Caring for a large breed dog is, quite literally, a huge responsibility. And if the day comes that you have no choice but to bring your gentle giant with you on an air trip, you certainly have a lot of questions about how to go about it. How to fly with a large dog? Taking a large breed dog with you to another city or even overseas is of course possible, but you need to make special preparations and to adhere to airline and government policies to the letter.
Cabin vs. Cargo
Flying with a large dog in the cabin is currently not allowed by any airline, for obvious reasons. Dogs are only allowed to travel with you as carry-on luggage if they weigh not more than 20lbs. And still, they have to be carried inside an airline-approved carrier that fits under the seat. Exemptions are sometimes applied in cases of emotional support animals (ESAs). Flying with a large ESA dog is allowed by some airlines as long as the dog meets the size and weight requirements.
Can you fly with a large dog? For large breed dogs, cargo is the only option. And this, of course, incurs additional fees. Most international airlines fly large dogs in a pressurized and temperature-controlled compartment where animals can settle comfortably during the trip. However, there are some airlines that don’t carry animals, even in cargo, even if you’re flying with a large emotional support dog, so you’d have to check with yours if this is an option.
If your dog is too big to travel with you in the cabin, and you’re uncomfortable about the idea of having him fly in the cargo hold, there is another option that you may consider. Check dedicated pet shipping companies regulated by the International Pet and Animal Transportation Association. These companies are dedicated to providing safe and efficient transportation services for animals.
Costs of Flying Large Dogs on Airlines
Air travel with pets certainly isn’t cheap. Major airlines in the United States charge an average of $95 - $125 for a pet that travels with you in-cabin, on a one-way trip. Since you’re essentially traveling with your pet as carry-on, the fees are paid at the airport and not when you book your flights.
Flying with a large dog internationally sets you back around $200 for cargo holding fees on a one-way trip. The fees could be much higher with other airlines that will charge based on the weight of your pet and the kennel. If your trip has layovers, you can expect to pay additional fees.
As you’re preparing to go on an airplane trip
with your large dog, you would also have to shell out some cash for documents
that you’d be required to present to the airlines or when you arrive at
customs. These fees would typically cover veterinary certification fees. You’d
also need to buy a carrier that meets the standards set by the airline you’re
First and foremost, you have to make sure that your large dog is well and healthy enough to withstand air travel, especially if your destination is quite far. A certified vet would be the person to issue an international health certificate following a health check-up and the administration of shots, as required by airlines or the destination country.
Important: Airlines may have varying policies on the period of time a health certificate is considered valid. The certificate should have been issued about 7-10 days before your departure date. Make sure to check the website of the airline you’re flying with to get the correct information.
It’s also recommended that you contact the embassy or consulate of your destination country at least a month before your trip for important information on entry procedures. Required immunizations may differ according to country. This also applies if you’re flying with a large service dog.
Preparing for Your Trip
1. Take your dog to the vet.
Once you’ve read the airline policies and entry procedures of your destination country, schedule a trip to the vet for the necessary immunizations and to obtain an international health certificate.
2. Get your dog microchipped.
Cases of airlines losing track of dogs in cargo are definitely rare. But it won’t hurt to get your pet microchipped, in case you haven’t done that yet. You get more peace of mind knowing you’re better prepared in the event that your pet gets lost in a strange place. Make sure to complete registration with the microchip company (online or via phone call), else the effort wouldn’t be of any use.
3. Get the right crate.
Airlines that allow large dogs in cargo impose standards on crate material and dimensions. Make sure that the kennel, crate, or carrier you will be using for your dog complies with the requirements by checking the airline website. Also, it would be wise to crate train your dog so he doesn’t feel anxious staying inside during the duration of the trip.
As your large dog will be traveling in the cargo hold, label the crate for security reasons. Put your contact information and write “LIVE ANIMAL” on the top and the sides. You may also want to indicate which side is up to ensure that the crate or kennel is handled properly.
4. Flight booking considerations
How long is your flight going to be? Consider booking a layover flight to allow your dog some relief, if your trip is going to take longer than 12 hours. Also, check if your airline offers layover pet services.
The weather is another important consideration when booking air travel with your pet. Some airlines will not allow pets to fly with them to certain destinations during certain times of the year because the temperature may either be too hot or freezing, and too risky for pet travel.
5. What to do on departure day
Before you board, take your dog for a long walk or training exercise. This is a good way to calm down an anxious dog. Feeding and allowing him to relieve himself before the flight is also extremely important. Make sure the crate is comfortable and that there’s food and water inside for your pet.
Pet Owner’s Ultimate Guide to Traveling with Dogs [INFOGRAPHIC]
These are some of the most important things you should know about flying with a large dog. While preparing is far from simple, it’s not as hard as it sounds. Many pet owners travel with large dogs every day. The key is doing your research and making all the necessary preparations, including preparing your pet, to ensure that the trip goes smoothly.