countries may require your pet to be kept in quarantine for some days upon arrival. This can be dreadful if you were going for a two-week vacation.
When planning your journey, start talking to your vet weeks in advance. Three months in advance gives you enough of a cushion to get all your papers right.
Discuss with your vet any special medications you might need. Talk to your vet about installing or replacing an identification microchip. Ensure all vaccinations are up to date and as per requirements of both your home airport and destination.
Find out from your airline of choice the carrier requirements for your dog. Most airlines will require that the carrier be made out of sturdy material that the dog can’t chew through.
They will also insist that your dog plus carrier don’t exceed a certain weight. The carrier should be able to fit under the seat in front of you. While inside the carrier, your dog should be able to stand, turn around, stretch, and sleep comfortably without feeling squeezed.
Once you get the right size of carrier, spend each day training your dog to love spending time there. Do not expect to squeeze in the dog into the carrier on the day of flight and them to love it.
In the days leading to the flight date, exercise your dog harder than usual. If you have a family, take turns exercising the dog multiple times each day. A well exercised dog suffers less motion sickness, separation anxiety, or stress.
On the day of the flight, exercise the dog as much as possible a few hours to even an hour before boarding. Your dog may sleep through most of the flight without noticing the disruptions around it.
On the day of the flight, feed your dog no more than four hours before boarding the plane. However, do not feed less than three hours before departure. You want a satisfied dog but not one that needs toilet breaks.
The long flight could be distressing. Carry some deg-specific anxiety medication which you can give your in-cabin dog mid-flight. Turbulence may cause nausea so also consider carrying some motion sickness medication.
Depending on your destination, you may also want to carry medication to guard against or treat internal and external parasites.
Losing your dog can be even more harrowing than losing your regular luggage. A pet microchip, dog name tags, labelled collars and leashes, and a well-labelled carrier can ensure you don’t lose your dog in transit.