When dogs fly: tips for hassle-free travel

by Tom Goldsmith | April 1, 2013

dogs fly - April2013DogColumn
Perhaps it’s the notion that the fields are always greener on the other side of the mountain that has us dreaming of hunting ducks in the fabled flooded timber of Arkansas, pheasants in South Dakota, or a covey rise of Huns against a vast Saskatchewan prairie landscape. To make these dreams a reality for you and your dog, flying on a commercial airliner is often the most practical means of transport. But for some of us, the hassles (both real and merely imagined) of flying with our dogs keeps trips like these perpetually on the bucket list. This doesn’t have to be the case. With some research and preparation, travelling with your dog can be relatively easy.

Airline consideration
As you would when arranging a trip for yourself, take a little time on your computer or with a travel agent to find the right carrier. Ask the airlines you’re considering about the kind of travel crate they recommend, where the dog will be housed during the flight, and where to bring your dog for boarding.

While some carriers offer the option of having a dog and kennel carrier in the passenger area, most have a maximum-size restriction, which many gun dog breeds exceed by a considerable amount. Figure on your dog travelling in a crate in a climate-controlled cargo hold. If you’ve conditioned it to use and like a crate, it should be quite happy there.

Health concerns
The most important consideration when travelling with your dog is its health and well-being. Dr. Ian Webb at the Orillia and District Veterinary Services has a few suggestions to make the trip as pleasant as possible.

“When travelling within Canada, ensure all standard vaccinations are up to date,” says Dr. Webb. “A pre-trip general-health check is highly recommended, especially if it has been a while since the dog’s last visit.” A current rabies vaccination certificate is all that is required to travel to most U.S. destinations.

As far as feeding goes, Dr. Webb recommends sticking to your usual routine. “As long as the dog doesn’t typically suffer travel sickness, a regular meal before the flight should help keep and maintain a healthy blood pressure. This can be particularly important if your dog requires sedatives before the flight, as these can cause its blood pressure to drop.”

Most dogs are fairly travel-tested, at least in a vehicle, so sedatives can usually be avoided. If, however, they’re required, Dr. Webb says that your vet can prescribe one that will not affect your dog’s hunting and working ability once you’ve reached your destination.

There are no pee breaks at 30,000 feet, so time food and water accordingly. Most mature dogs can hold their bladders long enough for typical journeys, but why not make it as comfortable for them as possible.

I highly recommend doing a little research for veterinary services in the area you intend to hunt. Make a note of the veterinary hospitals and clinics, and jot down their contact information or load it into your mobile device. You’ll have piece of mind knowing that in the event of an accident or a serious wound you have an emergency plan in your hip pocket.

A whole new world
Upon arriving at your destination, try not to let your excitement at being in the promised land overwhelm your patience and understanding. This may be the trip of a lifetime for you, but for your dog it’s just another hunt, albeit with new cover and possibly unfamiliar quarry. Add the rigours of a long journey, and you’ll appreciate that your dog may need a while to settle in. Rest assured, given the chance to acclimatize, your hunting companion will soon be back to normal, and that hunt of a lifetime can begin.

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