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Want to Travel Easily with your Pets?

Air travel with your pets

It’s become more common to take your furry family member along on vacations. So whether you’re setting out on an epic road trip or travelling, locally or internationally, by plane there’s a few important aspects to consider.

Travelling with your dog can be great fun if you make the right arrangements. However, poor forward planning can make the experience stressful for both you and your pet. Once you've decided your dog is coming away with you, the first thing you need to do is buy a collar with your current identification and keep it on your dog at all times. Before you travel, your dog would benefit from some basic training so they will be well-behaved during the trip. Then, plan the transportation, what to take and where to stay as not all hotels or Bed and Breakfasts are dog friendly!


Travelling by Car

For local vacations, travelling by car is usually the best and most common method of travel with dogs and chances are your dog has already ridden in it for trips to the vet or the park. However, it's fair to say that some dogs suffer anxiety when riding in cars so try to make the experience as enjoyable for them as possible by ensuring you vary the end destination. For example, if they only ever travels by car to visit the vets, they may associate the car with negative experiences. Take them to the beach, the park or the pet shop to get a treat however and he may start to look forward to road travel!

If your dog is still restless and unable to settle in the car, long journeys may not be advisable and anti-anxiety medications are available from your vet if necessary. If your dog is happy to travel on long trips, remember that much like humans, dogs need to stretch their legs and relieve themselves, so make sure you plan to stop every 3-5 hours. All dogs are different though so if you know your dog is likely to get restless every couple of hours then make your stops more frequent. 

To make the journey more comfortable and safe for your pet and provide you with peace of mind, rather use an Outward Hound PupBoost car seat, the Wagworld Car Seat Hammock, Cosmic Pets collapsible pet carrier (available in a variety of colours and sizes) or the MPET Voyager Wire Crate.

Choose the appropriate size for your dog and ensure you pet is familiar with the carriers before you embark on your road trip. So it’s critical to obtain the carriers and crates in advance to allow them to be familiar being in the carriers for a stress-free trip.

What Else to Take

Here's a small list of items you may want to pack in the car to give you and your dog peace of mind:

  • Leash
  • Collars and Harnesses
  • Dog seat or crate/kennel
  • Cooling collar
  • Water and bowl
  • Treats
  • A toy
  • Blanket/dog bed
  • Waste bags
  • Medication
  • First Aid Kit
  • Your dog's medical records
  • Health certificate
  • Grooming supplies

If you’re breaking your trip for a leg stretch ensure you carry the on MPET On-the-Road bowls and Portable Leaf bottles for a more comfortable journey.

It's also advisable to make a list of accessible (and open!) veterinary hospitals along your route, just to be on the safe side in case your dog needs professional assistance and ensure you adhere to local by-laws in the town or city you’re visiting as you take your dog along for walks. Perhaps it would also be wise to invest in a MPET Foldable Waste Scoop and MPET biodegradable poop bags for easy disposal.

Domestic Air Travel

Humans don’t find Air travel desirable and animals are no different. Not only are they separated from you in unfamiliar environments and people which can cause major stress. Although some airlines will allow you to bring your pet in a carrier if it is small enough to fit under the seat in front of you, larger pets are not so lucky and have to travel in cargo.

For domestic trips, airlines like Kulula or British Airways, don’t accept domestic pets and live animals at our check-in counters (excluding service dogs which are permitted for check-in and in the cabin). These airlines have partnered with BidAir Cargo PetLounge to get them to their destination safe and sound, with no hassle. This is a specialist service for the transportation of pets either in your own crate or you can rent a crate for the purposes of the trip.

This new process provides a modernised animal-friendly environment for the acceptance and delivery of domestic pets and will ensure your furry (or scaly) friend pets reach their destination safely and comfortably. For bookings; simply call PetLounge on 011 230 4600 or email info@petlounge.co.za to arrange the transportation of your pet at least 48 hours prior to departure.

Your adorable furbabies will be transported through dedicated holding areas and have access to PetLounges specially designed for their comfort and safety. For more information on these facilities, visit www.petlounge.co.za

What to Remember

  • When calling BidAir Cargo PetLounges Call Centre, you may request that your pets travel on the same flight as yourself, provided the booking is made 48 hours prior to departure and there is space available on the flight.
  • Animals are to be at the BidAir Cargo (PetLounge or Holding Areas) at least 2 hours prior to domestic flights and 4 hours for regional flights
  • If travelling outside the BidAir Cargo or PetLounge trading hours, alternative arrangements can be made by calling 011 230 4600
  • Only service dogs will be checked in at the airport and are allowed into the cabin (just make sure you let us know in advance so we can get the Captain's okay)

Note: BidAir Cargo PetLounge require that cat and dog owners produce an inoculation booklet when dropping their pets off for travel. Rabies inoculations are compulsory nationwide and are subject to a waiting period of 24 hours for Booster and 14 days for First Time Vaccination. The rabies inoculation must be administered yearly in accordance with IATA regulations. Download the vaccination notice.

