Thursday, December 23, 2010

How to Prepare Your Dog for a Long Plane Flight

To pee or not to pee that is the question...
Cosmo has traveled in-cabin on many flights of various lengths -- from two to nearly 10 hours. A little advance planning ensures Cosmo stays comfortable and stress-free throughout the entire trip. And while he's never had to relieve himself en route, we do have a strategy in place in case he does!
We think it 'tis nobler to be prepared, so here you go... our tips for giving you and your dog peace of mind on a long airplane trip. 
Our Seven Tips to "Peedom From Worry on a Long Flight"
Cosmo heads through airport security with his
carrier and small carry on filled with the
essentials -- treats, leash, bowl, pee pads,
poo bags. The light blue pad under the
 fleece in his carrier is a Dry Fur pad.

Cosmo takes a break in the dog park at
Atlanta Hartsfield Airport. This is a great
spot to take your dog before a flight,
during a layover or upon returning from a trip.

After a good walk, Cosmo is ready for
nap time in his travel carrier

Cosmo's "in the bag" during a trip
earlier this year
  1. Have the right stuff. The last time we traveled to Italy we purchased the small size Dry Fur pads and placed one underneath the pad in Cosmo's carrier. It's supposed to absorb all wetness and keep pets completely comfortable and dry in the event of an "accident." Cosmo's never had an accident in his bag, but we've kept it in place for extra assurance. Two pads come in a pack so you can replace the pad if one gets soiled.
  2. Bring some pee pads in your carry on. On our last long trip, I put a couple of these  Wee-Wee Pads in my bag with the idea that if Cosmo seemed stressed, I'd take him to the bathroom on the airplane and spread one of these on the floor. Cosmo already was familiar with pee pads -- an important point -- because we used these when we lived in a condo. He's never needed them on any of our trips, but I still take these, just in case.
  3. Take it easy on food and water. Your dog has probably gone around nine hours or more at night without going to the bathroom, right? So a nine-or-so-hour flight is not an unreasonable amount of time to expect a healthy dog to stay dry.  I do make sure Cosmo doesn't have gobs of treats the day before we travel. And for a long International flight, l I feed him a light meal at least six hours before flying. I also go VERY light on the water once we get inside the six-hour window. Maybe a few sips... or some people use ice cubes. I don't want to dehydrate him, but I do want him to be comfortable. Pets need to have a health certificate and all other sorts of paperwork from your vet for International travel, so you will want to make sure your pet is healthy and in good shape for this type of trip. 
  4. Get to the airport extra early.  Delta is recommending we arrive three hours ahead of time for an International flight. This actually works to our advantage. We can check in, and then have plenty of time to let Cosmo sniff around the dog park at Atlanta Hartsfield Airport. I also make sure Cosmo has time for some activity or a walk before we leave the house. That way he's ready for a nice, long nap.
  5. Sedatives? We don't use them. Cosmo is very relaxed and has no issues with curling up and sleeping in his bag. If you have concerns, check with your vet. 
  6. Success for us is "in the bag." I've heard people talk about taking their dogs out of their carriers once they are on the airplane. I decided to try to open the bag "just a little bit" one time, and like a genie in a bottle, Cosmo wooshed out of the tiny opening and magically appeared in my lap in like .00001 seconds. The flight attendant yelled at us, and it was torture trying to wedge the wiggly fur ball back in the bag at a 90-degree angle. (Most airlines have regulations that require you to keep your pet secured in a carrier, anyway.) So once Cosmo is in the bag, he stays there until we get to our destination. He's never made a peep, and like I said, he sleeps the entire way.  If you're comfortable with the situation, likely your pet will catch your vibe and feel comfortable too.
  7. Get comfortable with your carrier. Cosmo travels in a large SturdiBag, which measures 12x12x18, the maximum dimension allowed by Delta for a soft-sided bag. We like it because it's light, durable and easy to smoosh under the seat. Do make sure your pet is comfortable and familiar with the bag before travel. We wrote all about travel bag comfort here
A few other resources
Most importantly, know thy dog!  Cosmo is very social and handles travel quite easily, in part due to his nature and in part due to preparation and endless training!

Now, it's time to get packing! 
Cosmo's big green bone has traveled round
the world with us! 


  1. Wow, what a wonderful and informative post. I was actually - just last night - considering how Simba would do on a long flight, and some things I would need to keep in mind if I ever wanted to do so. Thank you!!!

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  2. Hope you have a great flight Cosmo!

    Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!


  3. Thanks everyone! We're looking forward to a great, pee-free trip!!
    Diane and Cosmo

  4. Such great info! Cosmo sounds like a fantastic traveler. I wish Buster and Ty were small enough to fit under the seat. As it is, we'll have to stick to traveling by Winnebago. Thanks so much for the mention!

  5. I had my puppy take a syrup to make him fall asleep during a travel. It worked. Cosmo is a jet setter, I guess.

  6. Thank you for posting this! I found it very helpful as I prepare to fly with my dog from Thailand to San Francisco. Much appreciated.

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  9. Great advice! Thank you for sharing. Its so important to get your pet comfortable with the carrier like you said. Ive been taking my pet for a cruise around town with her inside her carrier. Just to get her comfortable with being in contained while moving and tomorrow we'll be going for a little drive throughthe mountains so she can experience the ear popping when elevation goes up and hopefully not freak out. US Airways says its not good to give sedatives or anything because the pet needs to be able to balance their equalibrium and they cant do that when theyre sedated. Now im afraid to give her anything to calm her because what if she gets too relaxed and ends up passing out. She's a puppy.

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