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The good news is that the majority of commercial airlines will allow you to take a pet on a plane, either as checked baggage in the cargo hold or as accompanied baggage in the cabin. The bad news is that your pet may not have the same fond memories of flying to Hawaii or Paris as you do. Some animal experts actively discourage travelers from taking a pet with them unless they have absolutely no other alternatives. There can be no doubt that an airplane flight will be stressful for your pet, but there are ways to make the trip more comfortable.
If you plan to take a pet on a plane, you'll probably need to obtain a health certificate from your veterinarian first. This document verifies that the animal has been examined recently and is in sufficiently good health to fly. You should also get the animal's nails clipped, to prevent any mid-flight snags. You should not travel on a plane with a sick or unweaned pet under any circumstances, and elderly pets may not be able to withstand the climate changes as well as younger pets.
There are also certain breeds of dogs that cannot travel in airplane cargo holds. If you have a dog classified as a pug-nosed breed, most airlines will not allow it to be stored as checked baggage. These dogs may develop serious breathing problems during the flight because of their facial structure. If you want to take this type of pet on a plane, you'll most likely have to place it in a small travel kennel and stow it under your seat. Airlines do have regulations on the size and construction of travel kennels, so check with your carrier before bringing any small pet on board.
Another important aspect to consider when bringing a pet on a plane is feeding and watering. Many animal experts suggest withholding solid food from your pet at least 4-6 hours before the flight. This should prevent or minimize the effects of motion sickness many pets experience. Some pet owners freeze water in their pet's water bowl and allow it to melt slowly throughout the flight. Airline employees may be responsible for providing food and water for any animal, but the pet's owner should make the process as easy as possible by attaching the food and water bowls to a location accessible from the outside.
Whenever possible, plan a non-stop flight to avoid the possibility of losing your pet during a transfer. Also, consider booking your flight during the week instead of the more crowded weekend period. If you bring a small pet on a plane and keep it under your seat, remember that you won't be allowed to open the cage while the plane is in flight. Try to avoid traveling with a pet during extreme weather conditions, since the cargo area may not be climate controlled.
After your flight has landed, your pet should be fed and watered as soon as possible. Different airlines have different policies when it comes to liability claims, so be sure you understand your rights and obligations before boarding the flight.