Pet facilities for each airport; contact details and trading hours:

You may conveniently drop-off and collect your pet at the following domestic airports:

  • Johannesburg Pet Bookings & Reservations
  • OR Tambo International Airport (BidAir Cargo PetLounge)
  • Cape Town International Airport (BidAir Cargo PetLounge)
  • King Shaka International Airport (BidAir Cargo Branch)
  • East London International Airport (BidAir Cargo Branch)
  • George International Airport (BidAir Cargo PetLounge)
  • Port Elizabeth International Airport (BidAir Cargo PetLounge)
  • Lanseria International Airport (BidAir Cargo PetLounge)

Currently there are dedicated PetLounges in Johannesburg, Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, George and Lanseria. There are facilities in Durban and East London where pets are handled with care to minimize the stress of travelling.

International Air Travel

If your trip is an international flight, whether for a vacation or you’re relocating, always consult your veterinarian first. Especially you’re travelling to a destination that’s materially warmer as your pet may be at risk for contracting certain diseases that are less common in more moderate climates. Please remember to also have the necessary health certificates and records of your pets which will definitely make your transit and travel more seamless.

Key considerations prior to booking: 

  • When do you want your pet to travel?

If you ship your pet as air freight, check with the airline to ensure the air freight facility is open, so your pet may be claimed by the consignee. Note that it is preferable to ship your pet on week days as all staff are working and liaison is easier all along the route.

Contact the airline you have selected to confirm that they accept your pet on the day and flight that you prefer. Some airlines restrict the number of animals on a flight so the more advance notice you give them the better it is.

Transport of snub nose dogs, such as boxers, pugs, bulldogs and Pekinese, in hot season is not recommended. These animals have difficulty in maintaining a normal body temperature in hot weather.

Furthermore, these breeds are affected more than other breeds in rarefied environments and care must be taken to ensure the front of the container or carrier provides for ventilation at the top and bottom of the enclosure. It’s essential to ensure the animal is free of any respiratory issues.

  • Where is your pet traveling to?

Is your pet going to travel within your own country, or will it be traveling internationally? Do you intend to break the journey, or stopover at an intermediate station? What is the pet's final destination?

Check the country specific regulations for shipping pets.

  •  What is your pet's size and weight?

Only small dogs and cats can go in the cabin. Some airlines may not even allow them in, and will transport them as special baggage in a heated and ventilated hold. Do not worry, cats and dogs actually travel better this way because it is quieter and they will rest in a darkened environment?

  • Do you have a suitable container for your pet?

It is important you purchase the right sized container for your animal. Airlines use the following indications to ensure the animal has enough space to turn about normally while standing, to stand and sit erect, and to lie in a natural position.

See below for more detailed information on the size and requirements for a carrier or crate:

Detailed IATA Guidelines for Carriers and Crates

Guidance for Dimensions of Container

The data presented below serves only as a guideline for ascertaining the correct size for a container. They relate to an animal standing in a natural position:

 The calculated dimensions are internal container dimensions.

To assist with the approximate size of the container needed for travel, use the following formula:

A = length of animal from tip of nose to base/root of tail.

B = height from ground to elbow joint. A+1⁄2 B = length of container.

C = width across shoulders or widest point (whichever is the greater). Cx2 = width of container.

D = height of animal in natural standing position from top of the head or the ear tip to the floor

(whichever is higher) / height of the container (top flat or arched)

 

Importantly include a water container which must be affixed within the container with access from the outside for filling that doesn’t require the opening of the container which could result in the escape of animals.

Furthermore, food containers may be present inside the container or attached to the container if sealed. As you know air travel sometimes doesn’t go according to schedule, so rather plan for delays and include more snacks and treats than required.

Only 2 dogs up to 14kg or the same size and breed may travel in the same container else dogs need to travel individually. IATA recommends that dogs need a crate or carrier that permits enough movement for them to be able to comfortably turn around.

Check our range of the MPET Viaggio Travel Carrier in a variety of sizes, which conforms to IATA regulations.

IATA Crate or Carrier Example

Airline Procedures

Airlines have specific procedures in place for the acceptance, handling and delivery of your animal. The environmental needs of the animals are duly considered during loading, off-loading or at a transit stop.

  • Animal shipper

You can either find an animal shipper who can make all the necessary reservations and take full charge from collecting your pet, boarding it if need be, taking it to the airport and have it met at the other end and delivered to destination.

In some countries, this may be the easiest and surest method and some airlines will not accept animals handled by anyone other than a shipper. The airlines can usually give you a list of shippers with whom they work. But it is possible that you can do all this yourself. Check with the airline for any special requirements for shipping your pet.

