Texas Travel

When Pigs Fly: How to Travel With Animals

By Peter Simek 12.18.17

You’ve gotten a new job in a faraway city. Or you’ve decided to move back to be closer to family. Or you’re heading on an extended stay in a foreign country, finally making a long-planned dream come true. And you can’t imagine doing any of it without your beloved little pet. Traveling is exciting, but it can be hard on your animals. Luckily, if you keep a few easy tips in mind, you can relieve the stress of traveling for you and for them. 

When Pigs Fly

The good news is airlines are used to transporting precious family pets around the world. No one knows this better than Brent Reiter, operations manager for Air Pets America, a Dallas-Fort Worth-based pet-moving service. Reiter has helped pet owners travel with all kinds of animals — snakes, lizards, turtles, guinea pigs.

Once Reiter helped move a red river hog from a zoo in Oklahoma to a zoo in London. It went “in a 200-pound, super-reinforced crate,” Reiter says. “It was a fortress of a crate, a wooden mammoth, reinforced with locks and a watering system. It just stayed in that the whole time.”

The crate gets loaded in the cargo portion of the plane. “It could be a dolphin,” Reiter says. “There is a way to ship most animals.”

The most common animals Reiter deals with, however, are families’ cats and dogs. With a little preparation, he says, pet owners can rest assured that their precious little creatures make it to their destination safe and sound.

If the Crate Fits

The first thing to consider is your airline. Different airlines have different requirements for four-legged travelers, and some specify what size and what kinds of crates can be used to transport particular breeds. Figuring out what your airline requires early in the planning process will allow you to get the right size crate and allow your pet time to become familiar with it.

Let your pet play in it, sleep in it, and get comfortable spending time in its little transport.

Jelly Bellies

The goal of any journey should be to make sure your pal is safe and comfortable during the ride. Dogs can experience motion sickness while in a plane or in a car. Keep a vomit bag ready in case of an accident. One way to limit their discomfort is a trick used by some show-dog-circuit owners. Limit the animal’s food intake before travel and give it a small piece of candy (like a jelly bean), which may reduce nausea.

Look Alive

Some pet owners have made the mistake of believing that sedating a pet can help make the trip go more smoothly, but Reiter says drugs could cause complications and may endanger your animal. Some airlines won’t let visibly sedated pets fly, he says.

“You want them to assimilate properly,” Reiter says. “We believe in going the natural route.”

That means using lavender sprays and soothing oils that can be found at any pet shop to help comfort your pet during the journey.

There in Spirit

One of the best things about your pet is how it loves you unconditionally; chances are, it even loves your smelly socks.

Putting a piece of your clothing in the crate along with your animal can be a great idea (as long as you’re prepared for the possibility of it being torn up). Sometimes the most soothing thing for a pet is the smell of the person they love the most. 

Beware of Dog Dangers

The dangers for a pup in the air include temperature and humidity fluctuations, which can cause complications in their respiratory systems. Certain airlines restrict the travel of some breeds — pugs, bulldogs, and shih tzus, for example — during the hotter summer months. Airlines will also not allow collars or leashes in crates.

Lap of Luxury

Some lucky animals may be small enough — or meet special conditions, for instance, as a service animal — to fly in the main cabin of the aircraft with you. In this case, Reiter suggests following the same procedures: getting the travel crate early, soothing with natural oils and sprays. When you are with your animal, you also can soothe them and respond to any shock or discomfort that arises.

But the most important tip: Once your long journey is over and you are reunited with your pet at your final destination, be sure to show them lots of love and affection. 

And most likely, one of your pet’s favorite kinds of affection is the food kind. Nothing says “welcome home” to your pet like a treat; reward your puppies for their hard work with these homemade dog treats at the end of the road. 

© 2017 Texas Farm Bureau Insurance