Em-bark-ing on an adventure with your furry friend? These days, people are including their four-legged-pals in more of their daily activities outside of the home. More restaurants, hotels and events are allowing your pets to be your plus-one, so it only makes sense that more people are considering travelling with them as well.

Airplane travel in particular can seem like a daunting task when considering bringing precious live cargo on board. With the right preparation you can make sure  your pet has a safe, smooth journey and a stress-free experience..

How do I know if I am allowed to travel with my pet?

Before you set off on your travels, it’s important to determine whether you should take your animal with you, whether it’s by air, land or sea.

With air travel, one of the initial preparation steps is understanding different airline policies. Rules can vary regarding the sizes of pets, types of breeds allowed, or the maximum number of pets accepted on one flight. Airlines also often have different rules for short-haul and long-haul flights. Most airlines will accommodate small dogs in the cabin, provided they're in an airline approved standard carrier that can be stored beneath your seat. Larger breeds generally require transportation in the cargo hold. Take the time to familiarize yourself with your airline's specific policies. In Canada, the major airlines like WestJet and Air Canada list their policies for flying with pets on their websites.

Certain dog breeds face higher risks during air travel due to their physical characteristics. bBreeds with short noses, like Bulldogs and Pugs, often have a harder time regulating their body temperature and can experience breathing problems, especially in an airplane cargo area, which can be a bit of a stressful environment and subject to changing sounds or temperatures. If your dog is of such a breed, discuss travel options thoroughly with your vet.

What do I need to do to prepare?

Before your trip, a comprehensive check-up by a vet is crucial. This should be done at least a few weeks before your trip to address any health conditions that might affect travel. Vaccinations must be up-to-date, and it’s a responsible idea to carry all relevant health documentation with you. Some airlines and countries may require proof of certain vaccinations, like rabies, so make sure to consult with your vet and your airline about these requirements. If you’re travelling internationally, there may be quarantine restrictions and regulations as well. If your pet will require medication for the trip, discuss testing out the dosage prior to travel, to avoid any issues while in-transit. Your vet can guide you and provide you with the right information should any issues occur. Understanding these factors will make sure you aren’t in for any surprises.

Are there any specific items I need to bring?

On the day of travel, pack essentials that your pet will need on the journey. This typically includes food, water, a leash, poop bags, their favourite toy, treats, a small water tray and a comfortable blanket or bedding. If your pet is prone to anxiety, bring the appropriate medication prescribed by a vet.

It’s important to note that if your animal is travelling in the cargo area and hasn’t been crate trained, it’s best to start training well ahead of the trip. This can help your cat or dog adjust to the confined space and makes sure they feel safe and secure in their carrier during flight. The crate itself should be robust, well ventilated, and lockable, and should have a label displaying your contact details and a clear 'Live Animal' indication.

How do I manage my pet’s anxiety?

During the flight, check on your in-cabin pet periodically but avoid letting them out of its carrier. Praise and reward them for their good behaviour; let them know you’re nearby. For dogs in the cargo hold, airline staff will not be able to check on them during the flight, so it's crucial to ensure beforehand that they're comfortable and securely contained.

If travelling with a dog, adjust their feeding schedule so he or she doesn’t need to use the bathroom until deplaned. Food should be given several hours before the flight and withhold water a couple of hours before take-off to avoid accidents. Dogs do not like to go to the bathroom inside their crates, where they sleep, and having to do so could cause added stress.

Bringing familiar items from home can help pets feel relaxed during the journey. These could include toys, blankets, pillows, or even the pet's favourite familiar-smelling shirt.

What can I do to plan for the unexpected?

Consider keeping an emergency kit on hand. This could include bandages, tweezers, and any specialized medications your pet might need. Keep it in an easily accessible place. Also make sure that your pet has identification on them at all times. This could be in the form of a collar or a tag. However, tags can be lost, so micro-chipping your pet can increase the chances of your pet being returned if they get lost.

Investing in travel insurance that covers pets can save you from financial distress in case of emergencies. Before purchase, read the policy in detail to understand what is covered.

Flying with pets is a big responsibility that requires proper preparation. Planning ahead, understanding your pet's needs, and being able to adapt to unexpected situations are essential to ensure a smooth journey for both you and your pal. Safe travels!