  • Health certificate

Most airlines require a health certificate for any animal they are transporting, whether in the cabin or as an unaccompanied shipment. Health certificate is delivered by your veterinarian and stipulates that the animal is healthy and fit to fly.

  • Flight confirmation

Contact the airline you have selected to confirm that they accept your pet on the day and flight that you prefer. Some airlines restrict the number of animals on a flight so the more advance notice you give them the better it is. Reconfirm at least 48 hours before departure.

  • Check-in

Find out how soon before the flight you have to check in. Pets become stressed with all the bustle at an airport, so keep it to a minimum.

  • Preparations before your Flight

If your pet is allowed in the cabin, check in as late as possible. If it is going in the hold, check in early so that it can go to the baggage area and be put somewhere quiet and dimly lit in order to relax.

  • Train your animal to its new surroundings

Let it become familiar with the crate or kennel a few weeks or months before your planned departure. Purchase one in advance and get your animal used to being confined in it. Remember taking an animal out of its natural environment or surroundings is by definition stressful.

Animals behave perfectly fine when accustomed to the kennel or crate they are transported in. As a responsible pet owner, this responsibility is often overlooked.

  • Health Recommendations

Reduce the quantity of food the day before but give it enough water. Take your dog for a walk before leaving for the airport and again before check-in

A light meal 2 hours before tendering the animal to the carrier will help to calm it and is a legal requirement in the United States.

Shipment of females in heat is not recommended. Weaned puppies and kittens younger than 8 weeks must not be shipped due to dehydration effects from air travel. Weaned puppies or kittens may travel well together in the same enclosure.

When transporting puppies or kittens in the same primary enclosure, they should all be from the same litter not older than 6 months old and generally weigh less than 14 kilograms each and no more than 3 per enclosure.

Please note however certain national regulations require transportation of puppies or kittens individually in carriers or crates, unless they’re travelling with their mother and the litter is older than 8 weeks.

It’s good practise and recommended when transporting pets, to place familiar items in the carrier to make the journey more pleasant and comfortable and also mark the carrier or crate with animals name to assist handlers through the journey.

Dogs and cats should be shipped during the two thirds of pregnancy as the chance of injury or abortion to the fetus increases materially. Significant debilitation or death of the mother can be initiated by the stress that may occur during transportation at this time in gestation! If you’re unsure it’s best to consult with your veterinarian for most suitable approach given your dog’s health.

  • Proper Identification

Remember to make sure that your pet is properly identified (e.g. microchip). Affix two pieces of identification onto the collar - a permanent ID with your name and home address and telephone number and a temporary travel ID with the address and telephone number where you or a contact person can be reached.

If you’re using the Viaggio Travel carrier then also consider pairing with the MPET Travel Kit which includes all the necessary items for a more seamless journey.

The kit includes the following:

    • a shipping ID sticker to easily identify your lovable,
    • a training pad so they can urinate without creating a mess and stench.
    • a double plastic bowl so they have access to food and water to ensure they stay hydrated and fed during the journey.
  • Sedation & use of tranquilizers on pets

    It has been a long standing practice of IATA and its constituent carriers to discourage the use of sedatives and tranquilizers in animals to be transported either as cargo or as cabin baggage due to the potential for adverse effects during transport.

    Most if all commonly used tranquilising drugs have the effect of lowering the blood pressure which occurs naturally at high altitudes. The pressure of an aircraft in flight is set at the equivalent of approximately 8000 feet. The combination of the altitude and drugs is potentially fatal to older animals or those that are chronically sick or stressed.

    Calming by darkening the container and placing it in a cool quite place when not in the aircraft has a calming effect. This is the preferred method for air travel. If sedatives are used, ensure the name, the time and route of administration must be clearly marked on the container and a copy of the record must be attached to the documents relating to that shipment.

    IATA continues to endorse recommendations not to sedate or tranquilize pets or other animals in transit specifically for the purposes of potentially preventing panic attacks or destructive behaviour during that period of carriage. If sedation or tranquilization is to be done specifically for the journey for valid medical reasons, it needs to be done under the direction of a veterinarian and the administration of drugs - including time and dosage level—be noted on the health certificate.

    If such medications are to be used, this should be done only in those shipments accompanied by trained individuals appropriately certified/licensed to administer these drugs and when the ability to take emergency actions in the event of adverse events, exists or is possible.

    Final Thoughts

    Shew, if you made it this far, well done. There's a lot to consider, but it's really important to have all the information for your planning to avoid any nasty surprises that could completely derail your travel plans and cost you financially and emotionally!

    Consult your vet to get the proper advise taking into account your pets health history and conditions. Call Airlines ahead of time to enquire about their specific requirements and specifically for international flights, ensure you have all the necessary documentation required by the country you visiting or emigrating to for a smooth, comfortable and stress-free journey for both you and your furbaby!

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