Flying With Your Dog In-Cabin: What You Need to Know

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Have you ever thought about how to fly in-cabin hassle-free with your dog? Truth be told, “hassle-free” might just be too much to ask if you’re flying with your pet. No matter how much you prepare, there might be some sort of snafu just waiting to happen while you’re in an airplane thousands of miles up in the air! It can be a barking spell, a poop emergency, or a dog-hating individual who just has to complain about something even though your dog is not bothering anyone.

While the possibility of hassles is always there, there are actually many things that you can do to make the flight as comfortable as possible for your pet. In this article, we’ll provide you with a few tips on who to fly in-cabin with your dog.

A Note on Plane Travel with Pet Dogs

Before deciding to bring your dog along for air travel, make sure to ask yourself first whether it’s worth the trouble, or more importantly, the risk. Take note that while some airline companies are more than happy to welcome small dogs in the cabin as long as they are inside a carrier, many others require all pets to be transported as cargo.

Extreme heat and cold are the most significant risks to dogs when they are placed in a plane’s cargo area, although underlying medical conditions can also considerably increase the risk for many other dogs. Snub-nosed or brachycephalic dogs such as pugs, bulldogs, boxers, and chow chows are also at an increased risk for respiratory stress because their physiology impairs their capacity to breath, especially under extreme temperatures or when they are stressed out.

In the 1990s, some 5000 animals were lost, injured, or killed on commercial flights annually according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, which is why they advocated the passage of the Safe Air Transport for Animals Act. Given the possibilities, if traveling with your pet is not of absolute necessity, you’d be well advised to leave them at home in the care of your friends or family. Otherwise, make sure to talk to your veterinarian in advance so you can discuss the best way to transport your dog.

Traveling with Your Dog In-Cabin

Thankfully, there are airliners that allow smaller dogs to be carried in the cabin, where they can be more comfortable and near their owners. However, certain rules are typically specified by individual airline companies. You will want to make sure that you have an appropriate carrier for your dog. For example, American Airlines requires the dog and the carrier to weigh just 20 pounds (9 Kg) combined, and the carrier itself must fit underneath the seat in front of the passenger. Other airline companies will have their own rules, so make sure to check in advance what these rules are. For example, many airliners will not allow very young puppies or snub-nosed dogs to fly. The fees also vary from airline to airline.

Make sure to make arrangements with the airline company months in advance because they typically only allow a limited number of dogs onboard. This also allows them to make preparations in the event that another passenger informs them that they have pet allergies.

See to It That Your Dog Has the Right Attitude for Flying

Some dogs are naturally quiet and chill, while others are temperamental and easily stressed, especially when kept in cramped or uncomfortable situations. If your dog is the latter, do yourself and your pet a favor, and don’t force them to fly! Check your dog in a pet hotel, or better yet, have a friend take care of them instead. If you would really love to go on a vacation with your dog, consider going on a road trip instead.

Make Sure That Your Dog Has the Necessary Documents to Fly

Again, consult your veterinarian and the airline company in advance so you’ll be able to get your dog’s papers in order before the flight. One requirement that may be asked of you is updated vaccination for your pet with accompanying documents to prove it.

Choose a Comfortable Carrier for Your Pet

The carrier will be your dog’s personal “seat” in the aircraft, and given the size requirements, it might not exactly be the most comfortable place for your pet to be stowed in for many hours. Nevertheless, you can make the journey cozier for your dog by choosing a high-quality carrier that is just the right size for your pet but will still fit underneath the seat in front of you. One thing to remember, though, is that the carrier will become your carry-on baggage, so all other bags aside from your small personal item will have to be checked in.


Make sure to introduce your pet to their carrier weeks or maybe even months before the flight. Make the lodging experience as positive as possible by placing treats and some of their toys inside. You can also practice going on trips by placing your dog in the carrier and taking them out for a ride in your car.


Pack Right for the Flight


Once you have acquired your dog’s papers and have chosen an appropriate carrier for your dog, it’s time to start getting packed! First up, make sure to line your dog’s carrier with an absorbent lining pad, so just in case your pet needs to urinate, they won’t get wet. An absorbent lining pad typically has adhesive strips that keeps it in place and prevents it from bunching up. It also contains absorbent polymers deep inside, allowing any liquid to become absorbed and trapped within seconds.


Aside from an absorbent lining pad, other important things to bring along are wet wipes, poop bags, a dog collar and a leash, a small food and water bowl, treats, dog food (for emergency flight disruptions), a water bottle that you can fill up at the boarding gate, and something familiar from home, like your dog’s favorite toy.


Flying with your dog in-cabin can be a lot more comfortable for you and your pet if you prepare well for your flight. It is important to consult your veterinarian to rule out any underlying medical condition that could make flying unsafe for your pet. Likewise, you should also communicate with your chosen airline company in advance to make sure everything is in order and arrangements are made to accommodate you and your pet according to your expectations.

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