Last week I blogged about health certificates for pet travel, today I wanted to take some time to talk about the logistics of traveling with pets. It is always a difficult decision as to whether you should travel with your pet or not. Many dogs tend to travel well (cats not so much); however, there is some preparation that needs to be done prior to getting on the plane. Remember, the health certificate for interstate travel has to be obtained from a veterinarian no more than 10 days before travel, and is good for 30 days.

Many airlines have recently changed their policies for “emotional support” animals, and you should check with your airline if you do have an emotional support animal you intend to bring on the flight. These animals require a certificate from the owner’s doctor stating that the pet provides some type of symptom relief (typically anxiety reduction). Since the airlines do not charge fees for these animals and also don’t require them to be in a carrier, there has been a strong incentive for owners to state their pets are emotional support animals. This has resulted in several well publicized incidents of passenger safety involving these animals, which in turn has led to the stricter guidelines from the airlines.

The vast majority of pets however don’t travel as emotional support or service animals. Airlines typically charge a fee of $100-150 one-way. If the pet can fit in a carrier completely under the seat it can fly in the passenger cabin, otherwise it is transported in a carrier in the luggage compartment. It is very important to have an appropriate carrier for your pet. You want them to be comfortable in there for several hours, especially if there is a delay in the flight and you don’t get to your destination when you had planned. If your dog will be traveling in the cargo hold it is a good idea to tape a full water bottle and some extra food on the top of the carrier and leave a note for the baggage handler to please fill up the water or food containers if they are getting empty.

Note that PDX airport recently revised their policy on pets in the airport. It requires all animals (except service animals) to be in a carrier. In the rare instance a pet does not fit into a carrier it either has to be carried by the owner if practical, or it needs to be on a less than 3 foot leash. The full details of the PDX policy can be found at:

I personally am not in favor of sedating pets prior to airline travel. Most pets including cats will fall sleep once the “hum” of the plane starts. It is not at all uncommon for them to have some whining or meowing during takeoff or landing as their ears have to acclimate to the changes in altitude just like ours. If sedation is needed I only recommend using Benadryl (diphenhydramine) to make them a little sleepy. Medicines like tranquilizers can cause them to have low blood pressure. If a pet has to travel in the cargo hold, then absolutely no medications (including Benadryl) should be given. The pets already have to work hard to acclimate themselves to the temperature changes, and trying to do that while sedated makes it extremely difficult and potentially dangerous for them.

I wish you all safe travels and thanks for reading my blog.

Kim Cork

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